Community Champions: How to influence generations of workers
By Jan McCormick
Community Champions are business leaders who care about the future pool of capable, competent workers. They are advocates for building better work-life communities and willing to set an example for other business leaders to match or follow. For GCDFs (Global Career Development Facilitators), forming collaborative relationships with Community Champions (employers who serve as community advocates) is key to better understanding current (and future) job and skill requirements, and for creating the outcomes-focused career development and employment service programs needed to address local workforce challenges.
Who are Community Champions?
Community Champions are best characterized as:
Credible community members who will actively support your program.
Prominent, celebrated, and respected members of the community.
Strategic planners with excellent communication skills.
Board members, advisors, and community stakeholders.
Community members with talents in critical areas (AmeriCorps, n.d.).
These are business owners, leaders, managers, and human resource professionals who see the value of career readiness programs and enthusiastically engage in opportunities to influence more, and better, training for workers.
Why They Participate
Employers desperately seek workers with the skill set, attitude, and experience necessary for trusting new hires to act in their best interest. GCDFs are fundamentally positioned to facilitate the collaborative, solution-seeking dialogue surrounding workforce and workplace transition issues, i.e., specialized training, worker engagement, talent retention, etc. Strategic alliances support the synergy, camaraderie, and creativity of brainstorming, required to openly consider the needs and expectations of both employers and workers.
Specific Barriers to Hiring
As unemployment rates hover around 9 percent, competition for jobs continues to be frustrating for job seekers needing paychecks—and almost equally troublesome for employers seeking job-focused, work-willing, culture-fit applicants to hire. Two main themes of hiring frustration continue to surface:
Job seekers are unable to translate previous work, education, or experience into the skills, abilities, and examples needed to apply for jobs, and
Job seekers are unable to communicate “effectively enough” to convince or prove to the employer that, they
- can do the job,
- will do the job, and
- fit the company culture.
Many job seekers eventually give up, retire early, or remain underemployed. New graduates often stay at home, move home, or seek an additional degree.
Unique Role of GCDFs
Utilizing collaborative community relationships, GCDFs can exponentially increase opportunities for a broad scope of practical activities that can provide much needed feedback for career readiness training, as well as, career and vocational program development. Informational interviews, internships, OJTs, and other job-related activities can provide critical work and workplace feedback applicable to all job-seeking populations—particularly, at-risk youth, disabled, displaced, ex-offender, and veteran populations.
Building Effective Partnerships
Creating this relationship bridge between employer-needs, school-programs, and career readiness providers directly involves Community Champions as adjunct mentors, advisors, and teachers. To win program support, the most effective strategy is to network through current relationships and acquaintances (Angel MacDougall & Harney Sanders-Park, 2010). Setting your program in motion starts with soliciting curious stakeholders and drafting an outline of the Who, What, Where, Why, and How. Regardless of how much you plan, start slow and ask for feedback—and (if you’re smart) use their suggestions!
Looking Down the Road
The key to collaboration is to find a mutual enthusiasm or passion (Bolles, 2012). Once you have a champion on board, work together to define your shared language and goals to ensure key development and benchmark activities are accomplished. With a little creativity and planning, scripting the critical moves will help overcome old ways of thinking (Heath & Heath, 2011) and ensure positive expectations for maintaining strategic alliances. Again, the future of American high performance workers on the global stage is dependent on their continued engagement in career development, lifelong learning, and work/life balance activities.
Branding Your Success
Perception is reality. You will be well served to remember the lessons of thin-slicing (Gladwell, 2005) as you build branding materials to market your program. Aligning yourself with Community Champions creates an enviable high-profile position for your program but also puts additional responsibility and accountability for outcomes at the forefront. Again—plan, start slow, ask for feedback (and use it). Measure your results, get testimonials, and keep the video cameras running. An annual year-end highlight video posted on your Facebook page showcasing Community Champions could bring about unimagined alliances and continued support for your programs, and ultimately influence generations of workers.
Angel MacDougall, D., & Harney Sanders-Park, E. (2010). The 6 reasons you'll get the job: What employers look for--whether they know it or not. (1st ed.). New York, NY: Penguin Group.
Corporation for National & Community Service, AmeriCorps. (n.d.). Toolkit for program sustainability, capacity building, and volunteer recruitment/management
Bolles, R. (2012). What color is your parachute?. (40th ed.). New York: Ten Speed Press.
Gladwell, M. (2005). Blink. New York: Back Bay Books.
Heath, C., & Heath, D. (2011). Switch, how to change things when change is hard. (1st ed.). New York: Crown Business.
Jan McCormick, Ed.D., is an experienced career consultant with expertise in job readiness, web-based career services, and turn-key train-the-trainer programs. She has been nationally recognized for her online Job Readiness Assessment© and supporting video production, “The 7 Savvy Secrets of Job Winners©,” and has worked extensively with outcomes-based, multi-site outreach career service programs. Jan conveys passion and energy for career services as an energetic and engaging trainer, workshop facilitator, and motivational speaker. She is the Founder/CEO of FullCircle Career Services, LLC, in Fayetteville, AR. To learn more about Jan, visit her website www.JobLingo.com, LinkedIn page www.linkedin.com/in/drjanmccormickjoblingo, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org