The role of community health workers in the continuum of care

Community health workers are on the frontlines of public health. These trusted individuals know their communities, which enable them to connect people to the various health and social services available to them.

“They know the community and they know the barriers its members face to access care and services,” says Marquita L. Rockamore, director of health industry solutions at Corporate College, a division of Cuyahoga Community College.

She says financial and racial inequities affect how people are served, their access to care and the quality of care delivered. Community health workers address those inequalities by helping members of their communities navigate service providers to find the care they need.

Smart Business spoke with Rockamore about community health workers and their role in the continuum of care.

Who typically employs community health workers and what services do they provide?
Community workers serve as a vital lifeline to members of the community who need care, but may not have the ability to access it. They connect the dots between insurance, health care providers and pharmacies to make sure all medical needs are being met.

Nonprofit community agencies and municipalities employ community health workers, as do county departments of health, clinics and managed care organizations. Hospitals have patient navigators who have unique training, but offer many of the same services as other community health workers.

Increasingly, community health workers are being employed to help close the digital divide. That work focuses on teaching members of the community, seniors especially, how to use computers and software to create or access electronic health records. This can help them better understand the details of their health conditions and take action to make improvements.

How are differences in the titles and educational backgrounds of community health workers affecting the industry?
The industry is suffering from an identity crisis. Community health workers are known by a host of names — outreach workers, liaisons and more. But it’s bigger than a name. There are also differences in how community health workers operate, which makes it difficult to capture performance data or streamline education and training.

Another issue is the level of certification or academic degree employers and insurance companies would like community health workers to have. For example, in some cases, a community health worker can be employed with a high school diploma and a certification, but an insurance company might require a bachelor’s degree to reimburse an employer for those services, so there’s a disconnect.

As communities continue to address opioid addiction, the digital divide and inequities of care, there is a greater need for homogeneity in the industry to better provide and pay for the community health care workers who can connect people to much needed services.

What challenges are employers facing when it comes to connecting with or retaining community health workers?
There are barriers that are affecting if and how community health workers are employed. Employers sometimes aren’t sure how to get reimbursed for the services of community health workers. That can be as simple as not understanding which code to use to get reimbursed for those services.

Employers want to hire certified community health workers, but equally as important is hiring individuals who can communicate with the many different types of people who are served, as well as those who deliver care or reimburse for services rendered. Employers prefer to deploy someone who mirrors the demographics of a particular community, knows the neighborhoods and can relate and communicate to those being helped. It can be a challenge to find those who fit that description.

There are many people hurting for resources. Some are trying to juggle caring for a family member while going to school or working full time. There are many people who need services and don’t know where to get them, often despite living in a resource-rich community. Community health workers can make those connections for those who don’t know where to turn.

Insights Education is brought to you by Cuyahoga Community College.

Commercial drones are increasingly popular, but there are risks

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), are being effectively deployed in many commercial applications across a swath of industries. The technology is being used in construction work, insurance inspections, agriculture and public safety.

“Regardless of the industry or type of work, it’s always better to work smarter, not harder,” says Clayton A. Harris, chief of police at Cuyahoga Community College and vice president and dean of its Public Safety Center of Excellence. “When technology enables greater efficiency with reduced costs and effort, it’s quickly and aggressively adopted.”

But before companies can use UAVs to help solve problems, they need to be able to identify operators who understand the rules governing drone flight.

Smart Business spoke with Harris about the commercial applications of UAVs, drone training and the regulations that direct their use.

Why are drones becoming more popular for commercial applications?
The pace of drone technology development has been fast. Drones went from being an interest of hobbyists to becoming so widely used that small-scale drones are as easy to operate as toys in the hands of general consumers.

In the commercial realm, drone use has grown exponentially. Not only has the cost of equipment come down, but it’s much easier to retrieve and interpret data collected through UAVs.

Because drone technology is so popular, UAV manufacturers are able to make greater investments in research, materials and development to deliver more advanced capabilities. Drones have become out-of-the-box solutions with many applications.

What laws or regulations are commercial drone operators required to abide by?
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which polices the national airspace, is the main governing body for drone flight. Its most significant regulatory milestone is its Small Unmanned Aircraft Regulations (Part 107), which sets operating, registration, pilot certification and airspace authorization requirements.

