The world needs talented people who make their respective contributions willingly and who act with the “bigger picture” of growth and development in mind. Creating opportunity and possibility for others as they apply these talents and skills appropriately, they not only engender stability in the economy, but also steer its growth. This is partly the domain of the entrepreneur, but is also valid of the forward-looking manager in a corporation that empowers employees and grants responsibility to those who are showing and realising their potential. In both cases, people are being developed and are becoming worthy members of the band of people and companies that grow the country’s economy. Your country needs your talents. The world needs your talents.

A business that takes the issue of sustainability seriously always focuses on the development of its people. It sees its responsibility of nurturing the growth of its employees and takes steps to create opportunity for the expression of giftedness and other skills. It views career development not only as a way to retain its good people, but also as a means to enhance the collective wisdom within the company. These businesses know that they may lose some of their stars to other institutions along the way, but also know that investing in these people means a growth in the talent pool which is good for the future of their respective industries. They view their investment in development as an opportunity to contribute to something bigger than their immediate environments.

A certain petro-chemical company in South Africa takes this concept even further. They hand-pick a group of high school students who have grown up in challenging circumstances, but who have exhibited tenacity to succeed in spite of all they have been through. They assist these students financially with their education at university, but also require the students to job-shadow various managers and engineers on the plant during holiday periods. They then attempt to employ these students once their studies have been successfully completed, however, if not employed, at least these students go into the job market with some valuable experience added to their respective degrees.

Company leadership needs to consider the following as a fundamental contribution that needs to be made:

  • Establishing an ambitious skills development plan – even engineers and other professionals need ongoing development. Everyone in the organisation needs a growth plan. The same should focus on both technical and other soft skills development.
  • Seeking opportunities for cross-skilling – this not only provides growth opportunities for individuals, but also, in a process environment, gives options for staff allocation to various machines depending on production needs at the time.
  • Coaching – every manager and supervisor should see the need to act as coaches within the business. Honing the skills of employees grows the overall capacity and knowledge of one’s own department, which can then function at higher levels. This will also grow confidence in the employees.
  • Mentoring the growth of key staff – internal or external mentors should be appointed to assist with the growth of specific individuals who are crucial to the ongoing functionality and development of the business. The message needs to be clear – we want you and we are willing to invest in you for the future.
  • Outside industry exposure – particularly in manufacturing and other process environments, occasionally exposing supervisors to processes in different industries stimulates thinking and gets people focused on best practices.
  • Establishing a research and resources area – available internet connectivity and computer stations, industry-related periodicals and library materials provide an environment where employees can do research in their own time. The same is particularly helpful for lower level employees who do not have computers of their own.

Developing the skillsets of employees is a corporate responsibility. This not only adds immense value to the collective wisdom on the shop floor, but also breeds more confidence within employees. Decision-making ability and collaboration thus get enhanced and people feel valued – as such, they are more likely to stay.

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