Maximizing Your Workforce Development Strategy


Often times when the new HR or Training Manager arrive at their new assignment, they find that they are the most concerned and focused on the development of the workforce. This may seem like an appropriate circumstance, given that all of the other line mangers are busy trying to meet the objectives related to their own business line. However, if the workforce is going to be developed to the most effective level possible, the concern and focus for development must reach beyond the training department.

Similar circumstances use to occur quite often in HES organizations, where the HES professionals were often the most focused and concerned about safety; until the paradigm shifted and leaders began to realize that they needed to push accountability beyond the HES department onto all stakeholders in the organization.

Building strategies around this new paradigm often hinges on one thing, the engagement and motivation of the frontline leaders. Whether they are department managers, line supervisors, or on-the-job trainers; they are often the secret to making your strategy a success or failure.

What is the key, to engaging and mobilizing this group to promote this strategy?

  1. Listen – being a good listener and trying to understand the business needs of these frontline leaders is central to being able to provide them the best possible service. Many of these leaders have the answers you need for your initiatives to succeed, and they have been waiting to be heard.
  2. Inclusion“Involvement breeds commitment.” Including this group of leaders as a focus in your strategy is critical. Getting their input before programs are developed and deployed will go a long way towards gaining their buy-in, and support. Make sure they understand this is not the “Training Department” program, but “our” program!
  3. Think like a consultant – Here is the trickiest part of this new paradigm. Much like in operational safety, where the HES department develops and guides the process; but each staff member has a role to play in staying safe. It is the same way in workforce development. The responsibility for development of the workforce does not solely rest with the T&D, and HR group. The line managers and supervisors and frontline staff are directly responsible for this, they are your clients and your job is to assist them and facilitate the development process, not to own it.
  4. Give them the tools of the trade – Don’t send them out there empty-handed, give them the tools they need to be confident and successful. Consider creating a “Supervisor’s or Leader’s Toolkit”, it is the most helpful way to ensure this group has what they need. This toolkit can include any of the tools leaders need to enhance skills related to coaching, giving feedback, motivating workers, and transferring knowledge. This toolkit will also help create a common language, and consistency in how the strategy is applied.
  5. Hold them accountable – Often times when new programs and initiatives are introduced, the naysayers are waiting for it to fail, or just go away with time. The old adage often attributed to Peter Drucker, “what gets measured gets done” is true in this instance. To truly engage these leaders they must see meaningful measures and objectives for which they are held accountable. If organizations are serious about the development of its people as it is about their safety, then accountability has to be central to any strategy. Without it, any future programs are doomed for failure.
  6. Reward them – It’s simple; if you want a certain behavior repeated, reward it. There are some line mangers who should be given a trophy for being examples of great coaches, and stewards of the company’s most valuable assets; your frontline workers. However, in many cases these leaders are ignored because they are simply “doing their jobs.” You must seek them out and constantly let them know you appreciate them and their contribution.

Finally, as members of this group rise up and become advocates, use them to champion messages which frankly have more impact coming from them than you.

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