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Workforce Development: Because strangers can be strange

April 3, 2012

I recently received an email from a former boss asking if I’d be interested in coming back and taking over her role when she goes into retirement this summer. For a brief moment, I allowed myself to feel incredibly flattered. I must have been so amazing that I immediately came to mind when they began thinking about succession planning - I must be awesome!

Or, I thought, as reality came crashing back in - perhaps I’m a shoe-in just because they know me. I’m less of a risk then Joe Schmoe off the street (sorry Joe, you’re a stranger and well…you might be strange). Am I the right choice?  Possibly, but I don’t know that anyone could make that determination from my work experiences with my former employer. So why did my former boss think of me when she began thinking of retirement? Because I’m not strange. Or at the very least, I’m not a stranger.

Employers with good intentions end up in similar situations quite frequently. They need someone to fill a role, and they can’t find anyone in-house with the skills needed. In one-off situations, they may be able to get away with bringing in an external candidate with the skills needed or promoting someone that may work out (but does not have the skills needed) with no harm done. But what if you have numerous employees planning for retirement?

If you’re the adventurous type and would like to just “see how it goes”, then here are some ways to completely botch workforce development within your organization:

  • Don’t assess current and future workforce needs. Do you know where your company is headed and what it will take to get there? Conducting job analyses, meeting with key operational stakeholders and keeping an eye on market trends will give you a better handle on what skills, knowledge, abilities and other characteristics are needed in the workforce.
  • Don’t analyze current workforce skill levels. Employee assessments, developmental reports, performance appraisals, and performance data on the individual, team and department levels can alert you to where you may have skill gaps in your current workforce. It is critical to evaluate technical and functional competencies against your current and projected workforce needs.
  • Completely ignore any skill gaps. If you’ve followed my recommendations above on NOT assessing and analyzing workforce needs, then you can completely ignore this helpful information too. Your investigation and analysis of the workforce is likely to return an astounding amount of information. Taking action based on this data is key and you can’t do it alone. Empower supervisors and managers to use this information as a way of engaging their workforce. Invest in well-researched and targeted training programs. Incentivize and support learning opportunities that augment valued skills. Plan these programs carefully and measure their success against objective performance metrics.

Or you could just hire Joe Schmoe off the street (because I’m staying at Select International!).

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Amber Thomas Amber Thomas is a Consultant at PSI. In her role, Amber provides custom solutions to a variety of industries. Her contributions include project oversight, day-to-day client support, and on-going consultation.