There are separate rules for pilots flying drones for business and those flying for fun. Operators can incur significant penalties for failing to register certain UAVs or for operating a drone in restricted airspace, such as within a five-mile radius of an airport or flying over a stadium with a seating capacity of more than 30,000 during an event.

Recently, the FAA launched a nationwide beta test of the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability to support the safe integration of drones into the nation’s airspace. Through this system, drone operators can receive real-time airspace authorizations to quickly plan their flights.

How can UAV operators improve their skills?
The FAA’s website offers details on UAV operation and flight, and provides a wealth of information on pilot certification and the requirements to pilot small UAVs.

The Ohio/Indiana Center in Springfield, Ohio, is working to advance the commercialization of the technology and support the UAS community in research and development. The organization will assist anyone looking for help with any aspect of UAV, helping operators get up in the air faster.

There are also area schools that offer drone training programs. These courses train pilots in making flight plans and on the laws and regulations governing operation, as well as flight training through simulations and live operation to prepare students to take the FAA Part 107 exam.

There also are industry-specific courses — for example, a training program that introduces law enforcement officers, firefighters and other first responders to drone technology, its capabilities and how and when to use drones in emergency and homeland security situations.

What should companies know before using drones for commercial purposes?
Before contracting with a pilot, determine if he or she is bonded and insured. Conduct background checks and find out if the pilot has some history of success in the work he or she is being asked to do. Also, check to ensure that the pilot has completed training and is certified to operate the specific UAV required for the task.

Insights Education is brought to you by Cuyahoga Community College

Every organization should promote a culture of continuous improvement

It’s common to talk about quality and continuous improvement in the context of manufacturing.

Methodologies such as ISO, lean and Lean Six Sigma are a means to improve business efficiency and effectiveness. When done well, the end result is a better experience for customers and employees, and bottom-line benefits to the organization.

But continuous improvement is no longer captive to these existing frameworks or to manufacturing. It’s now ubiquitous and industry-blind.

“Continuous improvement is simply about the people and processes that make up a business,” says Samantha Kaplan, director of quality and continuous improvement at Corporate College, a division of Cuyahoga Community College. “It’s becoming part of the culture and put in practice at every level of an organization.”

Smart Business spoke with Kaplan about how quality and continuous improvement affects organizations, regardless of sector.

Where are quality and continuous improvement processes found today?
This initiative can be in any organization. The methodologies typically had been applied to specific industries, such as ISO in manufacturing, particularly automotive, medical devices and aerospace, but these ideas have made their way into other industries. Lean, for instance, is being implemented in health care. That often pulls service providers, such as insurance companies, into the process as they try to meet the expectations of their clients.

Generally, however, many organizations are implementing a culture of continuous improvement. They are regularly looking at processes to see where and how improvements can be made. In some cases, performance can be measured against metrics.

Hospitals have patient satisfaction surveys and those results are linked to their government funding. In the public sector, government organizations and programs may be asked to meet certain measurables. How well or if they’re able to do that is directly tied to their funding. Elsewhere, it’s just about being more effective and efficient.

Improving processes requires that problems are identified, action is taken to fix them, there are checks to see the results of that action and the process is reviewed to see how it can be done better. It first requires a commitment to a culture of improvement; then the best tools and techniques can be identified for that organization.

Ultimately, organizations can’t accept status quo. They need to improve and streamline to remain competitive.

What difference does such a process make for an organization?
Continuous improvement affects how an organization operates. It becomes natural to make improvements, correct problems to be more efficient and effective, rather than being reactive. It also creates a culture of problem solving — dedicating time to get to the bottom of issues and fix the problem.

There’s a direct link to the strategic vision of an organization. It’s carried out not just from the top down, but simultaneously from the bottom up so that the entire organization is committed to the same idea.

How can organizations ensure their process improvement initiatives stick?
It requires a commitment from leadership. It’s essentially a strategic initiative, so it needs to be reinforced from the top and by champions throughout the organization.

Recently, ISO standards have been revised to focus more on leadership’s role in process improvement, as well as providing resources and assigning responsibility. Leadership has to be involved and people throughout the organization need to really live the process. There has to be accountability and encouragement to think creatively when problem solving. Then it becomes more of an organizational management system and not simply a quality management system.

