Commitment To KnowledgeWritten By: Matt Di Iorio
Article Date: 06-01-2007
Copyright(C) 2008 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.
A journey of learning and leadership.
It is difficult to open the newspaper these days without reading about immigration and education. U.S. policies on these issues will continue to impact the quality of America's workforce, and thus, our nation's ability to compete globally in the years ahead. I am not making a political statement, but rather drawing attention to the obvious - there is a relationship between the knowledge and skill of a workforce and the ability to compete. The AED Foundation is currently working with 30 colleges to help equip entry-level employees with the skills dealers need to excel in the future. The Foundation has also developed educational programming and performance standards addressing people, customer, financial and operations management for branch, service, parts and rental management positions. And there are programs available for dealer managers involved in equipment sales, finance and human resource functions.
In truth, however, neither U.S. policy nor educational institution can help employers that do not commit to a long-term workforce development strategy of their own. Long gone are the days when you could advertise a position and selectively choose from a host of qualified candidates. Due to new knowledge and skill requirements, as well as changing demographics, it can and often does take years to harvest new talent after the seeds are sewn. Therefore, dealers must encourage the development of those currently in their employ.
As with sports, the team with the best offense (recruitment strategy) won't win the championship unless they have a great defense (retention strategy). Smart employees will identify their next career opportunities before announcing their discontent.
However, there are ways to mitigate the risk of losing high performers. Next "X" generation employees appreciate being involved in strategy and goal setting, getting timely performance reviews, receiving recognition and reward for jobs well done, and opportunities to "sharpen the saw."
The "sharpen the saw" metaphor, popularized by Stephen Covey in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, is the habit of self renewal, which includes, constantly learning new and better ways to work. Convey's point is, of course, that you can cut a lot more wood with a sharp saw than with a dull one. So taking time to sharpen your saw is a rational and worthwhile investment, although it remains the domain of "highly effective people" and organizations.
Covey makes another important point in his book that often gets overlooked: that it takes "desire" as well as skill and knowledge to succeed individually and organizationally. You, and your company's leadership, play an important role in fueling the desire to excel. Your advocacy of continuous learning, "sharpening the saw" is critical to improving the capacity of the workforce.
In 1999, The AED Foundation Board of Directors launched a national campaign to advocate self-directed learning in the construction equipment industry. The program was aptly titled, "Commitment to Knowledge" and it promoted the value of continuous learning as a means to continuous improvement. Eight years later, the Foundation is encouraging a Re-Commitment to Knowledge. Although announced just last month, more than 20 percent of AED member dealers have already made the commitment.
"Commitment to Knowledge" is about leadership, as well as learning. Employees value forward-looking, inspirational, competent and honest leaders, according to Kouzes and Posner, authors of The Leadership Challenge. And, "leaders mobilize others to want to get extraordinary things done in organizations."
To learn more about The AED Foundation's Commitment to Knowledge, or to find out how the Foundation can help you plan and execute a workforce development strategy, contact Carol Schrader, at 630-574-0650 ext. 303, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Let's recommit ourselves and our organizations to growing the knowledge and skill of the professionals employed in this great industry.
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