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Help Wanted: Cultivating Talent Outside Your Organization By Judy Whitcomb

As chief human resources and learning officer, Judy Whitcomb oversees the human resources functions and learning and organizational development for Vi, a national developer, owner and operator of resort-like senior living communities.

With unemployment at a 30-year low, many organizations are struggling with attracting and retaining talent. Immediately and in the many years to come, chief learning and talent officers will need to shift their focus on cultivating talent internally to developing and executing on strategies externally.

While many organizations may have strategies and resources dedicated to college campus or trade school recruitment, a new focus on developing a talent pipeline through high school relationships and apprenticeships is essential. There is value in exposing high school students to career pathing and/or apprenticeship programs early on as there is potential to combine work-based, on-the-job learning with relevant technical education in the classroom. Students who participate in these programs may graduate with a high school diploma and real work experience and, in some cases, earn college credits and industry credentials. They also may start on a career path that continues after high school graduation.

Strategies Leveraged

Vi invests heavily in talent development with the goal of leveraging Vi’s commitment to learning as part of the company’s value proposition. In fact, many of Vi’s leaders joined the company in high school and have taken advantage of the company’s front-line management development program, tuition reimbursement program and certification programs to pursue careers in hospitality, nursing or general management. Nonetheless, with the growing challenges of hiring hospitality and healthcare talent, Vi has shifted efforts and strategies to cultivate interest in health care and hospitality careers among high school students.

Working with Vi’s culinary and nursing teams, Vi developed career ladders for culinary and entry-level nursing positions, which allow existing employees to drive their own career path by achieving specific skills through company-sponsored training programs and mentoring. An employee’s ability to progress through the career ladder is not limited to a position being open but rather is tied to achievement of defined and demonstrated skills by role. Vi intends to expand community outreach to high schools and continue pursuit of apprenticeship programs.

Importance of Partnerships

Learning and talent officers do not need to tackle the growing labor shortage challenge alone. They can, and should, leverage professional organizations.

Vi joined Argentum’s recently launched Senior Living Works initiative, which is designed to support recruitment, retention and training needed across the senior living industry. The initial launch included a website and recruitment engagement toolkit, with a range of resources to support connections with high schools, technical schools, community colleges and universities.

Talent leaders should also consider organizations such as the nonprofit Council for Adult and Experiential Learning. From developing career pathing software, to creating career and education advising programs for employees, to targeted consulting, CAEL works with companies across all industries to help them maximize their investments in learning and talent management.

We’re at the intersection of talent acquisition and talent development. While many learning leaders have developed leading learning solutions to increase productivity and sales, decrease expenses and accidents, improve quality and develop leaders, it’s clear the labor shortage isn’t going away anytime soon. Collaboration between an organization’s chief talent acquisition officers and learning leaders alongside their business partners is more important than ever.

Chief Learning Officer wants to hear from you: What are you thinking about? Send your thoughts to Associate Editor Ave Rio at ario@CLOmedia.com.