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Workforce development is more than just training

“Why should I train employees for my competitors? They’ll just leave after I invest in their training. I’m smarter than that – I focus on hiring people who are already trained for what we need!”

I’m sure my jaw dropped when I heard that executive’s take on training during a recess at a Chamber of Commerce meeting. How could you NOT do everything possible to maintain your biggest asset (and expense): your workforce and your payroll?

I admit it was very tempting to ask, “What if you don’t train them and they stay? So what will you have?”

But before he could say anything, he outdid himself when a manager sitting next to him asked: “But as fast as technology and knowledge are changing, how do they keep up if you don’t train them?”

“I don’t worry about it. I pay them to stay productive. If they want to keep their jobs productive, it’s their responsibility to keep up!”

Unfortunately, your ‘why train them for my competitors’ attitude is quite common when training is seen as a one-time event that disrupts productivity.

That’s why workforce development means so much more than just training. ‘Developing the employee’ means that it goes beyond teaching job skills. You are also developing character, emphasizing values, and shaping attitudes about how you view yourself, your employer, your peers, and your future.

If an employer spends money wisely maintaining equipment, software, buildings, and customer base to protect its investment in those expensive categories, why not also invest (not ‘spend’) in maintaining the expensive labor that is the source of your corporate income?

The Army’s old recruiting slogan, “Be all you can be,” was an earlier way of describing workforce development. It is about encouraging employees to broaden their professional horizons. is saying, “Now that we’ve taught you how to do the basic work, we want you to figure out how to do it more efficiently and increase your value to the company.”

‘Workforce Development’ in its best sense means:

  • We conduct assessments to develop our training curriculum so that employees always support the company mission.
  • We do not conduct a training class if there is not a clear and distinctive link to a business reason for doing so.
  • We do not conduct training classes without first defining specific, behavioral, or objective outcomes.
  • We have little tolerance for supervisors who discourage employees from attending valuable training classes.
  • We have taught our leaders how to reinforce the skills taught in any of our courses.
  • We view our training function as a valued business partner, not a cost center.
  • Before sending employees to a class, we require leaders to first tell us how they will work with the employee to reinforce their application AFTER the training event because we know that training without reinforcement is a waste of resources.
  • Before sending employees to a class, we require leaders to review the learning outcomes most associated with the employee’s work, meet with the employee to ensure they learn them, and schedule a post-class opportunity for the employee to share those. learning points with others. employees in a moment of departmental learning. This provides added value to the supervisor for training.
  • Each department has an orientation and training program that ensures new hires (or transfers) are as productive as quickly as possible. It is not the same program for all departments, but one that is tailored to their unique roles within the organization.
  • Every employee can explain the difference between being ‘productive’ and just ‘busy’.
  • We have a program to develop leadership skills in our current supervisors and managers, as well as a program to identify and develop future leaders.
  • We know how to measure and manage performance in all job functions so employees are confident that their work products are measurable and they are fairly compensated.
  • We know how to develop and apply fair and measurable methods to determine the performance of “soft skills” such as communication, teamwork and customer service.
  • We have qualified employees who share their knowledge with their peers so that each employee becomes a coach to some extent.
  • We have a ‘measurement culture’ that is so focused on performance skills that diversity issues almost never arise.
  • We teach employees to examine their work processes for opportunities to reduce cycle time, waste, or inefficiency.
  • Each employee can explain how their work supports the employer’s mission.
  • We have a performance appraisal process that managers use as a performance management tool and employees view as a means to manage their self-development.
  • Employees are self-directed because their leaders have done an excellent job of communicating expectations and processes are in place to provide performance feedback.
  • Tardies, absenteeism, and turnover are very low because employees feel like they “have to go to work,” not “have to go to work.”
  • Employees at all levels see real opportunities for self-actualization.
  • We teach project management fundamentals to line employees to teach “big picture” thinking, process improvement fundamentals, and begin the development of future work leaders.
  • Our employees will be happy to tell their friends about job openings in our organization that they could fill.
  • We teach the lowest level of supervisors how to collect and use historical data to measure production capacity and forecast staffing and productivity potentials.
  • We teach the lowest level of supervisors how to collect data to prepare a budget and control the expenses of their group.
  • We teach our leaders at all levels how to lead a multi-generational workforce
  • We help our workforce expand their range of skills to broaden their career opportunities instead of just focusing on “moving up”.

There are probably many more activities we could add to what “workforce development” means, but I’m sure you understand that it’s much more than just a training event.

I doubt that executive at the House meeting will ever change and I also doubt that he will be an executive for much longer. That kind of thinking drives away employees and creates high (and expensive) turnover rates. I can visualize him showing her the door muttering that you can’t find good help anymore!

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