Hidden costs of Local Authority, Multi Academy Trust Talent Pools for Supply Teachers & Non-teaching staff

Creating and running a successful local authority or multi academy trust supply teacher and non-teaching supply talent pool is challenging. Talent pools are difficult:

  • Difficult to establish,
  • Difficult to administer & staff internally,
  • Difficult to access,
  • Difficult to keep active,
  • Difficult to provide a high-quality consistent service,
  • Difficult to fulfil 90%+ of school requests,
  • Difficult to determine the true cost.

High Overheads of running talent pools

The costs or running a talent pool accessible by more than a single school are high. On the face of it creating a talent pool for schools seems easy, and yes one could argue at the highest level that’s true.

A school with a team of 5 workers, potentially past or existing part-time employees isn’t a talent pool, it’s a “book” of names the headteacher calls when short.  Those staff are linked to that school, are unlikely to work elsewhere and are not active workers across multiple local schools.

Supply Teacher and Non-teaching supply staff in talent pools are for multiple local schools and workers.

Difficult to establish

Finding suitable teaching and non-teaching supply staff to join a local talent pool has always been tough and it isn’t getting easier. There has been a shift from teacher supply staff only with a move to non-teaching supply staff, teaching assistants and cover supervisors as there are so few teachers available.  That said, teachers who give up their full-time teaching roles are often willing to join supply talent pools leaving their previous fulltime work responsibilities in the past.

Resourcing suitable workers to join the pool is unrelenting. Talent pools must be maintained and refreshed with new workers joining the pool as others leave.

Difficult to administer & staff internally

Recruitment is what creating an education supply talent pool is. It requires recruitment skills and qualifications to be done well.  It is true that many Local Authorities recognise this, however, others fail and expect unqualified employees to turn their unskilled hand to creating a talent pool.

For those that don’t have expertise in recruitment establishing a talent pool is a shock as to how difficult it is.  Bottom line recruiters are working with people, and people can be very demanding to deal with.  For somebody being asked to establish and run a talent pool with limited experience of recruitment is often a step too far, resulting with that person looking for an alternative role.

Finding and retaining suitably qualified employees to create, build and run a talent pool is difficult.  It isn’t a job for one person, it requires a team of recruiters. That recruitment team requires support and management and thus the costs mount.

The talent pool team needs all necessary infrastructure in place too,  being systems, policies, processes and procedures.

Difficult to access

Having established a talent pool providing schools with access to it typically consists of the school filling out a form on the Local Authority web site or asking for the list of workers or calling the talent pool help line.  None of these options work well enough for schools. In each case there is a delay whilst the requirements in the form are reviewed a search undertaken the skills checked then a response provided to the school. It often takes too long is prone to significant delay and inconsistency and that’s during normal office hours.

Late-night requests for cover starting 08:15 am the following morning is even more troublesome resulting in significant uncertainty and delay for the school.

The manual processing, inconsistency, delayed response, and uncertainty start to show how inefficient Local Authority and Academy trust supply talent pools are.

If the school users and workers are unable to access the talent pool when they need to, that talent pool is inefficient. For talent pools to work they must as a minimum offer 24/7 self-service access for all users.

Size matters

A local talent pool must have critical mass in terms of numbers, quality, skills, and availability of supply staff.  Failure on any of these criteria undermines the service levels of the talent pool. Size quality, skills and availability matter for successful supply teacher and non-teaching supply staff talent pools.

Difficult to keep active

There is a natural ebb and flow to demand for supply teachers and non-teaching supply staff from schools during the academic year. At the beginning of the new academic year teaching and non-teaching staff are bright eyed and bushy tailed, looking forward to the year ahead.  By October the nights draw in and sickness creeps in and so it goes on, with increasing demand for contingency workers until after Easter when demand begins to reduce.  This natural ebb and flow has to be managed by the talent pool, matching pool skills and availability to meet supply and demand.