Continuous improvement must be embedded in the organization’s DNA. The strategic vision should reflect this, so there’s a commitment to improvement, which can be leveraged in many ways. Sometimes that requires stepping back and taking a high-level look to find where the organization can be more effective and efficient in how it meets the needs of customers and improves performance metrics. It’s no longer a discipline strictly for manufacturers. Every organization can benefit from a commitment to continual improvement.

Insights Education is brought to you by Cuyahoga Community College

Community college training connects candidates with manufacturers

Manufacturing today emphasizes automation. It’s how companies are keeping pace with competitors that have lower labor costs. But it’s raised the bar for candidates looking to get into the industry, and made finding qualified candidates a challenge for employers.

Smart Business spoke with Michael White, program manager of advanced manufacturing at Cuyahoga Community College’s Workforce, Community and Economic Development Division, about the needs of today’s manufacturers and how community colleges are connecting candidates and employers.

What skills are needed for candidates to work in the modern manufacturing sector?
Candidates need to be tech savvy. Much of their job now entails interfacing with computers and reacting quickly to change. They’ve got to have the ability to trouble shoot problems and work in a team environment, which means getting along with others.

Much of the labor is done with machines now, so the jobs aren’t as physical — there’s not as much lifting, pushing and carrying as there had been. Rather, there’s more measuring and recording, following standard procedures, communicating ideas to others. That puts knowledge at a premium.

Candidates need to understand equipment, such as CNC machines — how to mount tools, call up and run programs, inspect the parts, and generally interface with automation. There’s some handwork, but today’s jobs are more about directing the equipment what to do.

There’s also a need on the repair side — the people who maintain and repair equipment in factories. They need technical knowledge of hydraulics, pneumatics and electricity; the ability to work with tools; and an understanding of computers, sensors, and all the controls that keep the machines moving.

Teamwork skills are far more valuable now because everyone is working in teams. And troubleshooting skills, along with the ability to quickly react to change, are also important.

How can candidates acquire the necessary skills to compete for today’s jobs?
Those who have the potential, but not the skills, can be trained on the particulars.

There are different entry points in manufacturing. With just a basic understanding of math, someone with no machining background can take 180 hours of training to get the basic knowledge, then move on to an eight-week training internship with an on-the-job trainer and qualify for an entry-level position.

Community colleges are a good place to learn the skills needed to get into the industry. There are short-term certification and two-year degree programs that can provide people with the training they need to qualify for in-demand jobs.

Community colleges are interested in getting people into jobs, not just getting them through training. They’re always looking at combining training with an internship or a job at the end.

What can companies do to create a pipeline of candidates to fill open positions?
Companies should get involved with community colleges by taking a seat on an advisory committee or talking with a workforce development unit to see what can be done to gear a program toward a particular need.

These relationships help companies create a pipeline of qualified candidates. As the manufacturing workforce continues to retire in greater numbers, companies are realizing the importance of having a succession plan to fill holes and ensure valuable knowledge is transferred.

Companies aren’t likely to find candidates with all the skills they want. It takes a combination of outside and in-house training to get candidates up to speed on a company’s particular equipment and processes. So it pays to work in partnership with community colleges to create a training program that fills the pipeline with candidates who are prepared to work with a company’s specific equipment.

Manufacturing is a great career for those with a real interest in jobs with good pay and great benefits doing work that requires equal parts brains and hands. Community colleges can be the link that connects job candidates and employers so everyone gets what they need.

Insights Education is brought to you by Cuyahoga Community College.

The transportation and logistics industry sees increased demand

The demand for truck drivers continues to rise. The reported national shortage of 175,000 CDL drivers expected by 2024 has been brought on by two factors.

One factor is the number of baby boomers retiring, which is not expected to slow down. Second, with the continued growth in the economy and the number of other job opportunities that are available to job seekers, CDL driving positions are just one of many career choices available.

There also is demand for other positions in the logistics and distribution profession. Some of that demand is being spurred by Amazon and its growing warehouse presence. And though autonomous vehicles are becoming a reality, they’ll need support from human drivers to get the goods to their local destinations.

Smart Business spoke with Ian Wilson, director of the Transportation Center at Cuyahoga Community College, about the outlook for the transportation and logistics industry.

What is the expected demand for truck drivers over the next five years?
Demand in the transportation and logistics industry will only increase as retirements continue to create openings. At this point, there are more job opportunities within the transportation, distribution and logistics industry than there are trained individuals to take them.

