Your business growth strategy says you are “poised to move to the next level.” After all, sales continue to increase. And existing customers appear to be content to stick with you.
However, business growth strategy – and expansion – rely on more than just increased revenue. In order to grow, expand and sustain a business – any size business – a solid workforce strategy also must be in place. Even if you are a solopreneur. Because you will need to outsource or partner at some point.
A weak workforce cross-training strategy makes your business growth strategy vulnerable.
A recent report by McKinsey reinforces workforce vulnerabilities I have observed when collaborating with clients. Especially in micro-, small to mid-size business and enterprise categories. Also, larger corporate entities will sub-divide into networks of teams. As a result, each team becomes the equivalent of an intrapreneurial micro- or small business.
One of the major characteristics of smaller businesses, as well as teams, is that employees tend to wear multiple hats. Not only do they perform the specific functions for which they are hired. Over time, employees become cross-trained, so they can cover for other employees, when necessary.
However, often cross-training results from workplace osmosis and tribal knowledge, whether accurate or not. In addition, some eager employees assume even more responsibilities, as business increases.
At this critical point, workforce competency tests the constraints of business growth strategy.
When cross-training is an unintentional consequence of increased demand, rather than part of an intentional business and workforce growth strategy, organizations are compromised.
As workers assume more cross-functional tasks, they may become adept at performing the wrong skills. Their already-limited critical thinking skills are further challenged as the workplace transforms due to new regulations and technology platforms. Yet employees continue to “do” their jobs – or what they think are their jobs. However, resources like documented and tested practices and processes remain scarce.
I have observed this phenomenon particularly in smaller manufacturing companies who have grown their business, but have not invested in employee training and certification. At all.
Unfortunately, this workforce strategy is based on reinforced professional incompetence.
The emphasis is hiring “who we can.” The result is a workforce of cheap, relatively unskilled knowledge workers and manual laborers. As a result, employees lack core competencies and skills required to “do” their jobs at the level and quality of competitors’ workforces.
Over time, business growth strategy hits the wall, due to limited vision of the value of workforce development.
Far too many companies still throw training “at” employees, if these employees receive training at all, after onboarding. However, to become and remain competitive within today’s and tomorrow’s digitally evolving business and manufacturing environments, learning becomes mandatory and continuous.
For starters, the foundation of this digital workforce hiring strategy is hiring employees who know how to learn. And that quality, again based on my own observations, is the focal point of organizational vulnerability. Especially in smaller businesses and enterprises.
Often, the educational pedigree of employees may not extend past high school. Equally often, these high school grads are not encouraged, or offered opportunities, to attend trade schools. Then, they are hired, inexpensively, to serve various functions in businesses.
Consequently, when – or if – a trainer or consultant is brought in, there are less-than-satisfactory results. Primarily because employees do not appreciate why they need to complete the homework assignments designed for them to acquire new skills. They lack the discipline and the “how” to study. In addition, they are not innately curious. Because they have not had an opportunity to function in an environment in which curiosity and innovation are encouraged and, most of all, valued.
Think about it. Is your own workforce uncomfortable, because they are not productive learners? If so, you compromise business competitiveness.
Isn’t it time to move one millimeter outside your current business comfort level, towards a more collaborative, engaged continuous learning culture? Contact me to learn how to take the necessary, incremental steps forward.
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Babette Ten Haken, Founder & President of One Millimeter Mindset™, is an innovative speaker, strategist, and storyteller. Babette’s One Millimeter Mindset™ Workshops and Speaking programs leverage collaboration to catalyze professional innovation, workforce engagement and customer retention. Babette’s playbook of collaboration tools, Do YOU Mean Business?, is available on Amazon. She is a member of SME, ASQ, SHRM and the National Speakers Association.
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