We can hire some employees with credentials in hand. You hire engineers with an engineering degree or an accountant with an accounting degree. The degrees these employees hold give you the evidence that these people have followed a specific training protocol and have achieved a certain level of proficiency. Unfortunately, not all people are ready or able to pursue a degree or formal education program. Many of these people are on your shop floor or in your office. However, just because they don’t have a degree doesn’t mean they don’t want a career with your company. By providing an opportunity for everyone in your company to build a career, you are addressing some of the inequity which resides in the workplace, while improving engagement and retention of your valued employees.
If you would like to provide career opportunities for everyone in your enterprise, it will require that you lay out a vision for the possibilities and invite the employee to actively participate in their own development. Building a career should be a shared responsibility between you and the employee. This way they feel supported in the process and have a sense of ownership, making it far more likely that the training needed will be fully implemented.
A lot of training already takes place in your enterprise, so how is career training different? Much of today’s training is most likely opportunistic and unplanned. To an employee, this may seem happenstance and they may not be given a vision of the potential new skills they could develop that lead to better opportunities for them and improved productivity for you. They may feel like they are “going nowhere” and choose to leave, because without a plan they aren’t sure where they are going. Lack of a clear set of training plans may also hinder your ability to bring in new technologies or easily adapt to changing customer demands.
The training you provide should combine classroom training with practical hands-on learning. This is a daunting task because while you do all this training, you also have to meet current customer demands. It is possible to break this process down into smaller, more manageable discrete actions that will allow you to achieve your goal.
Step 1: Decide what skills you want to build
You should identify new technologies you would like to bring in house as well as have a vision for where you want to take your organization. Now you have a picture for the future and can identify the workforce gaps you are facing. New machines would drive a need for new technological skills. A larger company will drive a need for more supervisory skills as well as a larger workforce in the product lines where growth is expected. Once you know what your future needs are, you can move to step 2.
Step 2: Determine which employees should be directed on what path
Building skills from one level to the next is a bit like planning a trip: I know I want to go from Chicago to Los Angeles and a map will tell me I am better off heading toward Iowa than toward Ohio. Similarly, we need to provide direction to the employees, so they develop the skills in the most efficient way. There may be stops and starts along the way due to production needs and customer demands. There may also be some sidesteps in order to meet current requirements. The plan will help the employee take a role in managing toward the right direction. And you will end up with the future workforce you need as quickly as possible.
Step 3: Implement the training plan
Training often requires a combination of classroom knowledge paired with practical learning. It is important to identify the best resources to provide the knowledge. It is equally important to help the mentor understand how to best transfer the hands-on knowledge to the learner. The benefit to a Career Pathway is that it can be flexible to meet your needs. You may help your employee choose a registered apprenticeship path. They can obtain credentialed skills recognized by the US Department of Labor within about a 2-year period. Or you may opt to provide a similar path at a slower pace in order to accommodate your business needs. Regardless of the path, engaging the employee in the process and giving them the vision for the future will enable them to help you successfully implement with shared accountability for making sure the training is completed as planned.
Identifying a vision for your future workforce and creating Career opportunities for all employees will help you retain more employees and make them feel a stronger connection to your business thereby increasing productivity and innovation. Don’t wait to find the skills you need. You hold the solution in your own hands.