Continuing development opportunities for employees are a great idea — when done well, training and workforce development programs have numerous benefits for employers as well as employees. However, a number of organizations have bought into spending money on content courses for employees, only to find the programs aren’t being utilized. So how can you make workforce development work for you?
“Workforce development within a company is an initiative that plans for future hires and that focuses on current hires and their potential in relation to company business needs,” says Deborah Woolridge, an HR Consultant at P&L Corporate Solutions. “Creating, sustaining and retaining competent employees within one’s business is essential to its success and ongoing viability.”
But how can you leverage these programs at your organization? The key often is customization. Tailoring programs directly to the needs of your workforce is a critical step.
Here are some best practices in workforce development to utilize at your organization.
Your learning programs should address the needs of your people. Up-skilling is a particularly important aspect of workforce development. “You’ve already got people that know the corporate culture of the company,” says Brendan Courtney, President and CEO at HealthTrust Workforce Solutions. “It’s good for the employees. It gives these lower-level professionals, and in some cases the blue-collar folks, reasons to want to work for a company because they’re investing themselves in it.”
In addition, assess your learning programs frequently. This may require developing your own scale of effectiveness that’s specific to the outcomes you need. “Most organizations have no solid measures of whether their programs are working, and consequently no way to compare and refine approaches,” says Vince Repaci, Project Manager and Senior Coach at LOVR Atlantic. “This means that changes in practice are often dictated by thought leaders rather than the best fit for a particular organization.”
Look for recruits who have room to grow. This gives candidates a chance to prove themselves, and their willingness to learn will work for you, resulting in a pipeline of talent ripe for further development. Internships, for example, are a great way to develop talent internally.
“Companies that invest in and grow their own workforce will encounter fewer employment challenges,” Courtney says. “It’s far more effective than looking for other people to develop those skills and then trying to hire them after they’ve developed them.”
Workforce development is an investment in your employees — and therefore, in your company — so make sure you set aside funds for development. “Based upon current and future initiatives at your organization, create some kind of training and development budget,” Woolridge says. “This is an important feature in keeping a company competitive, and is very attractive in retaining employees.”
She suggests pursuing two lines of continuing development. “Training and development budgets can be minimal and adjustable from year to year based upon company and department goals,” she says. “It’s helpful to have a line for all-staff training and also one that is department-specific. This allows for much-needed flexibility and opportunity.”
Workforce development is a critical step in the future of any company. Make sure it isn’t neglected at your organization. Remember, investing in your team from the beginning is investing in your future.
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