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Survey Results: 4 Findings to Help You Attract and Retain Modern Subs

Red Rover

Insights | August 24, 2021

More school districts across the U.S. are struggling to fill substitute teacher positions. 

Why the dilemma? Early teacher retirement, health concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, and a growing gig economy mindset are changing how substitute teachers work and live. Many crave flexibility, quick pay, and convenience, and school district administrators can help increase fill rates by catering to these modern sub needs.

What better way to deeply understand the needs of the modern sub than to ask them directly? That’s why Red Rover recently conducted a survey of more than 800 subs and uncovered some interesting details about how they prefer to work, how they find jobs, and the tools that support them. Check out these findings to see how your school district can better understand substitute teacher behavior, helping you attract and retain more qualified subs and increase fill rates.

1. Substitutes prefer text message notifications over a robocall by more than 4-to-1.

It’s not hard to believe that modern subs value the convenience of technology and mobile in finding sub assignments. But you may be surprised just how much these tech-savvy preferences dominate modern substitute management!

Substitutes prefer text message notifications over a robocall by more than 4-to-1. The same holds true for mobile notifications versus automated sub calling. Just a sliver of substitutes—17 percent—prefer receiving an automated phone call.

Those 5 a.m. robocalls are on the way out—and that’s not only better for substitutes, but it also means faster fill rates and lower costs for school districts.

Sub Survey stats 1

2. Half of all substitutes work other jobs in addition to subbing.

We’ve spoken a lot about the new substitute teacher “gig economy,” and the survey results bore those ideas out. Half of all substitutes said they work additional jobs on top of their substitute job, with 11 percent working two or more other jobs. 

Many substitutes want to stay busy substitute teaching too; 63 percent of subs expect to work more than 50 days during the upcoming 2021-22 school year. And you can bet all the districts in your area will be in competition for this same limited sub pool. That’s why it’s important for districts to offer incentives; perks such as free lunches, on-the-job training, free professional development from STEDI.org and SubstantialClassrooms.org, and even daily stipends can go a long way to convince subs to accept teaching jobs.

3. Substitutes notice when absence management is (or isn’t) easy to use.

In this competitive landscape, you can’t afford to put any hurdles in front of subs accepting a job. And if you’re using a 20-plus-year-old absence management system to try to fill absences, you can bet subs are noticing. For some, the tech barrier just isn’t worth it.

There’s good news; 64 percent of substitutes rated Red Rover as easier or much easier to use than other substitute software solutions! 

Red Rover was built, not bought, to make substitute placement and absence management easy again with modern, intuitive software that makes it easy to complete key tasks in just a few clicks. Fewer clicks mean happier subs—and higher fill rates.

4. Substitutes want as much information up front as possible.

Lastly, the survey uncovered some interesting findings that impact both attracting and retaining your substitutes. 

Wondering what has the biggest impact on whether or not a substitute will accept an assignment? Respondents said their job acceptance is impacted primarily by subject area/grade, proximity of the school, and the school environment—but also pay, the day of the week, and the length of the assignment.

Red Rover sub survey results 2

You can help impact the school environment for your substitutes by providing as much information up front as possible so subs can feel confident entering the building and the classroom. Administrators who equip their subs with the information they need are likely to see higher retention rates. 

Here’s what subs said they need on their first day:

Red Rover sub survey results 3

Key Takeaways

  • The modern sub is busy; more than 50 percent work multiple jobs.
  • Subs prefer to communicate via text messages and a mobile app—not robocalls.
  • Subs want to be prepared before entering the classroom. Providing them with assignment details, lesson plans, and more will make it more likely they return.

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