Friday, September 23, 2016

CRI's Commitment to Employee Enrichment and Training

In today’s job market, attracting and keeping quality employees is paramount. I belong to a couple of dairy groups on Facebook and one of the most talked about topics is finding and retaining a workforce. Yesterday as I went to get a quick lunch, I happened to notice the abundance of help wanted signs in almost every business in town. So how can we compete? What do we need to do as baby boomers retire and millennials enter the job market?

I wish I had the answer for you, unfortunately I think it may require a combination of a lot of factors. One thing Cooperative Resources International (CRI) is committed to is an extensive employee enrichment and training initiative.  

I worked in a career for 13 years where my bosses threw professional development at us because it was required. I think if you would have asked them, they would have told you they were doing a great job with employee enrichment and training, therefore we were all engaged in our careers. They would have been wrong.

A quality employee enrichment and training program needs to be ongoing.

My old job put a big, fat check mark next to the ongoing thing. In fact, many times I felt like I was in a professional development workshop more than I was at my desk working. But don’t fall into the “been there, done that” mentality either. Just because you offered your employees a couple of training opportunities doesn’t mean you have a free pass to stop with the enrichment.

CRI began a program called REACH in 2011. REACH is a series of professional development
courses and projects to expand employees’ knowledge of the cooperative, its subsidiaries and the industry we serve, provide networking opportunities, and develop leadership and problem solving skills. To date, 385 employees have taken advantage of one or more of the levels of REACH.

A quality employee enrichment and training program needs to be employee driven.

When was the last time you asked your employees what they enjoy most about their job? Have you asked them if there are aspects of the farm or company they would like to learn more about? Would they like to try to take on a new responsibility? If you allow employees the opportunity to provide feedback about their job, they will become more engaged, as they are now in the driver’s seat. Now, I realize someone is still needed to do the dirty, mundane and often unsatisfying tasks, but if allowed to dream a little, those other jobs don’t seem so bad.

While the REACH curriculum is maintained by CRI management, it is constantly being updated based on past participant feedback. Projects that are extensively researched by REACH students come from employee and management identified opportunities and issues within the company.

Once an employee has completed some REACH training, he or she is also eligible for the new CRI Global Enrichment Program. The win-win nature of this program allows CRI employees to share their specific skill sets with those in our industry across the world on a specific international project. The employee then comes back to the U.S. with new enthusiasm and knowledge to help CRI and our members and customers prosper.

In addition to REACH and Global Enrichment, CRI employees are encouraged to look for other job-specific professional development opportunities. Many find professional organizations to join to again help with networking in the industry, as well as to learn new ways to accomplish their jobs.

Having a well-trained, engaged workforce doesn’t just happen; it takes work. CRI recognizes the importance of great employees and is committed to their professional growth so they can continue to deliver excellence, innovation and value to you, our members and customers.

So, what do you do to find and keep employees? Does your employer do an especially good job with making you feel valued through training and opportunities? We would love to hear about it in the comments section below!

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