April 8, 2015 | by Steve Lawrence

Innovative Talent Solutions for a Changing Workforce

Tactical ideas for better hiring, team building, and trouble shooting

By now the forces that will change and erode your team of employees over the next few years, are surely familiar. Experienced workers are retiring. The upcoming talent pool is filled to the brim with thirty-somethings. Entirely new skills are required to work effectively on modern shop floors. Those thirty-somethings have a unique view of jobs, work, and what counts as a desirable career. Too many of them don’t yet seem to think metals and manufacturing are very appealing.

Dr. David DeLong, president of David DeLong & Associates and an expert in workforce development solutions, says there is no mystery here. Businesses have to get on top of these problems…well…yesterday. And systematically.

Data is essential, so the first step is a detailed profile of your workers now, including their ages, competencies, possible retirement dates, strengths and weakness.  Businesses will then want to project their needs at all levels and the specific competencies that will be required, in order to develop a useful transition program.

“There must be carefully thought out performance management programs, including clear metrics, along with equally specific leadership development processes.”

These programs must be designed, Dr. DeLong said, to deal with the most common, profit-killing errors in recruitment and hiring. Poor screening and poor introduction and training processes lead the list. Too often a business will have only informal, not clearly delineated, employee development programs that inevitably lead to high turnover rates. There must be carefully thought out performance management programs, including clear metrics, along with equally specific leadership development processes. Without these, businesses consign themselves to unacceptable attrition rates, usually among the most desirable people, skills and worker categories.

There are a variety of tools available to help reduce the high cost of bad hiring, tools that help evaluate hard skills (Can she work this machine well?), and distinguish those from soft skills (Does he make a good team member?). Good hires are good team players, Dr. DeLong emphasized, and those soft skills can help build effective managers at all levels.

Using older experienced workers as mentors can also be an effective way to train and develop new employees. And as important as any of the above, is being mindful that “to create future capabilities, you must let go of the past.”  That often means purging an organization of excessive self-confidence, and recognizing when a business is over-extended or when its growth is undisciplined. These capabilities are hard won and require a management structure where there is room for honest, constructive evaluation at all levels, a process that allows the kind of frank input without retaliation that can keep a company from falling into denial about its future.

“Ten years from now what will they be saying about your company?” asked Dr. DeLong. “That they once could do incredible things? Or that they developed and sustained critical skills and knowledge in a changing environment?”

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