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.