HR’s New Year’s Resolutions


You make resolutions for a reason: things could be better, if you could only find the time to make the changes that need to be made. It’s always time that holds you back — whether it’s finding time to be strategic amidst all the “HR fires,” or simply the passage of days and weeks that make resolutions fade away.

But 2020 is the year to do things differently. So, we’ve put together this list of year-long resolutions (and tips to help you achieve them) to help you make this your best year yet as a strategic HR leader. And to ensure that you’re successful, we’ll send you periodic reminders to stick with your goals.


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Set aside some learning time of your own.

The professional growth of the educators in your district is important — and so is yours. This year, resolve to learn something new to further your career and help you be more effective in supporting your staff. Maybe you want to learn more about a very specific aspect of your job, like compensation and benefits. Or maybe you want to learn more about taking a holistic approach to human capital management in general. Either way, model a growth mindset and get learning!


Action Step: Put a recurring reminder on your calendar to take a few minutes to devote to your own professional growth.


Ideas & Resources

Want to start small? Don’t have much time or a budget? Here are a few things you can do from your desk (or your couch, or wherever else you can grab a few minutes.)

  • Listen to an episode (or two, or three…) of Field Trip, the podcast for education leaders.
  • Check out articles, interactive courses and just-in-time webinars in Frontline’s Learning Center to learn more about the Frontline software you use.
    • Tip: After logging into your Frontline account, you can access the Learning Center by clicking the question mark in the upper right-hand corner of the screen and selecting Frontline Support
  • Get on Twitter and join the conversation by finding other K-12 HR professionals.
  • Attend an AASPA webinar, if you’re a member.
  • Read posts on the Frontline blog (and don’t forget to subscribe, if you haven’t already!)
  • Explore the many resources on the Human Resources in Education website, offered by the Urban Schools Human Capital Academy
  • Check out new reports from the Frontline Research & Learning Institute.
    • Tip: if you don’t have time to read through full reports, take a look at the Institute’s blog.

For even more in-depth learning, here are a few more opportunities to choose from. These require a bit more investment, but they’re worth it! And you know what they say — go big or go home (to your couch, where you can still learn plenty of tips, tricks and best practices from the resources listed above.)


Have all teacher vacancies filled by the start of the school year.

Nobody wants to be stuck with unfilled teaching positions on the first day of school. You have to find (and pay) substitutes to jump in, parents get frustrated and instruction can be derailed. For the upcoming school year, make it a goal to have all of your teaching positions fully staffed before students start class.

The key is to hire as early as possible. If you’re waiting until July or even June, you’re at risk of falling behind as other districts begin hiring early in the spring, or even arrange early commitments with university seniors in the fall.

We know — it can be tough to predict how many teachers you’ll need to hire. Part of it is staying on top of student enrollment trends, but it’s also important to ask teachers as early in the year as possible if they intend on retiring or leaving. Start posting positions and proactively recruiting candidates as early as you can. By finding ways to speed up the hiring process, you can avoid losing great candidates to neighboring districts with faster processes.

You might like these resources:

  • Keeping Your Applicant Pools Full: In this blog post, explore tried-and-true strategies for building your applicant pools so you have a substantial list of candidates to choose from.
  • Field Guide to Recruiting Millennials: Many of the educators looking for new positions are Millennials. Do you know what it takes to recruit the next generation of teachers?
  • Case Study: Puyallup School District: Tina Konsmo, Director of Human Resources Systems and School Support, says, “This year we started with a teacher in every classroom, and I can say that Frontline Recruiting & Hiring was a contributing factor. There are many years that we haven’t done that.”

Commit to using school district data more strategically.​

Is your district “data-rich, information-poor”? If your data isn’t readily accessible, it isn’t doing you much good. In order to make strategic, data-driven decisions, you need to get a handle on the wealth of information in your district and put it to work for you. That means going beyond giant spreadsheets and really looking into what the numbers mean.

You don’t need a Ph.D. in Data Science to use your district’s human capital data more strategically. All you need is a purpose and a plan — even if all you have are spreadsheets full of numbers. (Although, full disclosure, having software to analyze everything for you is a huge help.) So, this year, resolve to become more strategic and data-driven.


Action Step #2: Pick one area to focus on, whether that’s employee absence or recruiting data, or anything else, and ask yourself, “What am I hoping to learn? How will I act on the information?” Then start looking at the numbers. What stands out to you? Is there anything that’s surprising? What other pieces of information can you link this data to? If you can look at the data over time, what trends do you see?


