I read an article this week on determining training needs for incumbent workers. While the article presented the management responsibilities on this issue, I believe it is really a shared responsibility.
Think about your workplace. Has your job changed over the years? Have your responsibilities and the requisite skills evolved? Have jobs or responsibilities disappeared from your workplace, and have colleagues gone along with them?
Managers need to consider the long-term outlook for existing jobs. Increased use of new technology, changes in products or services, and continuing competition require job changes. Some organizations have taken the stance that when this occurs, the employees whose jobs are eliminated will simply be cast aside. This is both short sighted and costly in the long run.
If jobs are changed by new technology employees will need training on the skills necessary to use the technology in their work system. Existing employees are the best people to receive this training. Doing so saves the cost of recruiting new staff and training them on your methods. Existing employees are also aware of the culture of your workplace and will not need a period of acclimation to their new surroundings. As the number of good job candidates has dwindled in the last decade, it becomes more difficult to find and retain highly skilled workers. Why not enhance the careers of your existing staff, a known quantity in your shop?
Managers should take the responsibility of initiating this process. They need to consider the vision of the organization and its future needs to determine the skills and job responsibilities that will be needed in the future and begin the process before it is too late to begin the training process.
This is not the sole responsibility of management. Workers also need to consider the potential impact technology and other workplace changes will have on them. They need to be proactive in examining current job requirements, how they will change, and the new skills they will have to master.
Employees need to be involved in this since they know their jobs better than anyone. A joint process driven by management and employees will have the greatest chance of success.
A few years ago, CALMC had the opportunity to work with an organization that was beginning this process. Most of the existing responsibility in their jobs could be easily obsoleted by the increasing versatility and decreasing costs of existing and developing technology. Rather than wait for this to happen, labor and management began a process of determining how existing jobs could change to continue their relevance in the future.
It was a complex process, not one to which there was a quick solution. The team took over a year to study the existing jobs in their various work locations and determine the best ways to make changes. Management supported the process, since they realized the importance of updating procedures while retaining existing staff. Employees bought in since they wanted job security and recognized the importance of training and their responsibility to make changes possible.
In the end, job descriptions and positions were changed to eliminate the skills being obsoleted and incorporate new ways to make their jobs more relevant and important. They also looked at the training the incumbent workers would need to be able to make the changes needed.
As a result, no employees lost their jobs. Their jobs were more valued by the organization, and some were able to move to a more skilled and higher paying job classification. I was a clear win-win for both employees and management.
Employees must understand the importance of any upcoming workplace changes, how they will be impacted by them, and recognize the need to adapt their skills to be part of the new process. Occasionally, we have heard employees initially reject new training or job changes. They may be nearing retirement, question their ability to deal with changes, or not know how they will acquire the new skills. Management and other employees can help these individuals deal with their situations, but each individual must come to accept their role or be left behind.
Management and employees must share the responsibility of planning for the best ways to deal with workplace changes. Together, they can look at existing jobs to determine how they will be impacted by change and plan how to adapt. They can work with career counsellors to determine the best paths for meeting employee training needs and jointly find ways to schedule the training in as convenient a manner as possible, Managers will benefit by retaining staff that already knows how the work system operates and are more likely to be loyal to the organization. Employees benefit by increasing job security by making their roles continuingly relevant to the needs of the organization. They also benefit from the opportunity to receive additional training to improve their skills.
How is your organization dealing with upcoming changes, over both the short and long term? If you would like to talk about your process and how it might be enhanced, contact CALMC.