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Chapter 9 Conclusion

This blog post is a DRAFT chapter for a book being published by Origami Works Foundation. We will correct inaccuracies in the final book version. If you identify any inaccuracies, please let us know using this Feedback Form.

Congratulations! In reaching the end of this book, you have taken the first step towards opening your talent strategy to all the support and diversity available to you via the workforce development ecosystem. 

You may remember that in the introduction, you met some folks who were grappling with job-related challenges, much like you may be. Let’s imagine that they were able to get engaged in the workforce development ecosystem, just like you will. Let’s take a look where they find themselves now.

Remember Maya?

When we first met Maya, she had recently taken the role of Chief Talent Officer at EvolveEdge. And, she was struggling. Even though Maya was feeling squeezed for time, she recognized that moving from one emergency to another wasn’t sustainable, and she was ready to make a change. 

Maya was able to connect with the robust workforce development ecosystem that you just learned about. Since then, she has found pragmatic, durable, and cost-effective solutions for her talent issues.

First, Maya sat down and assessed her talent challenges:

  • Scarcity of interested, qualified candidates

  • Lack of job-specific skills 

  • Changing role requirements (e.g., LlamaDama business line collapsing while Zebra business line is growing) 

  • Insufficient diversity among team and leadership 

After identifying the areas she wanted to focus on, Maya talked to a few peers and did some research, starting with Talent Solutions Connector. Then she reached out to the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, and was referred to a few local business services partners. Maya felt like she really connected with Zari, an Employer Relations Manager at a nonprofit called Chicago Collaborative. Zari really took the time to listen to each of Maya's concerns, and together they made a plan for their next steps as partners. 

Next, Maya got crucial buy-in from leadership at EvolveEdge. While initially the company’s Chief Operations Officer was concerned about additional costs of engaging a new partner, Maya was able to assure him that not only was there no cost involved in working with Chicago Collaborative, but they may be able to access subsidies for hiring from certain talent pools. And when some of the managerial staff expressed concern about added risk they felt they would be taking on hiring from these new talent pools, Maya explained that all applicants were pre-screened by Chicago Collaborative, and all talent would be receiving additional coaching even after they were onboarded.

Maya: Exploring new options, collaborating with peers, and securing leadership buy-in.

EvolveEdge’s CEO, Brenda, knew that they had been struggling with talent management for a while. Beyond that, Brenda had been doing a lot of thinking about how she might use her position to make a real difference in the world. With Maya's confidence as a guide, Brenda was ready to fully commit to this new vision for EvolveEdge, and made it clear that this was a priority for the whole organization.

Now that she had the support she needed, Maya was ready to get to work. And her business services partner Zari knew just whom to call …

Remember Sophie?

Sophie was having trouble securing stable, full-time employment in the area of customer service, despite her interest and enthusiasm for helping people. After a few frustrating experiences, including losing a job that was too far away for her to access with her unreliable vehicle, and being let go for “lack of skills” with little more information, a friend suggested that Sophie connect with Chicago Collaborative.

Sophie successfully completed Chicago Collaborative’s training program: She brushed up her soft skills, updated her resume, and even took a few additional classes on a new customer service management system. Now Sophie was feeling confident, and was ready to start interviewing.

Sophie: Refreshed skills, renewed confidence, and support help her secure and maintain a job with a future.

When Maya met Sophie, she could see right away that she was a natural fit for one of the many customer service roles open at EvolveEdge. The one concern she had during the interview was that Sophie did not have access to reliable transportation. Sophie wanted to get a new car, but first she needed a paycheck, right? 

Maya reached out to Zari, who was thrilled to inform her that Sophie qualified for transportation assistance through Chicago Collaborative, and they would be able to support her until she was able to get a new vehicle.

Maya made the offer, and Sophie is now happily using her skills to help EvolveEdge provide stellar customer service. 

Remember Noah?

Noah was working below his skill and interest level to get a much-needed paycheck after leaving college his freshman year. He was able to enroll at Malcolm X College, and began taking classes in computer programming. Through his academic counselor, Noah heard about a new opportunity opening up with a company called EvolveEdge.

