Thursday, April 30, 2009

Two-way Communication with One-Stops?

One of the many mysteries I’ve been pondering lately is why the public workforce development system has been so slow to adopt interactive communications to connect to their current and potential customers. When I participate in established social/business networks such as LinkedIn, I find strong representation from each of the industrial sectors that form the customer pool for workforce development services. Economic Development professionals are well-represented and active participants. Education professionals have established a similarly strong presence (although it appears to have developed in the Academic/University setting and gradually spread from that base to representatives of non-degree granting institutions).
It would seem that the One-Stop system, given its charge to serve as an intermediary between job-seekers, training providers and employers seeking individuals with needed skills, would be at the forefront of a technology that fosters individual growth and development, connects to an untapped source of potential customers and provides ready feedback from the current consumers of our services. Today’s interactive tools provide an especially cost-effective means for facilitating two-way communication among professionals, between workforce professionals and consumers of the services they provide, and between workforce professionals and the businesses whose current and projected skill needs provide the basis for determining which services are needed .
While corporations have invested heavily in integrating these technologies into their internal and external communication strategies, as an industry, we have yet to accept that this clear direction taken by our primary customer is relevant to our own business practice.
Perhaps it stems from our roots in government, a remnant of a hierarchical culture of thinking that insists on controlling information flow from our agencies to the public. Despite the fact that decades of experience have provided some justification for this manner of thinking, when the communication behaviors of the populations we are paid to serve change, we must change in similar fashion or risk insulation and irrelevance.
It’s hard to let go. I’ve read tales of federal agencies paying consultants to develop elegant Facebook pages to tap this new trend in communication yet barring their employees from accessing the communication interface they have created. Interactive networking tools support the sharing of individual views rather than the collective group speak that becomes the preferred manner for a bureaucracy to interface with those it is intended to serve. Moving in that direction requires an elevation of the trust we place in those that we employ. It requires a commitment on the part of the agency to integrate these methods into their culture and develop appropriate controls which minimize potential liabilities while supporting the individual growth of those who represent our agency and provide the face of our services to the customer.
Why do an increasing number of professionals in other disciplines seek and read the comments and opinions of those they may know very little about? From my personal perspective, it stems from a hope that I may find knowledge or perspective that is beyond what I currently have or have at my disposal. The social network provides a structural link to converse with individuals removed by several degrees of separation while the complex map of these interactions lends the credibility of the connecting intermediates adding a measure of validity to the consideration of what is being said.

1 comment:

  1. Bruce,

    I can’t claim that we are at the forefront, but I can say that we are using social networking, specifically LinkedIn, to bring together employers, educators, economic developers and workforce developers.

    In June 2008, the western Ohio counties of Darke, Miami and Shelby were awarded a grant to form a regional P-16 council, with representation from the organizations listed above. After a year and a half of planning and strategizing, we are taking action on our goals.

    With demands on time and restrictions on travel, getting the right players from multiple counties in the same room at the same time has been challenging. So, I have turned to LinkedIn as our place for discussion. I invite you to join our group and see how it all plays out (search Achieve P-16 in groups on LinkedIn).

    I serve a chair of the WorkKeys subcommittee for the council. It is our belief that for our counties to compete for economic development projects, we must have a better inventory of our workforce. Our counties do not compare favorably to other areas in terms of educational attainment. By utilizing the WorkKeys system and Career Readiness Credentials, we are working to become a “Work Ready” region in the hopes of providing a competitive advantage for our economic developers.

    Justin Sommer
    Workforce Development Coordinator
    Miami County