Product demand drives everything. The more demand for products, the more people will be required to transport both raw materials to manufacturers and finished products to retailers. Most products and materials coming into the country make it to their final destination via truck. In addition to drivers hauling both raw materials and finished goods, the industry will still require professionals to coordinate pickup and delivery, and load trucks to satisfy consumer demand.

What impact has Amazon had on the demand for truck drivers?
Amazon is expected to make a significant difference to employment within the transportation, distribution and logistics industry as the company continues to grow. The biggest impact locally is from the introduction of the two new Amazon fulfillment centers, one at the abandoned Randall Park Mall and a second in Euclid.

The Randall Park location alone is projected to add 2,000 jobs in the transportation, distribution and logistics fields. These two locations will need more than just CDL drivers. It will also require warehouse and supply chain professionals.

How might autonomous vehicles affect the trucking and logistics industry?
Autonomous vehicles aren’t yet capable of navigating local roadways to deliver beverages to supermarkets or fuel to gas stations. That still takes human drivers.

Though an effect on local deliveries is still out of sight, there will likely be an impact soon on the long-distance aspect of the industry, where autonomous trucks could manage the highways without a human driver. And even when that becomes a reality, there will still be a need for a vast amount of drivers in the cities to distribute the goods to their final destination.

Filling the workforce demand requires training for drivers, warehouse workers and forklift operators. The industry has a lifetime of opportunities for advancement, from driver to logistics to project management. Automation isn’t likely to affect those positions anytime soon.

What concerns do employers have regarding the existing workforce?
Soft skills, such as interpersonal communication and interacting well with people, are crucial. A person has to be a reliable team player, otherwise most companies would rather do without them.

Turnover in the truck-driving field is a result of people coming into the industry without being fully aware of the expectations of the profession. People need to be honest with themselves and their family about the lifestyle they’re taking on.

Transportation and logistics offers a career, not just a job. But candidates need to understand what the industry is about, ask pertinent questions of employers and themselves and not just think about the pay. It’s important that trainers, educators and employers discuss the realities of the industry with potential employees to manage expectations and reduce turnover.

Insights Education is brought to you by Cuyahoga Community College.

How digital transformation is driving change within IT

Digital transformation is the way in which companies are adopting technology, specifically digital technologies, to innovate their day-to-day business activities. As one company successfully incorporates a transformative technology, it changes the business model for all companies.

“The pace of change with digital and emerging technology is incredible,” says Monique Umphrey, vice president of workforce innovation and college-wide dean of the Information Technology Center of Excellence at Cuyahoga Community College. “The changes that will take place in the next five years will eclipse the changes seen during the previous 20 years.”

She says there is a confluence of innovation taking place simultaneously: artificial intelligence, robotics, blockchain, bitcoin, chatbots, 3-D printing, data science, analytics, cloning, nanotech and quantum computing, to name a few.

“Any one of these would have huge impact on day-to-day business,” she says. “Now, because their cost has dropped dramatically, any company could be deploying any number of these technologies simultaneously. Those that aren’t will soon find they’ve been left behind.”

Smart Business spoke with Umphrey about emerging technologies and the evolving role IT professionals play in companies’ digital transformation.

How are businesses being impacted by digital transformation?
Market share is where companies will feel it the most. Consumers have a plethora of choices, most of which they can comparison shop on their smartphone. That’s meant that companies aren’t competing for business locally anymore.

They’re competing against global companies because they’re essentially all accessible digitally.
And it’s not just shopping. Companies are using digital advancements to gain a competitive advantage in fields such as health care, manufacturing and more.

As the digital transformation permeates every industry, businesses can’t afford to ignore the trends. Take, for instance, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index. In previous years, the average lifespan of a company on this index was 65 years. Today it’s 15 years. The average company lifespan has decreased in part because of the impact of emerging technology and disruptive innovation.

What is happening to IT departments in the face of such change?
IT departments have evolved from a cost center to a strategic partner. They serve as a collaborator by sharing emerging technologies with the C-suite along with ideas about how to use it to gain a competitive advantage.

The perception of IT personnel as people relegated to some dark room writing code or fiddling with computer hardware isn’t reality. IT personnel are strategic partners in today’s companies. Executive leadership is relying on them to have not only the technical skills, but to also be knowledgeable and be strong communicators.

