Boosting retention

Keeping your people

Retaining great members of staff has never been more important. Having a planned approach to staff retention is therefore vital says Dr. Brooke Moran.

When staff engage with a school’s ethos

Staff engagement with the ethos, values and culture of a school community is a powerful predictor of a school’s success. The benefits abound: engaged employees at a school (faculty, support staff, outsourced staff) retain better, are great word-of-mouth recruiters and drive strategy more effectively. They’re happier, healthier and produce higher-quality work. Please don’t misunderstand, while engaged employees may be happier, happy employees aren’t necessarily engaged; after all, they could be happy about a new relationship, the flowers in spring, a fabulous summer holiday, a great ski day, etc., while feeling a bit meh about work (Kruse, 2012).

Feelings and purpose

So, what does ‘employee engagement’ involve? Essentially it is about the way people feel about the organization they work for, or as one expert put it, it “is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals” (Wickham, 2020). It is critical to organizational viability. Further, purpose is one of the most powerful predictors of employee engagement. Purpose-driven work does not focus on financial reward, but on inspiration and aspiration: “it explains how the people involved with an organization are making a difference, gives them a sense of meaning, and draws their support” (Quinn & Thakor, 2018).

Pressures and turnover

As teachers, staff, and administrators – educational advocates – you’re already engaged in purpose-driven work. Yet, the landscape of international-school engagement has shifted, in part due to myriad challenges for which few-to-none of you signed-up to tackle – on top of your normal workloads. Consider geopolitical uncertainty, a never-ending pandemic that may have kept you from connecting face-to-face with loved ones for far too long, environmental degradation, gun violence (mostly, but not exclusively, in the US), negative effects of social media on students (and perhaps your children), et cetera. These challenges serve as additional barriers to robust employee engagement and two of the compounding outcomes include higher staff turnover and a more challenging recruiting landscape. Higher turnover can negatively affect student achievement and morale, while increased recruiting, hiring and onboarding challenge school budgets. Although there is no magic elixir or powerful fairy wand that can vanquish these ills, investing in your purpose-driven employee engagement strategy can make a real difference to a school.

Establishing a retention culture

The Purpose-Driven Employee Engagement Model was born from a series of case studies, published in Organizational Heartbeats (Routledge, 2020) that delve into how diverse organizations are engaging their employees. The organizations were chosen based on their industry leadership, as well as third party assessments, such as Best Places to Work, and certifications, such as B Corp and Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education STARS, both of which have rigorous employee care standards. The aim was to garner insight into how different types of organizations approached the issue –  for example, public vs. private, large vs. small, US-based vs. international and born purpose-driven vs. adapters.

Using the model

The model can guide the work of any person in an organization interested in engaging themselves and/or employees in the pursuits of purposeful work, including a newer teacher, head teacher, administrator, board member, et cetera. Use the model and tips to determine how your school might shift to better engage you and others and then have a conversation with the leadership regarding next steps. Use the model as a means to audit your school’s current employee engagement strategy. If you don’t have a strategy, then use the model to guide your planning.

Three exerices 

Three simple exercises can kick-start a methodical approach to the development of staff engagment.

Download this simple guide here:

Three exercises to jump-start engagement


Dr. Brooke Moran is the Human Potential Catalyzer at Zen for Business, a Professor at Western Colorado University, as well as adjunct faculty at several business schools in the US, and the author of Organizational Heartbeats: Engaging Employees in Sustainability by Leveraging Purpose and Curating Culture. She is passionate about elevating the effectiveness of purpose-driven individuals, teams, and organizations, as well as adventuring in the outdoors.


FEATURE IMAGE: by Mimi Thian on Unsplash


Kruse, K. (2012, June 22). The difference between happiness and engagement at work. Forbes. Retrieved March 31, 2017, from

Quinn, R. E. & Thakor, A. V. (July–August 2018). Creating a Purpose-Driven Organization: How to get employees to bring their smarts and energy to work. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved on February 26, 2021, from

Moran, B. (2020). Organizational Heartbeats: Engaging employees in sustainability by leveraging purpose and curating culture. New York: Routledge.

Wickham, N. (2020, May 7). Why is Employee Engagement Important? 14 Benefits Backed By Research. Quantum Workplace. Retrieved on Marc 3, 2021, from