What’s your strategy to keep Gen Ys engaged and interested in teaching for the long haul*? (You may have to lead them differently)

(*about five years seems to be the long haul for these guys)

Recruiting, training and retaining young teachers is a challenge. Gen Y have a high work turnover rate, so instead of rolling our collective Baby Boomer/Gen X eyes, maybe we should be considering how we keep them. We need them to stay. Our kids need great teachers.

In case you are wondering Gen Ys were born from 1980  to 1994. The oldest one are turning 33 this year and the youngest are 19. These are our current generation of new (ish) teachers. This is what research tells us

Generation Y are the most materially endowed generation ever. Currently aged 18-32, They are very tech savvy- bringing social media and productivity skills to the workplace.

The global generation- culturally diverse, mobile careers, travellers and globally aware. Gen Y aren’t just a product of their times, they’re also a product of their life stage.

They will work longer than previous generations with the retirement age and pension age pushed back. They will average more than 4 careers and 17 employers in their lifetime.

Forget the training manual or the staff meeting- enter the company vodcasts, instant messaging, and even content-laden music.

We will see an increasing trend towards people unplugging, and hotdesking: the era of activity based working. So the rise of ping-pong tables, well-equipped lunch (and breakfast) rooms, mini-nap spaces, time-out rooms, and outdoor gardens and green spaces.

Having managed to complete their pre-service education is one step toward their new career. A newly-minted education graduate wrote in an opinion piece recently:

After dragging myself to the finishing line, I have finally completed my diploma in education at a university in Sydney. I shudder in horror on behalf of the unwitting students who will follow in my footsteps, since in many Australian universities single-year diplomas in education are being phased out in preference for two-year master’s degrees. Or 24-month agonies, as I prefer to term them.

One of my friends, with a tutor who presumably has missed the last decade, was asked to present a slide presentation in which each slide had to have a different background colour, different fonts and a working hyperlink. Oh my. I shall put my typewriter away.

Not only does the pre-service education we provide need a good shaking, but also how we present teaching as a career worth investing in, once they have graduated.

According to McCrindle Research there are five key factors in recruiting and retaining Gen Y

1. Work/life balance

2. Workplace culture

3. Varied job role

4. Management style

5. Training

In summary – They don’t want to be workaholics, they want to belong and not have the same-old-day-in-day-out, they are seeking relationship and community from their supervisor and you’ll keep them longer if you challenge with new learning opportunities.

So, what do you need to think about in your school that will encourage teachers with great potential, the right attitude and aptitude to stay?

Clarity in standards and expectations – If work/life balance is important, then we can’t make assumptions about standards. Clearly state expectations.

Pay attention to culture –  There is a desire to belong. Be a thermostat, not a thermometer. Set the right culture for community and do what needs to be done to maintain the right temperature.

Provide opportunities – Find ways of throwing the curve ball, a new opportunity that can interest and excite from time to time.

Lead relationally  – Leaders are more effective in the context of positive relationship than an authoritarian style. It’s actually more enjoyable for everyone.

Keep sharpening the saw – “90% of Generation Y’s who receive regular training from their employer are motivated to stay with their employer”. Provide new ways to address their professional learning needs.

Those of us of earlier generations can bemoan the changing motivators of younger professionals, or we can appreciate them for what they bring.  Of course there are things that they need to learn and change, but so did we, once upon a time.


One thought on “What’s your strategy to keep Gen Ys engaged and interested in teaching for the long haul*? (You may have to lead them differently)

  1. The teaching of educators has always been and continues to be one of the weakest parts of the education portfolio. Master teachers, best practice experts who are doing it each day in the classroom should be the only humans allowed to have any contact with new trainees. Anyone can throw theory at them but students should be taught curriculum delivery, management strategies, and relationship building by the front line people. Until then teacher training will continue to do what it has done for 60 years…..bore the crap out of all its participants.


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