Maya was excited to start on phase two of her strategy to source new talent for her open software development roles. The first step was to remove an unnecessary four-year degree requirement in their job descriptions. This helped immensely to broaden their applicant pool, but Maya knew they could do much more. Zari connected Maya with her contact at City Colleges, and Maya was able to work with them to develop a 12-month, earn-while-you-learn apprenticeship program. 

Noah: Continuing his education tuition-free while earning a wage, and with a clear next step in sight.

Noah, who was thrilled to commit to the apprenticeship program at EvolveEdge, loves that he gets to earn a wage while he’s learning. Maya loves that she gets early access to rising talent, and that they graduate from the apprenticeship with the exact training she needs for their products. The apprenticeship program is an investment that pays off in reducing future recruiting, training, and turnover costs.

Remember Alex?

Alex was the EvolveEdge employee we met in the introduction who was working as a technician in the LlamaDama business service line, which was in the process of being phased out across the industry. He enjoys working at EvolveEdge and was interested in open positions in the Zebra business line. But, he did not have the skills required for the new line, nor the time and funds needed to go back to school.

Maya was dreading having to lay off the team of the LlamaDama business line. She let Zari know about her predicament, and that she wanted to keep as many employees on as she could. Luckily, Zari had worked with employers who were facing layoffs before, and was aware of a government subsidy that could be leveraged to offset the cost of upskilling current staff. Not only that, but Zari had connections with another local nonprofit who had just designed a training course related to the new Zebra line of business for another area employer. That nonprofit was more than willing to meet with EvolveEdge and customize the training for its team.

Alex: New technical skills enable him to move into a new role and remain at EvolveEdge.

Alex, along with several of his fellow LlamaDama teammates, was able to keep working for EvolveEdge and earn a paycheck while training to join the new Zebra line. Maya avoided costly and heartbreaking layoffs, and Alex felt truly supported by EvolveEdge and more secure in his position than he had felt in years.

Meet the New EvolveEdge

Maya was thrilled with all the new hiring, and the exciting cost-saving outcomes she was able to share with the leadership team. With the momentum created by these waves of success, Maya now felt ready to take on a more challenging task: addressing retention and diversity issues at EvolveEdge.

While partnering with Zari and the team at Chicago Collaborative had already widened their talent pool to folks facing barriers to employment, Maya wanted to make sure that all future hiring would be as equitable as possible. Zari was able to do an audit of standard hiring practices at EvolveEdge, and identified several quick fixes that would immediately open them up to more talent. First, unnecessary degree requirements were removed from remaining job descriptions. Second, exclusionary language, such as corporate jargon, “must-have” requirements, and culturally insensitive expressions were removed. 

Retention had been an issue at EvolveEdge since before Maya joined, and she was not about to lose her newly acquired stellar talent to an unwelcoming work environment. The first step she took was to partner with a nonprofit that specializes in assessing the workplace and making recommendations to maximize equity. Maya was shocked to learn that something as simple as being crystal-clear with all employees about the benefits available to them, and encouraging them to take full advantage of all the opportunities EvolveEdge has to offer, can go a long way to helping talent from all backgrounds to have a more equitable work experience. 

While there is more work to be done from a cultural perspective, Maya feels confident that EvolveEdge’s CEO is committed to the long and deep work of creating a culture of inclusion and continuous learning and improvement. An employee base that more closely reflects the diverse population of the community provides Insights that result In Innovation and, ultimately, better business results.

Meet the New You!

So what do you think? Are you ready to follow in Maya's footsteps? Are you ready to take that first step to the expanded talent strategy that your company needs?

We hope that this book has helped you:

  • Learn about the complex and resource-rich ecosystem of workforce development

  • Gain an understanding of the types of business services available

  • Find a business services partner

  • Design a plan to expand your talent strategy

  • Identify and mitigate potential pitfalls

  • Dream big and envision a bright future

If you take one thing away from this book, we hope it is this: No matter your field, there are talented and eager jobseekers waiting for their shot. And there is a whole ecosystem of programs, services, government entities, philanthropists, and educators who have their back … and yours!

Moreover, businesses like yours -- and you as an individual -- are vital and irreplaceable elements of that ecosystem. You are critical not only as an employer, but as an authority on what skills are needed and what trends are developing, as well as a source of leadership and wisdom to your employer peers and to your community.

Without your voice, the chorus of the workforce development ecosystem is incomplete. So speak up, join in, and let’s get to work… together!



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