They need to be able to share the basic tenants of a technology and explain its potential application to the business. They also need to be able to show personnel how the technology is used to improve workflow.
Today’s IT professionals still need hard skills, but that’s just enough to get their foot in the door. Tech skills and communication skills are needed to get the job and business savvy is needed to get promoted.

How can companies stay on the leading edge of technological change?
Companies shouldn’t be afraid of or shy away from today’s technology challenges. There are free tutorials and primers to give anyone a basic understanding of the tools that exist.

Also, educators are broadening their curriculum to make sure all graduates are digitally proficient and can understand the changes that are happening. It is important for companies to invest in re-skilling their employees. It is especially important for non-tech employees to gain digital training so that they have additional tools to solve today’s business problems.

No one needs to be a tech genius to initiate a digital transformation project. Some of the best digital projects have come from people who recognized a problem and found a creative way to solve it through technology. Learning more about digital technologies expands a company’s possible solutions for existing problems.

Insights Education is brought to you by Cuyahoga Community College

A diverse and inclusive workplace has many tangible benefits

A narrowed definition of diversity typically refers to differences in race, age, gender and sexual orientation. However, it has evolved to include diversity of thought, experience, ability, personality and communication style.

“The broadened sense of the term is an attempt to convey that everyone is different and those differences help drive business results,” says Tiffany Short, Director of Organizational Effectiveness at Corporate College, a division of Cuyahoga Community College.

Businesses have gotten better at hiring for diversity, but there is a need to foster an inclusionary work environment through practices and company norms to ensure those differences are welcomed and the benefits can be realized.”

Smart Business spoke with Short about the state of diversity and inclusion in the region’s businesses, and how to activate a diverse workforce.

How well is the concept of diversity and inclusion being realized in area businesses?
Organizations understand that diversity and inclusion are not just about recruiting and hiring. They’re going a step further and shifting their cultures to be more inclusive, which requires companies to understand where they are, envision where they want to go and drive toward change.

Leveraging diversity and inclusion assessments to gauge employees’ level of engagement and experiences at work will provide companies with insight on areas that need to be improved to create a more inclusive work environment.

In addition, offering robust training to help employees and managers to collaborate, communicate and navigate conflict will serve them well in creating a respectful and civil work environment.
Northeast Ohio companies are getting there, but it takes time to fully realize the results. These initiatives need to be woven into the fabric of the company as a business imperative.

How do the principles of diversity and inclusion benefit a business?
Bringing together people with diverse perspectives and backgrounds leads to more creative and innovative solutions, and evidence suggests there are dollars associated with embracing these initiatives. A 2015 McKinsey & Co. analysis found that ethnically diverse companies are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.

What are companies doing to ensure their recruiting methods reach and appeal to a diverse population of candidates?
Many companies are adjusting their recruiting methods. Some are integrating images of a diverse range of people into their website and other digital portals, designating sections describing their company’s culture and commitment to diversity and inclusion, and being transparent on what they are doing to foster an inclusive work environment, all of which applicants look for before applying.

In addition, companies are starting to expand the locations where they recruit, and are partnering with schools to create a direct link to minority students to apply for open positions.

Often organizations are under pressure to quickly fill open positions. When they plan ahead, they can think strategically about where to focus their efforts and how to expand that recruitment net. Otherwise they tend to stay with what’s worked in the past.

Once a position is filled, companies can improve retention through mentoring programs and employee resource networks, both of which help increase engagement and establish an inclusive environment.

How can companies get the most out of a diverse employee population?
Much of it is about being aware of our own unconscious and personal biases and how they affect our interactions and decision-making at work. In addition, companies can invest in and utilize diversity training as a method to reinforce the policies and practices that lead to more desirable behaviors and positive team dynamics.

Creating an inclusive environment that embraces and welcomes all employees enables them to bring their diverse knowledge and skills to the table. Claiming to be diverse isn’t enough. Be proactive through assessments, training and strategic recruiting efforts to diversify and improve workforce engagement.

Insights Education is brought to you by Cuyahoga Community College

Demand is growing in the captioning and court reporting profession

There is major demand for captioners and court reporters. According to a recent National Court Reporters Association survey that looked at the trends affecting job opportunities in the profession, it’s expected there will be 5,500 job openings available in the field across the country in the next five years.

