Guest Post: Perks of Purchasing with Amazon Business
Have you discussed how simplifying purchasing for school supplies can help boost morale among teachers? You should.
Head of K-12 Education for Amazon Business
While Chief Business Officers (CBOs), finance officers and district procurement officials are usually part of the conversation with district superintendents and school boards about their district’s financial bottom line, they are less often consulted when it comes to issues around teacher satisfaction and retention. However, the financial processes administrative teams drive from the back office may be a stronger driver for teacher satisfaction than you think.
In working with school districts across the country, we see a common theme that impacts teacher morale – getting the right materials teachers need in the classroom, quickly, so they can focus on teaching and lesson delivery for students. When teachers are able to exercise their creativity in the form of individualizing lesson plans, providing focused strategies for special needs students, or trying an innovative STEM experiment, they feel empowered and able to deliver on the mission they started when they joined the profession. When it takes too long to get basic materials, or there’s too many procurement hoops to get classroom materials, teachers will become frustrated, especially if it causes a student to miss a learning opportunity.
A Measurable Trend
Research from The National Center for Education Statistics provided initial findings that while teachers feel empowered in areas like selecting their curriculum, they feel they have little influence over policies that affect them like procurement.
This sentiment came through loud and clear in the Education Week Special Report: Getting & Keeping Good Teachers (2017). When teachers were asked “What should districts do differently to find and hire high-quality teachers,” the top two responses were “Improving pay & benefits” (36%) and “Offer more professional autonomy, greater respect, and better working conditions (26%). (Source) The same report noted that this frustration is most often felt by Special Education teachers, one of the most difficult roles to attract to school districts. Conversely, when asked what would encourage teachers to remain in their current role, two of the top five reasons were the level of autonomy afforded to them (13%) and access to budget and influence purchasing of resources (6%). (Source)
It is this drive to do the best for students in their classroom that compels teachers to sometimes pay for necessary classroom materials out of pocket. Over 94% of all teachers spend their own money on classroom resources, with an average spend of $479 per year. (Source) It is no wonder that approximately 50% of new teachers will leave the profession within their first five years of teaching. (Source) It becomes an even more acute problem in hard to hire geographies or specialty areas like STEM, special education, and foreign languages. (Source)
“If teachers can’t get their supplies, or they’re backlogged trying to get books, it’s the kids who suffer,” notes Julie James, College Place School District (WA). “Amazon Business has helped us put an end to that and refocus on our mission.” As part of our effort to delight and empower educators, Amazon Business works with district leaders to identify ways to improve this situation.
At the core of the solution, we work with districts to bring all teachers into a single purchasing environment on Amazon Business, establish a workflow approval either uniquely on Amazon Business or as an extension of the approvals process in Skyward or other common systems. Using Business Prime, customers are able to establish guide posts within the Amazon Business marketplace to keep teachers focused on the right products and categories, and get orders shipped fast directly to the school. And the process works.
“When we opened [Amazon Business] up to teachers and staff to become requisitioners, it changed the ballgame entirely. My building secretaries tell me that it changed their life. It saved a lot of time, and it streamlined the process.”
Saline Area Schools (MI)
Berkeley County Schools (WV) had a similar situation: “(In the past) when teachers needed supplies fast, they contacted a purchasing authority to check out a credit card, drove to the store to make a purchase, then traveled back to school with their items. That’s a lot of wasted time better spent on education. With Amazon Business, teachers create a list on their classroom computer and submit. Workflows immediately take over, streamlining approvals. Teachers get exactly what they need, and they get it in two days.”
The benefit of this for the district is also powerful – greater transparency over every dollar spent, cost savings on heavy manual processes, and insights into what teachers need. One superintendent from Tracy Unified School District (CA) said it best: “We look for every single item that is even a dollar less than what we were spending before, and we’ve found many items where we can save money with Amazon Business. That money immediately goes back into educating our students.” With the centralized approvals workflow, and guided buying process, it also helps ensure budgets are maintained and the correct items are purchased every time.
Start the Conversation
We hear from teachers that the freedom of streamlined procurement solutions energizes their teaching and learning because the painful process of getting what they need has melted away. It’s a simple formula to explain to your leadership: simplifying your financial process can have a direct, positive impact on compliance and morale. Using digital workflows helps to maintain compliance to your district policies and guides teachers to make smart purchasing decisions that save budget dollars. In the end, you reduce barriers for your teachers so that they want to stay in your district because you have made their lives easier.
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Head of K-12 Education for Amazon Business