You might like these resources:

  • Using Data to Set & Reach Your Teacher Hiring Goals: In this blog post, we’ll cover the steps you need to take in order to set actionable (and attainable) goals for recruiting and hiring.
  • Recovery & Innovation After Disaster: How do you come up with the funds to repair damaged schools after a natural disaster? For Bruce Chaffin, Supervisor of Human Resources at Livingston Parish Public Schools, the answer lay in his district’s substitute data. By taking a data-driven approach to absence management, he saved over $100,000 in substitute wages in the first two months of school.
  • Atlanta Public Schools found that their intensive professional development program often took teachers out of the classroom. By examining absence data and collaborating with other departments, the Chief Human Resources Officer was able to mitigate the impact of PD- related absences, without sacrificing professional learning.
stars and moon at night icon

Spend fewer evenings at work.

You’re busy to begin with, and there’s always something more waiting for your attention. But burnout is real, and your well-being should always come before work. So, we’ll be the ones to say it: this year, you should resolve to spend fewer evenings at the office.

We’re not saying to slack off and go home early, and we know that some long days are inevitable when you work in HR. But long days shouldn’t be your everyday. Work-life balance is important, and when you’re rested and feeling great, you’re in a better position to support the employees in your district.


Obligatory vendor spiel (sorry):

Frontline’s solutions can help you save time by automating and streamlining the manual processes that tend to take up so much time in the HR department. Here’s a very brief list of some of the most time-consuming processes that might be on your plate, and how our products can help. If one of these strikes your eye, reach out and we’ll be happy to schedule a demo.


But really — this year, please make a commitment to your own self-care. You deserve it.


Re-engage substitute teachers.

There’s no doubt about it — the substitute shortage is a very real problem for most school districts. Low unemployment and the teacher shortage contribute to fewer qualified teachers working as substitutes. The uncertainty inherent in the profession, combined with low pay and lack of benefits, can make it hard to find substitute teachers, too.

But data from a recent Frontline Research & Learning Institute report shows that nearly half of all substitutes (49 percent) did not take jobs during the 2017-18 school year, compared to 39 percent in the 2015-16 school year. And those who did take jobs worked fewer days on average. These low numbers aren’t driven by a lack of jobs, either — with an average fill rate of 82%, there were plenty of jobs waiting to be claimed.

This suggests that perhaps the substitute shortage isn’t only due to a dearth of available, qualified teachers. Perhaps the real problem is that existing substitutes aren’t as engaged as they could be. This might be a blessing in disguise: you don’t need to spend as much energy trying to recruit new substitutes. Instead of putting out advertisements to try to find prospective substitutes, going through the entire hiring and onboarding process and waiting for new substitutes to get into the groove, you can focus on building stronger relationships with your current substitute pool.

What if you took an engagement- and retention-focused approach to substitute management this year? It’s likely that by encouraging more substitutes to be active in your district, fill rates would noticeably improve. Plus, engaged employees are more effective, and that goes for substitutes, too.


nearly half of all substitutes (49 percent) did not take jobs during the 2017-18 school year

Action Step #1: Look into your district’s substitute data and see how engaged your substitute pool is.

Tip: If you have Absence Management from Frontline, you can use the Institute Report to explore side-by-side comparisons of your district’s data versus national and state averages.


Action Step #2: Reach out to substitutes who haven’t been active in your district and ask what’s keeping them from taking jobs. You’ll gain a better understanding of what strategy might be most effective at bringing them back.


You might like these resources:


Provide a better applicant experience.

What if an exceptional teacher — the perfect person for one of your open positions — was looking for a new job, but never applied because the application process was too onerous? You don’t want to lose out on the most talented candidates to districts with smoother application and hiring processes, especially with today’s teacher shortages.

So, this year, commit to providing a better applicant experience. Recruiting is all about making a great first impression, and your application process is likely one of their first real examples of what it’s like to work for your district.

Look at your application critically — is there anything redundant, like asking them to upload a resume and type in all their work experience into separate fields? Do you really need all of that information from every single applicant, or can some questions be asked later on, or in interviews? Do people need to mail or drop off paper materials, or can you let them apply online? Does any part of your application process make job-seekers feel energized and enthusiastic — or irritated? Are you communicating with applicants as much as you could be?


Action Step: Ask candidates and new hires alike for honest feedback on your application and hiring processes. If you don’t have time to interview them in person, create a survey through Google Forms, SurveyMonkey, or any of the other free survey tools available online and email it to them.


You might like these resources:

  • How School Districts Can Provide A Great Applicant Experience: In this blog post, explore four ways you can improve the applicant experience.
  • Case Study: Cabot Public Schools: Cabot’s Personnel Director, Lisa Baker wanted to replace the district’s outdated, 11-year-old recruiting and hiring software. Based on a strong belief in servant leadership, it was important to put the needs of the applicants first and find an online platform that would be easier for applicants to use.

Work more closely with colleagues in other departments.

