COVID-19 Exacerbates K-12 Technology Gaps, Staff Shortages, According to UKG Survey
Outdated K-12 technology is costing public schools more than just time, dollars, and lost grant monies — it is costing them their people, according to industry research conducted by UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group). The study finds nearly two in three K-12 districts across the United States1 (63%) lost teachers to other school systems in the past year because employees sought a more advanced technology experience.
Resignations Rise as Teacher Tech Expectations Peak Amid Pandemic
K-12 staffing challenges intensified during the 2020-21 school year as COVID-19 pushed teachers to other districts, out of careers in education, or out of the workforce altogether. Nearly four in five districts (77%) tracked an unexpected increase in teacher retirements and two-thirds (65%) struggled to retain educators, many of whom decamped for other districts offering a more sophisticated technology experience.
K-12 central office administrators agree — almost unanimously (94%) — that teachers’ technology expectations at work have peaked as a result of the pandemic, and 71% said they struggled to hire new teachers in the past year.
“Public schools have not been immune to the ‘Great Resignation,’” said Rob Tibbs, K-12 industry principal at UKG. “Budget shortfalls year after year require districts to ‘do more with less’ — a rising source of burnout among teachers and staff — and prevent many from investing in critical back-office technology resources. Now, as the nation’s prolonged labor crisis affords jobseekers greater career flexibility, technology is needed to create the competitive and rewarding technology-enabled experience sought by today’s top talent.”
Public Schools Overdue for Technology Upgrade
Since March 2020, HR has been at the epicenter of organizational strategy, embracing elevated roles to support school staff and manage local changes as extraordinary events unfolded. Yet, many are doing so at a disadvantage, as manual workflows plague public schools across the country and two-thirds of central office administrators (67%) believe their district lacks critical HR functionality to support strategic human resource planning.
- To cover unplanned absences in the 2020-21 school year, nearly two in three districts (64%) relied heavily on overtime, while findings also show half are potentially overcompensating substitute teachers.
- Two-fifths (40%) admit payroll errors — known to undermine employee experience and send talent searching for a new job2 — were common this past year.
- Fewer than half (44%) are using labor data to maximize funding across their district, while two-thirds (67%) said lack of consistency — i.e., when individual schools track labor data differently — adds complexity to the grant-reporting process.
“In many ways, public schools are overspending on labor and are either forced to leave free grant money on the table or are unaware of the total funds available to them, simply because districtwide labor data isn’t centralized, visible, or easily managed,” said Tibbs
To dive deeper into the data, read the executive report: Technology Cultivates K-12 Success: Creating a Better Work Experience for School Staff in 2021-22.
School Administrators Widely in Favor of Modernizing Back-Office Technology, Optimizing Workflows
Many central office administrators are unsatisfied with current back-office technologies and wish their district was more advanced (87%), blaming limited funding (57%), budget cuts (49%), and lack of vision or strategy (45%) for preventing or delaying new technology adoption.
Nearly all central office administrators believe investing in back-office technology is a good use of taxpayer dollars (93%). The idea of modernizing these solutions to automate processes, reduce costly errors, and create a better work experience for teachers and staff is largely favored, and many (72%) plan to use a portion of their districts’ Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding, allocated through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, to achieve this.
- Note to editors: Please refer to this report as “Technology Cultivates K-12 Success: Creating a Better Work Experience for School Staff in 2021-22.”
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At UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group), our purpose is people. Built from a merger that created one of the largest cloud companies in the world, UKG believes organizations succeed when they focus on their people. As a leading global provider of HCM, payroll, HR service delivery, and workforce management solutions, UKG delivers award-winning Pro, Dimensions, and Ready solutions to help tens of thousands of organizations across geographies and in every industry drive better business outcomes, improve HR effectiveness, streamline the payroll process, and help make work a better, more connected experience for everyone. UKG has 13,000 employees around the globe and is known for an inclusive workplace culture. The company has earned numerous awards for culture, products, and services, including consecutive years on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list. To learn more, visit ukg.com.
Footnote 1: Survey Methodology: This report is based on research conducted by UKG between July 22 and August 3, 2021, analyzing responses from 204 central office administrators spanning HR, finance, and payroll functions within K-12 public schools in the United States. This study explores the need for investment in back-office technologies in K-12 environments, as well as the technology hurdles and staffing challenges schools faced over the 2020-21 school year, emphasizing opportunities to automate, centralize, and simplify processes to ensure a more streamlined at-work experience for teachers and staff this fall and beyond.
Footnote 2: According to research by The Workforce Institute at UKG.
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