Your workforce, your business

Crucial steps you can take to create productive workers today, ensure growth for the future

With spring in full bloom, gardeners everywhere are delighting in their flower beds coming to life, and allergy sufferers are sheltering in place waiting for the sweet release of death (or summer). Like gardeners and their prize blooms, companies are always looking for talent acquisition in a sometimes-crowded market landscape. How then can we make our companies bloom? The answer lies in three key strategies: leveraging and retaining existing talent, elevating employment brand, and meaningful engagement with regional development.

Take care of the workers you’ve got

In order to ensure success for your company, mindful attention must be made in identifying and addressing skill gaps. Take steps to invest in employee training and leadership development with solutions like focused training, tuition reimbursement, and learning and development programs. These can be a competitive advantage for your employer brand, but to do it well, be aware of how employees need to learn. As the Harvard Business Review explains: “Training is going to have to be just as agile as the workforce — where speed, flexibility and innovation are key. It means that more learning will happen in teams, and on platforms where training can be delivered any time, any place, at the user’s convenience.”

Want to add some Miracle-Gro to your most promising employees? Push the development envelope by instituting high-potential mentorship programs, where high-potential individuals are identified and paired with leaders given the opportunity for furthering their own growth through mentoring. By ensuring that the program embraces diverse pairings, there is potential for your company to bridge gaps along demographic, cultural or skill axes.

Finally, engage in Talent Mapping with your existing workforce so you know what skills you need in your next hire, where to add support, and what kind of training would benefit your team and your bottom line. Most hiring happens in response to an emerging need or vacancy but taking the time to look at your larger skill gaps will increase the ROI on your recruiting efforts. Growth requires management – and you’ll reap the best rewards by using tools to help you plan for the future and the changes in your workforce.

Be seen, be relevant

Make your brand visible and appealing to the next generation of workers. The importance of your employment brand, or “curb appeal” cannot be overstated. The way current, former and prospective employees see and conceptualize your company as an employer has a direct impact on who your workforce becomes. Make sure that your values and company culture are translating the way you want them to your recruiting pool. Elevating your employment brand is a process that can feel overwhelming to many business leaders. Investing in this area of business development pays off in yield – retention, candidate pools and hiring rates are all tied to employment brand in some way. Think of it as the way a master gardener would be intentional about how the garden was designed – not only to make it look nice – but also to create the ecosystem that allowed everything to grow well. Employment brands are done well, companies thrive and grow.

On that note, make sure that you work well with existing partners in the community to support workforce development efforts and establish your company as a community leader in workforce development. Some local workforce partners you may want to engage include Workforce Southwest Washington, NEXT Success, WorkSource, Partners in Careers, Clark College and Washington State University Vancouver.

Finally, you can reach future workers directly and build your pipeline by offering internships and job shadows regularly – but do it thoughtfully. Internship management can be costly if it isn’t integrated with your overall recruiting strategy and process.

Common challenges require collaborative solutions

In addressing the need for workforce development strategies, the workforce development experts at McKinsey & Company agree: “The best workforce development solutions happen when leading employers come together to address the talent problem for an entire sector.” Good gardeners know that their gardens really shine when the whole block is in bloom.

In your community, advocate for programs and services that support common workforce challenges like affordable childcare, training gaps, education subsidies or small business support. At face value, addressing these challenges can be counterintuitive to your company’s individual hiring needs and are seemingly unrelated. However, when your company takes an active role in addressing these issues with partners in the community, this collaboration ensures that the overall talent pool for your entire region improves in skill and that quality candidates will be on hand to fill your company’s employment needs and growth.

Workforce development is an “inside > out” endeavor. You must support and protect your existing workforce, but you benefit by engaging in a larger strategy with active partners. While many corporate leaders want to act, the connection between larger regional efforts to their recruiting efforts can sometimes be overlooked in the daily grind of running your business. You’ll have to shift your mindset to make sure it’s a foundational element of your long-term recruitment strategy.

Just like any gardener knows that growth comes from both the planning and the weeding, taking care of the plants and the pollinators, so too can engagement in broader workforce development yield a great harvest for companies themselves. Encourage the growth of your own business by enriching the regional workforce landscape.

Raine Lunke and Richeal Royal are the duo behind R2R Strategic Recruiting. With nearly 30 years of combined talent acquisition, sourcing and HR experience, R2R understands the difficulties that companies face when it comes to recruiting. Visit them online at

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