Everyone in the district is working toward the same goal: ensuring student success. But it’s easy to fall into a routine of staying in your lane and focusing on your day-to-day duties. When all your energy is taken up trying to get your own work done, tearing down walls seems like an insurmountable goal.

This year, resolve to work more closely with colleagues across the district. You never know what you might accomplish by gaining a new perspective on an issue you’ve been grappling with or bringing your expertise to help with something outside of your normal responsibilities.



Action Step: Reach out to someone from another department and set up time to get lunch. Ask what they’ve been working on, and if there’s anything on their “wish list” that you could help with. And, if there’s anything you’ve been thinking about trying, bounce a few ideas off of them, too.



Collaboration in Action

Skye Duckett, Chief Human Resources Officer at Atlanta Public Schools, noticed that her district’s professionally related absence rate was significantly higher than the national average. By partnering with her colleagues in the professional development department, the district was able to decrease professionally related absences by 10 percent overall, and 55 percent on Mondays and Fridays — without sacrificing their educators’ professional growth. Now, she’s looking to expand that collaboration to other departments, such as Athletics, which might contribute to teacher absences.

Read the Case Study  


You might also like these resources:

  • Recovery & Innovation After Disaster: After Livingston Parish Public Schools experienced severe flooding, it was crucial to find ways to save money in order to repair the district’s seventeen damaged schools. Supervisor of Human Resources Bruce Chaffin worked with the district’s IT Director to come up with an enticing reward for the school with the highest employee attendance rate at the end of the year.
  • Hiring, Engaging & Growing Great Teachers: In this interview, former Chief Human Resources Officer Bob Kreifels explains how cross-departmental collaboration helped Blue Valley improve teacher effectiveness and retention.

Re-evaluate the school district’s approach to professional growth.

Career and opportunities are some of the main drivers of teacher retention, so make it your mission this year to re-evaluate how your district approaches educator growth. Even if you’re already doing a great job, or have a dedicated professional development team, see if there are any other opportunities to do even better. After all, it’s all about ongoing learning and improvement. And when educators have a rich network of growth opportunities, they’re more effective in the classroom and more likely to stay with the district.

It’s a win-win-win: employees feel more fulfilled, students benefit from having experienced, skilled teachers and you don’t have to constantly hire new educators.

Ask yourself if there’s a way to give teachers even more voice and choice in their professional learning. Do you have room to create more of a career ladder for educators, or help them build their leadership capacity?



Action Step: PD is just one part of the professional growth cycle, but it’s a good place to start. Check out this blog post to learn how to begin evaluating your district’s professional development program.

You might like these resources:

  • Design Fellows: With an innovative approach to teacher leadership, Virginia Beach City Public Schools used design thinking to empower teachers to implement personalized learning in the classroom and foster teacher leadership.
  • Resources for Continuous Improvement: Looking for new ways to support teachers in a meaningful way? Check out this massive compilation of resources on effective professional learning, evaluations and coaching.
  • Principals & Fishbowls: At Franklin Public Schools in Wisconsin, building the capacity of teachers means developing principals. Hear from the Director of Teaching & Learning about how the district has worked to grow building leaders and teachers.

Collaborate on employee retention strategies.

Teacher turnover is expensive and disruptive. If you want to get an idea of just how much turnover costs your district every year (and how much you could save by improving retention), check out our turnover calculator here. The good news is that by improving employee retention, you can help the district’s budget and make a positive impact on student achievement.

So, this year, resolve to collaborate on a new employee retention strategy. Since two heads are better than one, and many hands make light work, partner with someone else to dream up the perfect initiative for your district and make it happen together. Bonus, this goes perfectly with your other New Year’s resolution to work more closely with others in the district.



Action Step #1: Conduct “stay interviews” with current teachers to identify what your district is doing well, as well as where you can improve.


Action Step #2: Get a diverse group of people together from across the district — not just Human Resources — and brainstorm. Good brainstorming is harder than people think, so read up on good brainstorming practices first.


You might like these resources:

  • Employee Wellness at Emporia Public Schools: How do you create an employee wellness program that doesn’t break the bank? Find out how Emporia Public Schools created a wellness initiative from scratch.
  • Why Substitutes Work in Your District (or Not) – and What You Can Do About It: San Marcos CISD set out to boost engagement, address the issue of teacher turnover and ultimately improve student outcomes. Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Willie Watson explains their data-driven approach.
  • Keeping Great Teachers: In this interview we speak with Dr. Jeannie Stone, Superintendent of Richardson ISD in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Dr. Stone talks about the factors that contributed to the highest attrition rate of any district in their area — and what they did to increase teacher retention.
    • Don’t forget to check out the list of questions asked in the district’s stay interviews!

Each of these strategies and initiatives work best when they’re part of a bigger human capital management strategy.

How does yours measure up?

Find Out Now