“We have a 100 percent employment rate for graduates,” says Kelly Moranz, CRI, program manager and adjunct faculty in the Captioning and Court Reporting program at Cuyahoga Community College. “I’m always getting calls about job openings. Court reporters and captionists are being hired locally and all over the country.”

Smart Business spoke with Moranz about the captioning and court reporting career field, its outlook and requirements.

Why is demand for captioners and court reporters increasing?
Part of the reason for the strong demand is an increase in the retirement rate of court reporters. Jobs are opening up and there aren’t enough people to fill them.

It’s not a well-known profession, which means people don’t often think of it as a career choice despite court reporting programs working locally and nationally to get the word out about the opportunities that exist.

Also, the FCC has instituted tighter regulations for broadcast captioning that may curtail the use of transcription software because it isn’t as accurate or as consistent as the new regulations demand, so human providers are needed.

What tends to draw people to this career?
A big draw is the great deal of flexibility there is in the field. Captioners and court reporters often can work from home. And, though many people don’t know this, there is significant earning potential. It’s not uncommon for experienced and capable reporters to earn $100,000 or more annually.

What are some common misconceptions about the work and the career field?
Many people don’t realize how much technology is used in the steno machine writing and voice writing fields.
It seems that the popular impression is someday all captionists and court reporters will be replaced by transcription software and voice recorders.

Voice recorders don’t announce that they’re not working or that they were unable to clearly pick up what was said, so the human element is essential in this profession.

Others imagine that it would be boring just sitting there, typing what people say. That’s because they don’t realize the different job opportunities that exist for someone with this set of skills.

What is the typical career path?
New reporters typically start out doing freelance work — deposition hearings, arbitrations. They may do some CART captioning, providing for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, or other real-time writing such as broadcast captioning.

In court reporting, reporters do editing and transcripts, so their work only needs to be 95 percent accurate. CART captioning requires 97-98 percent accuracy because there are no transcripts. It’s all real-time.

Program graduates should think outside the box. There are post-production captioning opportunities for companies such as Nextflix and Hulu, and organizations that need audio files transcribed.

What training is required?
The better programs train people to be real-time writers, which means writing with the view that someone is looking at their screen. That way, regardless of which direction the reporter goes, he or she is prepared for either.

Programs typically put students on the path to earn their National Court Reporters Association or National Verbatim Reporters Association certification. That’s convenient for those who aren’t seeking a degree or who have already earned another degree. There is also the associate degree option, which typically takes two years to complete.

This is a skill-based profession, so the emphasis is on performance. Students must practice regularly to have success in their careers. It can be challenging, but the benefits and rewards are great.

Captioning and court reporting is an in-demand field offering excellent pay and great flexibility. It’s a viable career choice for those willing to put in the work.

Insights Education is brought to you by Cuyahoga Community College

Steps employers can take to bridge the work-skills gap

The work-skills gap is the difference between the skills employers need from a workforce and the skills the available workforce has.

Jason Abbott, director of workforce development at Cuyahoga Community College’s Workforce Economic Development Division at the Advanced Technology Training Center, says that gap is stunting economic growth in industry sectors and the overall economy because companies aren’t operating at full potential.

Smart Business spoke with Abbott about how to bridge the work-skills gap.

How is it that the skills gap came to be?
There are areas in which employers are operating less than optimally because they can’t find the talent to adequately fill positions needed to perform better, so they face output constraints.

Automation is also contributing to the skills gap. Lower-skill occupations have been replaced with higher-skill occupations that come with a need for increased training. This has slowed the progress of workers through the training pipelines.

The national conversation doesn’t necessarily reflect the work that’s being done on a regional level to bridge this gap. A macro-level debate is controversial since specific employer gaps and the skills of the workforce are a microeconomic issue.

Those that are engaged in workforce development are relying on regional data of workforce participation rates to describe the in-demand occupations and the skills needed to fill them. From that, training can accelerated to fill the pipeline.

What can employers do to close the work skills gap?
The emphasis recently has been to convince employers to leverage their incumbent employees and upskill their abilities. There are limits on the effectiveness of filling gaps by external hiring. More employers recognize that they have a ready workforce and are choosing to upskill existing employees while concurrently backfilling with entry-level employees.

This approach also goes a long way to address one of the biggest skill gaps employers have, which is a lack of soft skills. There’s less risk in building the technical skills of someone who already understands the company culture and how to work with others within the organization. They’ve already proven they’re a fit. Give them the training they need to take on greater responsibility or different, more technical, tasks.

