Have You Considered How Community Colleges Can Assist Your Training Program?

Back in 2006, we started working with a highly successful company that was doing very well with sales of almost $2 billion and net income of $139 million. For the sake of this article, we’ll call it “Healthy Products.” It appeared to be doing well. Its products were viewed very positively in the marketplace. Its marketing was strong, and its strategy for growth had enabled the company to integrate several poor-performing companies into its business.
Despite that, their new vice president of human resources was worried. The organization had recently lost several young employees with high potential. There had also been some activity to unionize and complaints about a hostile work environment had begun to surface. She asked us to meet with several key people from their operating units to discuss her concerns.
Best-selling business book author Patrick Lencioni says in his latest book, The Advantage that, “The single greatest advantage any company can achieve is organizational health.” He goes on to explain that organizational health encompasses both being smart (clarity about direction, strategy, marketing, finance, and technology) and being healthy. He describes “healthy” as creating a work environment that minimizes politics, confusion, and conflict so that morale, productivity, and employee turnover are impacted in a positive way.

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It sounds like common sense, but it is often ignored because dealing with the people side of a business is challenging and seemingly impossible at times. As someone once said, organizations work great until you hire the second person!
A business is the by-product of innovation; taking an idea for a product or a service and translating it into an exchange for money. That does not happen without a strategy for the translation along with being able to get people interested in purchasing it, executing in a fiscally successful way, and using technology to be both effective and efficient in generating the output. The business cannot even come to market absent those things Lencioni refers to as being “smart.” But alas, in the absence of the “healthy” factors, that business will struggle to sustain its success. Bottom line, you need both.
More and more is being written about this “healthy” factor—how we communicate, teamwork, engaging employees, collaboration, and many other contributors to enabling employees to be focused on the direction of the business, developing competence, and nurturing a feeling of ownership and commitment to success. It becomes a fertile field for growth, improvement, and competitive advantage. And businesses are putting more and more emphasis on investing in developing their workforce.

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Finding the right resources
As businesses have moved in this direction, finding the resources to support their efforts becomes critical. For the vast majority of employers—those with fewer than 500 employees—internal resources have always been limited. Large employers used to be able to strategically shift their internal functional experts to address organizational health, but in recent years many large organizations have become lean and very focused on the core competencies needed to deliver their product or service. Those basic needs are often the “smart” side.
This has led to an expanded field of skill developers. Many are ex-business people who are experienced and knowledgeable about the realities of business, who for various reasons have moved from corporate America to small consulting practices and community colleges.
Community colleges have become a viable option for businesses to fill these development gaps. They are also a misunderstood option. There are a multitude of 2-year degree or certificate programs that are connected to jobs in health care, manufacturing, professional services, hotel-restaurant management, and numerous employment opportunities. Unfortunately, for too many employers, that is the limited perspective they have about community colleges.
With the emphasis on helping people to learn new skills for today’s workforce, community colleges not only prepare students to transfer to other colleges and universities to earn a 4-year degree, they also have developed new curricula to provide specific technical training needed by employers.
About the authors: Donna Goss and Don Robertson are the codirectors of the Leadership and Executive Development Division of NCC’s Center for Business and Industry in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. To learn more, visit the NCC website.
In tomorrow’s Advisor, we’ll learn about how one particular community college is helping local businesses with training.

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