How are you developing your workforce?

As the U.S. and other countries are moving forward to deal with today's challenges, more leaders are becoming enlightened to the fact that we are no longer in an arms race, but actually a skills race. The countries with the most advanced skill labor pools will be able to retain and attract companies, leading to economic growth.

A challenge associated with developing and retaining talent in companies is what I like to call the "training paradox": when money is plentiful, time available to send people to training is scarce. Conversely, when money is constrained, time is often plentiful to send people to training. Making the commitment to send workers to training in either scenario is hard, but it must be done, as you can see after reading some of the alternative training programs below. 


To save money, many companies have resorted to “go get 'em tiger” on the job training where the new workers basically fend for themselves and figure out how to do the job.  Another frequently adopted tactic is “F.J.A” (follow Joe around): teaming-up new workers with experienced workers. However, the good experienced worker does not necessarily make a good, experienced coach. Using this approach, certain good practices do not get taught, while undesirable work practices and habits may also be passed on.  The veteran staff member may not be motivated to fully train the new worker for fear of losing their own prestige or job.


Without funding, companies have to be creative to advance their workforce development. Several companies have been experimenting with new techniques that deserve emulation and implementation. A chicken processing plant in Portland, Maine, asked vendors for their new automation equipment to not only provide short concentrated courses on the equipment, but also videotape the classes so that future workers could learn how to run the new equipment. After building a library of content, they purchased a flat screen monitor, and a computer for the break room.  As opposed to tuning into the latest sports or news events, they broadcast their equipment training videos for workers to see during their lunch and breaks, thus constantly refreshing them on the best practices for running their new automated equipment systems.  Also, whenever they experience a production line or equipment breakdown, they prioritize the videos so that everyone gets more exposure and can overcome those issues and prevent future failures.  I call their program Breakthrough Training and encourage other companies to consider this type of on-site training program.


What are you doing to ensure that your organization has a solid training program? What are you doing to make sure viable workforce pipelines are being developed? What are you doing to overcome the training paradox?

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