2014: Focus On Your Talent

Image(This article, written by Rick Dacri, was originally published in the York County Coast Star)

A new year. There is nothing more exciting. Always filled with endless possibilities and promise.

2014 will be a breakthrough year for the economy. All indicators are trending in the right direction. Businesses will grow, jobs will be gotten, and careers will blossom for those who are prepared and do what it takes.

The fuel that will propel the economic engine will be talent. Companies who hope to ride the wave will focus their attention on hiring the best, developing their team, and retaining their star performers.

Forward thinking executives understand this and are making significant investments in developing their people. I see it with many of my clients. With two of them, both small, Maine based companies, they recognize that growth in 2014 and beyond require two critical elements: hiring sufficient, productive staff to meet increased sales demands, and qualified supervisors to lead their operations, thus freeing these owners from the day-to-day operational demands and allowing them to focus on strategy and growth.

Each of these organizations is initiating creative recruitment strategies to find the talent they need. With an improving unemployment rate, a robust economy, in a state with a declining population, they are facing stiff competition for talent. Knowing they can’t succeed without the right people, both are taking a “whatever it takes” approach. Heavy emphasis has been placed on making themselves the employer of choice by creating a positive workplace culture; enriching their employee benefits; and emphasizing employee growth, development and career. When employees love their job, they are more productive and customer centric, and they rarely quit. And when all that happens, it is easier for companies to attract additional, like-minded job candidates.

Employee and leadership development programs continue to evolve. While classroom style training remains, it can be less convenient as it is dependent on location and scheduling and is often the most expensive method to train. There is a greater emphasis today with online learning, where employees can learn on their time, at their pace. Many organizations, because of time constraints, cost, smallness of staff, or geographical issues, need a more compact training, a more “virtual program” that contains what they need and does not require leaving the workplace for extended periods. Tech savvy Millennials, who have grown up in front of a computer screen, naturally gravitate to online training.  And the results have been positive. Beyond that, more and more companies are adding mentor programs, job shadowing, social media and even gamification to the mix.

Regardless of the format, prudent companies are investing in growing their staff. Technical, industry specific training and leadership development form the foundation of most company initiatives. Executives realize that without the proper skill set they will fail. Remember, a well educated workforce is not a luxury; it’s a necessity.

While the emphasis is on company based training, smart employees should be investing in their own careers. Taking courses, getting their degrees, joining professional associations, and taking advantage of company educational assistance programs, are the best ways to grow professionally, position oneself for promotion, and demonstrate value to your boss. My advice to all employees is to manage your career, or someone else will manage it for you, and you might not like what they do.

We’ve turned the corner. Companies that invest in their talent will find themselves at a greater advantage then those that do not. We’re not fully out of the woods yet and companies will still operate lean and mean. So to remain competitive, they will need well-trained star performers.

 These are exciting times. Investing in your talent is the key.

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Filed under careers, Economy, training

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