Workforce Development: The Dark Matter in the Talent Management Universe

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Damian Salas

According to astrophysics, dark matter is the single largest body of mass in the universe, even though no one can see it. This "missing mass" is believed to play a central role in the formation of galaxies, gravity and planets. Like dark matter, workforce development plays a central role in the development of human capital, but remains unseen in the Talent Management universe.

I recently Googled workforce development to find out more about this great unknown, and the results provided a clue to this mystery: The top 10 results for workforce development listed various government agencies and their workforce development initiatives. There were agencies involved in administering secondary vocational education programs, welfare-to-work and other public assistance programs, and regional economic development initiatives. There is also federal legislation that uses the term workforce development to describe various youth vocational training, adult training and retraining, and related employment initiatives. Moreover, many states have included the term in naming various governmental coordinating boards, initiatives and tasks. Government seems to like the term workforce development, but how about the rest of the universe?

The National Association of Workforce Development Professionals is the leading association of this space. They’ve had great success in supporting the needs of the individual professional, establishing a huge network throughout North America. However, they can do more to improve the image of workforce development from bureaucratic and legislative policy to a leading provider of complete talent management solutions for today’s business world. Indeed, as workforces worldwide continue to challenge the sustainability and growth of their organizations, the dark matter that is workforce development becomes a valuable discovery for any company in search of a market advantage.

The Four Stages of Workforce Development

A successful workforce development strategy integrates the Human Resources, Organizational Development and Training functions into four stages:

  1. Job Analysis
  2. Job Development
  3. Performance Management
  4. Career Planning

The goal of the workforce planning strategy is to have a clear path of professional growth for individuals in the workforce. So, let’s start with the job analysis.

Stage One: A job analysis is a process to identify and detail the particular duties and requirements for a given job along with the relative importance of these duties. Further, a job analysis is a process where judgments are made by SMEs about data collected on a job. For best results, it must be conducted using a statistically valid process, such as the American Collegiate Testing (ACT) Job Profiling process. That is, the process must meet any legal compliance, and more importantly, communicate to all stakeholders (union and non-union) a commitment to improvement.

Stage Two: The results of an analysis provide a complete listing of qualifications and skills of a job. In other words, job development starts with a job description that not only represents the roles and responsibilities of the job, but also the minimum training and education requirements to be successful on the job.

Stage Three: Once a job development plan is complete, the measurement of performance can begin. For a human resources domain with countless studies and tools, performance measurements can be complicated, bureaucratic and laborious. Too often, performance appraisals lag in identifying the actual functions of the job, and, therefore, fail to offer real solutions for an employee’s development. But, our performance management strategy stems from a complete job profile and development plan, making our strategy a leading indicator of job performance and offering a clear path for career advancement.

Stage Four: Career planning is the end result of workforce development strategy. In other words, once an enterprise identifies the job skills and tasks, develops and implements competencies for success in a job and can measure the success (or failures) of individuals doing a job, it then creates career opportunities that maintains talent and knowledge throughout a company.

Workforce development is the shining star in the Talent Management universe. It’s a matter of having a large enough lens to find it.