Employers should reassess and redefine the skill requirements of their positions. There are instances in which employers have unrealistic skill or experience requirements for certain positions and that is hurting their ability to fill positions. Employers should also consider reevaluating pre-employment requirements that may bar otherwise qualified workers from taking a job.

For instance, some employers can eliminate a clean criminal record as a requirement for employment, particularly with regard to those who have low-level offenses.

Employers may find success through the implementation of apprenticeship programs or learn-and-earn opportunities. Many job candidates need to earn money while learning. Employers can help underwrite that through such programs.

There’s also the need for employers to better market themselves. Competition among employers for highly skilled workers is increasing. It’s essential that companies explain why these workers should join their organization when they have many options for employment.

Besides employers, what other stakeholders can help address the skills gap?
Addressing the skills gap takes a multifaceted approach in collaboration with parties that range from the parents of school-age children to community organizations. The best approach is regional, because stakeholders in any given market understand the unique challenges and strengths at play.

Partnerships with stakeholders at every level of the market are the key to finding solutions for the skills gap. It also takes buy-in from businesses, identifying the right skills necessary for each job and the living wage associated with those skills, and properly marketing the available opportunities. Fortunately, there already are actions being taken to address these shortages, many of which are making headway.

Insights Education is brought to you by Cuyahoga Community College

How baby boomer retirements are threatening organizational knowledge

There are currently five generations that are active in the workforce, ranging from the oldest group, the silent generation, which has all but exited the workforce, to the youngest group, Generation Z, which is just beginning to enter the workforce.

Smart Business spoke with Jody Wheaton, executive director, client solutions and programs at Cuyahoga Community College’s Corporate College, about the coming generational transition, its impact on businesses and how to facilitate knowledge transfer while there’s still time.

What is the effect of today’s mix of generations working together?

When business leaders and management talk about the generational mix in the workforce, it’s often characterized by differences and conflicts. That fails to account for the many similarities shared between the generations.

For example, baby boomers and millennials, the two largest workforce cohorts, have complementary dispositions. Millennials like to learn and baby boomers like to share information. This is an especially important link given the rate of retirement of the latter generation and the threat their exit poses to the transfer of institutional knowledge.

How is the rate of boomer retirements impacting employers?

There has been a surge in boomer retirement, with some reports saying as many as 10,000 boomers are retiring every day. This is expected to persist, and the impact will be felt for many years to come.

One area where the impact will be felt the most is in management where some 50 percent of boomers in those positions will soon retire. Not many companies are prepared to have half of their management team turn over in the next five to 10 years.

What is the greatest effect of losing this management talent?

Allowing knowledge to leave the organization becomes a bottom-line expense for companies because the newly retired had a unique skillset and organizational understanding that will no longer exist within the company. Businesses will sometimes find themselves in the position of hiring former employees back as consultants because they have no other way to fill the knowledge gap.

Businesses generally are not prepared for the impact baby boomer retirements will have on their organization. Many companies have done little to document or share that knowledge before it walks out the door. It’s a challenge companies must address now or they stand to lose a great deal of their organizational knowledge if nothing is done.

How can companies facilitate the sharing of knowledge among employees?

It’s important to create a transfer strategy to impart that knowledge on the younger generations. One way to address this is to have older workers mentor people from the younger generations and share their knowledge. Mentoring relationships should be semi-structured, more informal. Some companies organize gatherings where older and younger generations have the chance to meet and talk. It also helps to provide general guidelines that define what makes an effective mentor and mentee. Ultimately, however, that relationship should be put in the employees’ hands.

Conduct a workforce analysis to determine what the older generation values and use that information to make sure they stay engaged. Baby boomers’ contributions to the business are meaningful, so they shouldn’t be made to feel as if they’re being replaced.

What steps should companies take to engage both boomers and millennials?

The management team should have timely career conversations with aging team members to understand their plans and not be caught off guard by a seemingly sudden decision to retire.

Managers should also ensure the younger generation has a development plan so the path to their next career step is clear. They should work with HR to ensure that talent pools exist and proactively identify who is capable of advancing to fill leadership positions.

Taking practical steps today to address the wave of boomer retirements gives companies the best chance of mitigating its impact.

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