The Longpath: Building a Workforce System for the Future | Maher & Maher
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The Longpath: Building a Workforce System for the Future

There was an air of excitement when upwards of 1,000 people from across North Carolina came together last week for the annual NCWorks Partnership Conference to learn and discuss topics around “Back to the Future: The Next 30 Years.” Maher & Maher was there to present at the North Carolina Workforce Board Association pre-conference, as well as several sessions – Washington Update, WIOA Fundamentals and Service Strategies Backward Mapping – at the conference itself. I was also invited to participate in the “Futurist Five” general session.

During the Futurist Five session, we talked quite a bit about the power of partnerships and key ingredients for their success, including the involvement of community partners, leveraging sector partnerships, having staff with heart and passion, partnering for the longpath, and doing it with style and swagger. 

This idea of the longpath, as articulated by Ari Wallach, is particularly meaningful for the workforce system. In the longpath, there are many possible futures which depend upon all of us in the workforce system. How many times did you think one thing was going to happen in the system and something else did? There are several key ways of thinking that we can employ to envision the future of the system for not just the next 30 years, but for generations.

Transgenerational thinking changes the way you think about problems and how to solve them, no matter what level of the workforce system you work in. What does that mean? Do not think about what impact you want to make during your lifespan or career. Instead of making convenient decisions to meet the immediate need or crisis, make decisions that will lead to change for generations well beyond this one transaction, individual or program. Make decisions for the good of the system and your community long-term.

Another consideration in the longpath is futures thinking. We often do this through the current dominant cultural lens, which today is technology. In fact, when I was first building out my outline for the general session, I planned to talk about things like geofencing, SARA and the power of data analytics, as well as other technological opportunities on the horizon for our system. Trust me; I believe technology is part of the future equation as we work to address the major issue that brings us together as a system – meeting the talent supply chain needs of business well into the future. However, we are closing off a whole host of creative solutions or paths if we only look at the future through the technological lens.  Technology is a tool that can aid us in improving service delivery and management of the workforce system, however, it cannot replace relationships and values. You see, we are in the helping business not only with our customers, but our partners. We cannot afford to lose sight of those underlying guiding principles and focus on relationships with integrity and responsibility. As we begin to whiteboard the workforce system of the future, we must do it with the customers and our partners in mind.

Then there is telos thinking which means “to what end.” Using telos thinking, we must consider how far out we are thinking.  For example, break out businesses are the businesses that do not focus just on the immediate problem, but consistently keep an eye on the end goal they are working towards. We have to push past what is inevitable to define our future. For example, it is important that we understand and collect data to support the federal performance measures. However, we must also define what it is we are striving for in our states and regions, as well as for our business and individual customers, and design a system that achieves that vision, knowing that meeting the performance measures will come.

I believe in the workforce system’s ability to embrace the longpath and shape talent supply chain development work and the vitality of our communities, not only for today or the next 30 years, but for generations to come.

Are you looking for a partner to help you take a longpath approach to the talent development supply pipeline needs in your state or region? Maher is here to help! For more information about our services, visit our website or call us at 1-888-90-Maher.

Maher & Maher is a specialized change management and talent development consulting firm based in New Jersey and Washington, D.C. The firm is U.S. Department of Labor’s national technical assistance provider supporting the Employment and Training Administration’s implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and a number of other priority initiatives of the administration that advance and promote the public workforce system. Maher is also currently involved in a number of sector strategy, regional planning, organizational strategic planning and training initiatives in multiple state and regional areas.

Comments (2)

Rick Maher Wed, October 25, 2017 - 10:45:05 AM

I love this discussion about future-thinking Beth—very interesting and engaging and speaks volumes about why we are so happy to have you on this Team!!

Lisa Jones Sun, October 29, 2017 - 10:00:57 PM

Would have loved to have been there for this discussion!

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