Too many pool workers with not enough work means they float away, equals expensive churn. Too much demand from schools with not enough workers means schools (where they have the choice) are obliged go to external supply teacher agencies, that too means expensive churn.

Creating a talent pool that is active where workers are offered the “right” amount of work whilst ensuring the schools are able to access the skills and quality, they need 90% of the time is difficult.  Regardless of the amount of money thrown at this issue – money does not solve the supply and demand ebb and flow. Unless that money is used to pay workers regardless of if they work or not.

Difficult to provide a high-quality consistent service

Consistency of service and 90%+ fulfilment go hand in hand. The difficulties outlined above all work to undermine the ability of the pool to deliver a high quality consistent service where 90% of schools vacancies are fulfilled.

As soon as a worker feels they are not getting enough work they look elsewhere and eventually become unavailable.  When a school is let down, they are obliged to look at alternative options. Once the talent pool becomes inconsistent the issues compound. Nipping inconsistency in the bud is difficult as there are so many variables that contribute to inconsistency.

Inconsistency is expensive to remedy. Operationally avoiding inconsistency in advance is expensive too. Creating a talent pool knowing churn and inconsistency are supply pool killers requires talent pool hosts to invest strategically in the more operationally expensive option.

Eradicating churn, inconsistency, low fulfilment, poor access, low quality, and limited skills, is expensive. It requires the staff, processes and systems for a supply talent pool that maintains critical mass, achieves 90%+ fulfilment rates consistently, delivers immediate value, and must be easily accessible.

Difficult to determine the true cost

Determining the true cost of running a supply teacher and non-teaching supply staff pool has obvious direct costs.  These include employment costs for the team of administrators / recruiter’s salaries, supervisors and managers. The systems costs for the candidate tracking, the customer relationship management, system to track active cleared active workers (if used), the document management system for references, CV’s, the product to capture skills and availability and to provide access to workers 24/7 for schools and for workers to share their accurate availability, the timesheets, payroll and invoicing and reporting.

All nice and easy to work out those costs?

Then there are costs when gaps appear, when there are not enough workers with specific skills. The costs when a worker didn’t turn up on Wednesday afternoon, so approved the timesheet was wrong, the payroll and invoice needs correcting too.  The rating associated with a worker and the workers rating of the school needs recording.

The cost of time searching for workers and their skills, recording their availability updating that availability when it inevitable changes having accepted an assignment.  Time discussing options with the schools and workers, notifying workers when selected, those who applied and were unsuccessful, those that are yet to apply and are no longer needed.

The cost of letting schools down needs to be considered, the time taken by headteachers searching the talent pool needs to be factored in. The frustration of attempting to access the talent pool getting the run around with unanswered emails and telephone calls, the cost of incorrect invoices, the cost of time wasted by workers attempting to update the talent pool.

All hidden costs and difficult to quantify that are rarely mentioned, resulting in schools and workers, where they have choice voting with their feet.

Ask a local authority or multi academy trust to breakdown the cost and efficiency metrics of their supply teacher talent pool, you might get an answer. But it will not be a detailed breakdown of the actual costs or the efficiency metrics with benchmark trends.

Reducing costs by improving service consistency

The easiest step for Local Authority & Multi Academy Trusts supply teacher talent pools to reduce costs and improve efficiencies is to use an off the shelf contingency worker talent management product like Updatedge to enable all workers and schools to get transparency choice and control.

Once schools can search for workers who are vetted and cleared by the pool, can see skills and availability, can offer work, accessing the talent pool with ease 24/7 the largest frustration is instantly removed.

Workers being able easily share their availability as it changes with the talent pool and all the local authority schools using the talent pool makes sense.  Being offered work via a mobile app being able to chat with schools apply for work or reject job offers makes sense.

Enabling the Multi Academy Trust talent pool with a plugin for contingent worker talent management reduces hidden costs and significantly improves the fulfilment rates and consistency of service.

All schools and supply workers deserve access to reliable 24/7 online talent pools so users including the local authorities and academy trust benefit from the immediate value digitalisation delivers.