WorkKeys Works – Company Growth or Expansion?

By on July 10, 2014
WorkKeys Works - Company Growth or Expansion?

Let’s think “company growth.” Have you had enough waiting on the sidelines? Are you dusting off ideas or plans that have been sitting on the shelf? Ok, maybe it’s a file on your computer. The expansion ideas are in your head and you are just about ready to go for it. However, this concept of growing or expanding a business can be a costly matter both financially and personal risk wise.

When developing a business plan and outlining its product/service development, a company tries to cost-out every minute detail before approaching a lender for financing. Most business plans also include the cost of labor. However, they generally only include the salaries and benefits of everyone working on the project or company.

In developing a business plan, I would suggest that any new or expanding company, especially a small or medium-sized one, should look at the true cost of Talent Development. There are a number of questions that should be addressed as part of this plan:

  1. What kind of positions will you need in all areas of the company? (professional, skilled, unskilled, degreed, certified, etc.)
  2. How many employees will be required by position? (over what stages – startup, growth, maintenance)
  3. How up-to-date are all individual job descriptions?
    1. What tasks are completed by each position?
    2. What skills will be required for these tasks for each position?
  4. How and where to recruit? (locally, regionally or nationally)

WorkKeys Works – The Aha MomentTalent Development follows basically the same process as Product/Service Development. I’ve talked about the full Talent Development Cycle in other blog posts. In an expansive or new company, Talent Development’s simplest form can be seen as first determining the workforce requirements. Then each person’s baseline of skills, knowledge and personality is determined. Finally any gaps that need to be addressed are identified. After you determine or assess each individual’s baseline skills, you start to develop an individualized training/growth plan. This may be accomplished on an individual basis but it needs to be tracked as a total workforce. This will assist in determining if a company has work-ready employees to make any crucial expansion.

When thinking about this growth or expansion, you should check how knowledgeable your current workforce is. Do they know how to do their job proficiently and efficiently? Do they have the core knowledge (math, reading, critical thinking, problem solving, etc.) to learn other tasks that may be required because of this growth/expansion? Creating an inventory of what your workforce knows will help design this future project.

It is also extremely important to determine that you are hiring “coachable” people to fill all positions, and not just a few that are considered key positions. In small and medium size companies, just about everyone interacts with each other. It doesn’t take much to throw the work environment into chaos. When a company hires people for both a current and a future fit, it is much easier to gain acceptance for the changes a company must make to keep current, or ahead, of the marketplace. To determine an individual fit, a company has to determine the desired culture and then determine if any person will meet it. If not, training, counseling or regretfully even replacement may be necessary to insure that the company is aligned for growth/change. That’s why you hire with retention in mind, not just finding another “warm body.” When you have inventoried and know your workforce’s current skills, you then build it to its full potential, person-by-person.

Good hires, those with all the appropriate skills, knowledge and personality attributes, have been known to:

  • Insure good morale of existing employees because they don’t have to do another person’s job.
  • Increase productivity of new employees in a shorter period of time.
  • Reduce training time.
  • Reduce nonproductive time of skilled trainers/mentors.

So, let’s get back to that business plan. Imagine the impression you will make when your business plan includes all aspects of one of your most important and costly assets, your workforce. I have assisted companies using the WorkKeys system approach with job task and skill analysis to determine the foundational skill levels required for a job. We then assess both incumbent and potential employees for both hard skills (math, reading, locating information, workplace observation, etc.) and soft skills (work discipline, teamwork, managerial potential, and customer service orientation). This approach has helped companies update job descriptions, hire individuals that fit better, reduce turnover, reduce scrap/mistakes, and increase productivity.

If you are interested in more information about WorkKeys Job Profiling or the Talent Development Cycle, comment on this blog or contact me directly at

About Jim Duane

Jim has more than 30 years of experience in the workforce development field. At St. Louis Community College’s Workforce Solutions Group, Jim is the manager and lead WorkKeys job task and skill profiler for the WorkKeys Solution Center. Throughout his 10 plus years as a WorkKeys Job Profiler, Jim has worked with numerous large, medium and small size companies in the aerospace/defense, beverage, cement manufacturing, construction, drug manufacturing, electric utility, healthcare, hospital, petroleum-chemical processing, and sporting goods industries. His team has conducted approximately 50,000 WorkKeys assessments for companies, organized labor, schools, and organizations. He has also presented at national and regional conferences, chaired regional workforce resource committees, and conducted numerous local, statewide and national focus groups around workforce development. He has received the Missouri Governor's Award for Excellence in Leadership in workforce development. This award was based on the Malcolm Baldridge quality management criteria.

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