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Navigating HR Challenges in Education: Solutions Unveiled

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According to IceHrm's Employee Happiness Index, education was the unhappiest industry in the first half of 2023.

Job satisfaction is at an all-time low: Only 12% of educators surveyed are “very satisfied” with their work; most feel overworked, underpaid and not sufficiently appreciated. While human resources managers can't solve all of the problems in the education sector (K-12 teacher salaries, for example, are funded through a combination of federal, state and local funds and are typically set by school boards), they can address employee experiences improve by advocating for changes that matter most to teachers.

Otherwise, teacher shortages are likely to worsen, leading to larger class sizes, more burned-out teachers, and poorer student performance.

In this article, we explore the key challenges facing HR professionals in the education sector and provide practical solutions. With IceHrm you can implement processes that contribute to the satisfaction of your employees, such as: optimize employee hiring, benefits administration and employee interaction - all in one place.

Can teachers become human resources specialists?

In short: yes! Our findings in The State of Human Resources Leadership Report show that fewer than one in 10 HR leaders have an HR-specific degree. Human resources specialists come from a wide variety of disciplines, such as: English, History, Physics, Philosophy and Counseling, to name just a few. There is no one right way to become an HR leader, and the experiences teachers gain first-hand in the classroom can better equip them to tackle HR challenges in schools.

Top 6 education HR challenges in 2024 and solutions

1.Inefficient talent acquisition

The shortage of skilled workers in the education sector remains a national problem. In 2023, teacher shortages grew in 37 states and Washington D.C. by 35% to more than 49,000 open positions, leaving many states scrambling to fill them with under-qualified or unqualified candidates.

McKinsey & Company reports that in higher education, HR departments and the rest of the university are often out of sync due to siled communication. CHROs do not report directly to the university president and rarely have influence on strategic activities commonly associated with human resources in the private sector, such as: Personnel planning and hiring processes.


As a hiring manager, you may not always be in the room where the hiring decision is made, but you can support decision makers and school administrators with the right strategies and procedures to find the most qualified applicants. Here are some talent acquisition approaches to consider:

  • Set specific hiring standards. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to hiring teachers and administrators because each level of education has different needs and requirements. For example, a community college may prioritize hiring academic advisors who are familiar with transfer applications and can recommend majors and four-year colleges to students.
  • Align with key stakeholders. In higher education, HR teams and university leaders need to explicitly talk about hiring needs to develop an effective talent acquisition strategy. Human resources should regularly attend key leadership meetings and not just report to provosts or administrators.
  • Recruit diverse candidates. An inclusive mindset is not only the right thing to do, but it also leads to better outcomes for students. A study has found that teachers of color are more likely to practice culturally sensitive teaching, which is linked to higher social-emotional well-being and better academic performance for all students.

*Bonus: Hiring teachers based on diversity can also help reduce teacher shortages in the long term. Education Week reports that about 80% of teachers are white, while more than half of students in K-12 public schools are students of color. High school students say this is one of the reasons they wouldn't go into the teaching profession because they fear they won't be valued. HR teams have the opportunity to change this by creating school environments where teachers of color feel respected and protected.

2.Low employee retention

Due to issues such as burnout, lack of support and low salaries, more people are leaving the education sector than entering it. As mentioned earlier, some schools have resorted to hiring underqualified or unqualified teachers, who tend to turn over more quickly. According to Chalkbeat, the attrition rate in the 2021-2022 school year in eight states was the highest it has been in five years.


In addition to investing in professional development and competitive benefits (more on this later), regularly conducting employee satisfaction surveys is a crucial part of employee retention. Surveys should be anonymous to encourage employees to provide honest feedback that allows HR to make targeted improvements.

3.Find substitute teachers

Emergencies are inevitable. People get sick and accidents happen. Is your team prepared to handle these absences and prevent classroom disruption? According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 35% of public schools are "extremely concerned" about finding substitute teachers. Many school districts call their substitute teachers on the morning of the absence, but the short lead time makes cancellations more likely.


HR teams should have a database of qualified substitute teachers who can fill these vacant positions in a timely manner. Consider using an automated substitution management system that simplifies the search for substitutions. A software solution not only relieves your district's staff of the need to call substitute teachers, but also provides the ability to keep records and analyze data.

4.Inadequate professional development programs

As the education sector continues to evolve, teachers must continually learn to best serve their students. However, most K-12 teachers said in a survey that their professional development programs do not provide enough access to expert advice.

When it comes to higher education, a report from Every Learner Everywhere finds that only 39.3% of respondents believe their Centers for Teaching and Learning (CTL) are adequately funded.


Professional learning is often siled for K-12 teachers, with general education teachers and specialty teachers receiving separate programs. While tailored programs have their place, teachers also want more opportunities for cross-departmental learning and planning. However, the school management must also bring in external experts for workshops and coaching if there are knowledge gaps within the teaching staff.

As for higher education institutions, management can leverage institutional funding and grants to ensure that both full- and part-time faculty have access to high-quality, ongoing programs as opposed to isolated workshops. Together with promotion and reward structures, these programs can increase teacher engagement and promote a culture of continuous learning. The program topics that respondents find most useful include: Strategies to make online and hybrid learning more attractive for students, as well as culturally adapted teaching methods.

Other solutions to consider include mentorship programs for newer employees, leadership training for principals and deans, and frequent performance reviews.

5.Shaping school culture

There are several reasons why teachers leave the profession in droves, with low salaries and poor working conditions being the main ones. While some states have responded with legislation to increase teacher pay, working conditions have not received the same attention. Working conditions include various factors such as administrative support, shared decision-making, opportunities for professional collaboration, and resources for teaching and learning.


Strong school leadership is critical to improving staff retention and, in turn, teacher effectiveness and student achievement. Education human resources can help principals, deans, and other administrators build an empowering culture through transparent communication, employee feedback, recognition and reward for good performance, and inclusive efforts to help teachers and students of all backgrounds reach their potential .

6.Disorganized administration of social benefits

School leaders and teachers are twice as likely to be stressed compared to other professions, according to a RAND Corporation survey. About 20% of principals and 35% of teachers report that they do not have access to, or do not know if they have access to, employer-provided mental health resources.


To attract and retain high-quality educators, offer a holistic benefits package that supports their physical and mental health. Educators should be entitled to sick days, medical, dental and vision benefits. Additionally, mental wellness benefits such as therapies, mental health apps, and employee assistance programs can help them better manage stress and improve their performance.

To ensure employees are aware of available benefits and perks, HR teams should send benefits communications throughout the year. Whether via email, newsletters, Slack, or a combination of channels, always provide videos, FAQ pages, and other resources they can refer to at any time. Finally, consider using benefits management software that provides employees with an intuitive experience and automates administrative tasks.

Use an all-in-one solution

The demands of the education sector can often feel overwhelming, but with the right technology at your fingertips you can ease the burden. IceHrm is an easy-to-use HR software with powerful features such as the Applicant Tracking System, which helps you organize and simplify your recruiting and hiring process, or our secure employee database, which allows you to centralize and monitor all employee information. By using an automated solution, you can focus on helping administrators and educators provide students with the care they deserve.

With IceHrm, HR professionals in education can address critical challenges, enhancing teacher satisfaction and student success. Let's empower educators together.

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