Takes Holistic Learning Approach to Improve Workforce Results
Like most public sector organizations, the government of Kershaw County, South Carolina, consistently strives to improve quality of life and economic development for its citizens. Of course, the success of these efforts hinges in large part upon how well its workforce can perform. That’s why Kershaw County hired Stewart Kidd as Talent & Training Development Manager. Stewart had previously led learning initiatives for 79,000 employees at a global Fortune 200 company, he understood that education for education’s sake—while a valid pursuit—was not enough when it came to real career development. Rather, organizations intent on bettering their employees must take a more disciplined approach to training.
Challenges: Long-term employee retention has its pros and cons
When Stewart first came on board, his initial L&D goals centered around succession planning. The county had a high number of legacy employees who had been working in the same positions for 15-20 years, many of whom were nearing retirement age. While this level of retention was a source of pride for the organization, it also posed several concerns. To begin with, the longer a person stayed in a particular role, the more likely it was that they were the only employee capable of performing the job. In addition, within a county government organization like Kershaw, people often needed to cover a lot of bases outside of their traditional roles. That meant employees were likely to be doing very important work that no one even knew about. The fear was that, when people left, they might take all their expertise with them.
But there was a deeper concern Stewart had regarding the longevity of Kershaw’s workforce. The idea that employees remained in the same role for so long meant they were at risk of stagnation. Not only was there little career progression taking place, but the lack of development hindered opportunities for internal promotions—which were strategic in keeping key positions filled.
Pandemic reveals hidden potential and a plan for new culture of learning
When the pandemic hit in 2020, these issues were only magnified. Remote work necessitated a lot of shuffling of tasks, making it clear that employees carried additional weight outside their primary roles and —perhaps more importantly— that Kershaw was harboring a great deal of untapped talent.
“We wanted to capture the talent of our employees in a meaningful way,” he explained, “so we could further develop the workforce rather than keep them in their silos.”
This meant building a new culture of learning for Kershaw County that would enable the organization not only to hire and promote new talent competitively, but also to develop existing talent so they could avoid stagnation and improve internal flexibility.
“We needed to give our employees the mindset that without training and personal development, it would not be easy for them to advance toward any of their aspirations,” Stewart recalls. “Retaining talent was not an issue. Developing talent is where our focus needed to lie.”