A unique approach to recruitment and retention
The COVID 19 pandemic has brought about many challenges to the field of international education. From strict border controls and testing to prolonged lockdowns, educators all across the globe have been somewhat affected. As a recruitment agency, our entire business model depends on the ability to move teachers from one country to another and in a way we are at the mercy of border controls and how the media portrays certain scenarios and messages. This will certainly ring true for all international schools regardless of their location, however there will be significant relevance for those in China. Having lived and worked in China for 10 years, we have cultivated a network of established international and bilingual schools for which we enjoy recruiting a number of teaching staff year on year, priding ourselves on having an inherent knowledge of what life is like to live and work in China.
As the pandemic spread in early 2020, we were well underway with recruitment season, having already placed a large number of teachers in roles across China. As August 2020 came, the pre departure regulations were still quite relaxed, whilst testing was necessary there were nowhere near as many hoops to jump through compared to what we saw in 2021 and early 2022. Of course, as the pandemic progressed and mobility became more difficult, we witnessed a drop in applications and a sentiment of ‘let’s just stay where we are and ride it out’ amongst teachers. We finished recruiting for the August 2020 intake having recruited a large bulk of talent already in China providing them with better opportunities yet weary that this domestic pool of talent would be limited moving forward, a sentiment that our school partners were also all too familiar with.
As always with our recruitment, we try to make sure that we have a very personalised approach which involves forging strong relationships with all teachers and guiding them to ensure that we find the best fit role and school for them. We also take a similar approach with our school partners, which involves constant communication to better understand their hiring needs, their existing community and how we can complement and work alongside them to enhance the experience for all involved.
Acknowledging the disruption the pandemic created and continued to cause on international recruitment, we knew that in order to have the best possible approach to attracting talent and minimising drop outs for the August 2022 recruitment intake was to bolster our personalised communications approach. After months of discussion, as an agency we created a comprehensive onboarding programme tailored to deliver honest information about the ever-changing covid situation in China and provide an all-encompassing service to schools to take on the bulk of their onboarding. As a team we were very excited to deliver this unique approach and were confident of the value this would bring to new teachers and schools alike. With this, we decided to reach out to our school network and gauge what their interest would be in delivering this programme not only to teachers hired directly through INTA Education but offer it to other new starters who had been recruited through the school’s other various channels.
Over the years, we have been very fortunate to have forged a close working relationship with the team at Dulwich College Shanghai Puxi (DCSPX) under the direction of Founding Head of College, Mr David Ingram. We have witnessed the growth of the College and have always been impressed with their emphasis on ‘wellbeing’ and ‘community’ even before the pandemic. Naturally, we gravitated towards the College for their feedback and first impressions on our proposal. Recognising the challenges that lay ahead for teacher recruitment to China and the importance of nurturing, we were delighted when the College agreed to pilot the project for teachers recruited for the 2022/23 academic year.
As part of this package, our onboarding offering was carefully designed to work closely alongside the existing HR team at Dulwich College Shanghai Puxi and to deliver a robust, inclusive and engaging onboarding process for all new starters. Here is a brief breakdown of how we went about it:
• A representative from INTA Education became the main point of contact for all new starters by swiftly and accurately answering all questions regarding their move
• We provided accurate information and advice on the documentation process for all new starters
• We provided monthly written blog content designed to excite candidates and keep them engaged throughout the entire process, from signing contract to arriving in country
• We ensured that all candidates received the same amount of engagement and activity no matter what point they were recruited in the academic year
• We provided content focusing on school updates as well as information on their new host city and country
• We organised a number of online group activities. These informal one-hour sessions were designed to share personalised content based on our own experiences of living and working in China. They were a great opportunity for teachers to get to know one another, already forming a community ahead of arrival in country.
• We delivered introductory online Mandarin sessions to give new starters an exciting glimpse into the amazing history, language and culture of China
• We were responsible for completing the legalisation and notarisation process of all documents for new starters
• We created time frames of when paperwork would be completed and shared these with teachers so they could plan effectively for their departure
• Alongside HR teams, we created templates designed to track a teachers’ progress (document preparation, visa applications and medicals etc) and monitor communication.
• We worked with the College HR team to ensure that proper and safer recruitment procedures were in place (reference checks, preparation of release letter templates etc)
• We were able to immediately identify and share any concerns or worries from teachers with the College
At the end of July 2022, we were delighted when all new recruits successfully arrived in Shanghai. It is worth noting that during the implementation of this pilot scheme, we witnessed no dropouts, only one teacher decided to defer her place until the following academic year.
As recruitment season slowly starts to get going in the far east ready for the August 2023 intake, thoughts have already turned to planning and advertising. Whilst we understand that drop-outs at any time are sometimes inevitable, we really do believe that adding a much more personal touch helps to make the transition for teachers become more of an enjoyable experience and journey.
With that, we are delighted that Dulwich College Shanghai Puxi and INTA Education will be offering this programme to all new starters who are successful in securing a position with the College for the 2023/24 academic year. We see this as testament to the College’s commitment to investing in their people even ahead of arrival as well as the turbulent times which are forecast for recruitment across the China region.
Feedback and Statistics,
What our teachers say…
“Clear and constant communication which was reassuring”
“It was great to not have to think about all the legalisation and have someone really knowledgeable on the process to have contact with”
“I could just ring Lydia, have a chat and a catch up and she would action concerns even when everything was unclear for her and the school”
“Lydia has been great, always at the end of the phone ready to help. She has always been upbeat and positive to talk to which helps of the nerves of moving to another country”
What our satisfaction survey says..
100% of respondents said they were ‘extremely satisfied’ with the onboarding service provided by INTA Education
Our legalisation and notarisation service, online introduction sessions, online Mandarin sessions, visa and Covid related travel advice, general advice about living and working in China and monthly blog content were all rated as either ‘Extremely useful’ or ‘Useful’
100% of respondents said that they either ‘strongly agreed’ or ‘agreed’ with the following statements:
The team are professional and knowledgeable
The team always maintained a friendly relationship with me
The team were able to assist with my questions in good time
The team have contributed positively to my move to my new school
100% of respondents said the programme was of either ‘extremely high’ or ‘high’ value