Growing your own workforce

The demand for qualified people is estimated to be twice the supply over the next 20 years. In the state of South Carolina, the Chamber of Commerce projects that between 2010 and 2030, total employment demand in the state, based on U.S. projections, will increase by approximately 16.3%, while the traditional labor pool available to fill these jobs will grow only by approximately 7.

11/01/2008


The demand for qualified people is estimated to be twice the supply over the next 20 years. In the state of South Carolina, the Chamber of Commerce projects that between 2010 and 2030, total employment demand in the state, based on U.S. projections, will increase by approximately 16.3%, while the traditional labor pool available to fill these jobs will grow only by approximately 7.0%. The retiring workforce and shortage of qualified “technical” people is a primary driver of this gap. Several factors contribute to the lack of available qualified people. One is the gap between the education people are seeking and the needs of the workplace.

Since manufacturers are not likely to find qualified candidates who have the educational background, practical skills, specialized knowledge or work experience needed, they will have to hire people based on character attributes and equip them with necessary education, skills and knowledge. This approach is consistent with Jim Collins’ advice in Good to Great %%MDASSML%% first who, then what. Focus first on getting the right people, then on the role they will play %%MDASSML%% their “seat on the bus,” as Collins said.

Consider character, work ethic, intelligence, responsibility and passion for learning when evaluating candidates. Pay special attention to the passion for learning. In The Living Company , Arie de Geus suggested that, “The organization’s ability to learn faster (and possibly better) than the competition becomes its most sustainable competitive advantage.” Once manufacturers find the right people, they need to maximize their learning abilities and make the most of the expertise they have already developed. This can be achieved with a well-defined learning process.

Learning is a process

Learning takes place when behaviors are changed to achieve a desired result. John Alexander, president of the Center for Creative Leadership, said that “Learning is a process and not an event.” The learning process has three phases.

The first phase takes place before training begins. It is the time when the participant’s prior knowledge and experience is aligned with the manager’s expectations. The phase clearly defines what is expected of the participant.

During the second phase, training takes place. A class or learning event, it should be driven by active, measurable learning objectives that are designed to advance desired business results. Often, this is the only phase that is actually executed, and the measure of learning is how many of these activities have taken place %%MDASSML%% not the results.

The third phase is the follow-through period, where learned behaviors and techniques are applied. The participant applies the new skills and knowledge as encouraged and supported by management. This is when the real learning takes place.

Focused attention on all three phases of learning drives results. Each phase offers a multitude of opportunities for manufacturers to grow and develop their workforce. A specific review of the phases can reveal some applicable concepts.

Phase 1

Learning is change, and all successful change initiatives involve management engagement and support. This requires a partnership between managers and participants %%MDASSML%% a contract. Management must have a clear idea of the business value to be gained in training; otherwise, maintaining focus and support will be difficult.

One approach to engaging management support is to use a Learning Impact Map (LIM). A LIM is a contract document that facilitates management support and alignment of expectations. It determines if the chosen training can achieve the desired results by linking desired behaviors with organizational performance and overall business goals. Using a LIM prepares the participants to learn and change their behavior based on their training goals and objectives. Achievement of the goals should be the measure of success.

Phase 2

Malcolm Knowles, author of The Adult Learner , identified what makes teaching adults different from teaching children. Adults need to know why they need to learn; they’re more self-directed. Adults bring much more knowledge and experience to educational settings than children do, so they require more experiential learning environments and more individualization.

Attention should be paid to at least these four specific attributes of effective adult learning interventions: