The Triangle of Engagement for Success

September 21, 2017

By Curtis D. Wray  Twitter: @life-is-trantition@curtisdwray1

Prologue

Upon reflection and retrospection in thought, I have concluded in its purest and simplest form, that the experiential development of “Triangle Engagement” is in fact, a deep and abiding personal story. I began in to connect the dots and put together the puzzle when my daughter was preparing to attend college. In 2011, we had a conversation. I told her when selecting her major, to go to the Virginia Employment Commission website on Labor Market Information (LMI) to ascertain which fields of study are in-demand and to choose an in-demand field of study. The cost of education was too high for feel-good major fields or to be a renaissance person that cannot attain employment in the chosen field of study upon graduation. Subsequently, she finished school in four years with a Bachelor’s degree from James Madison University, a very fine school, in my opinion, and chose a career in health care.  Currently, she is employed and is now pursuing her Master’s degree in her quest for lifelong learning, continuous improvement, and upward mobility.

At the time that my daughter was in school, my wife was also attending Tidewater Community College as a dislocated worker through the On-Ramp program. I told her about the program, because I had knowledge and awareness of the program and became her knowledge gateway for connection to the workforce system. Subsequently, my wife completed her Associates of Science degree, attained employment, and has been promoted once. Now that the nest-is-emptying, she now wants to pursue her Bachelor’s degree in her quest for lifelong learning, continuous improvement, and upward mobility.

Also, when it comes to quality customer service, my wife speaks very highly of her rewarding experience at Tidewater Community College, and she is a staunch word-of-mouth advocate for the school. According to her, every aspect of her experiences at Tidewater Community College were extremely positive; and, equally positive, were her experiences with the On Ramp Coordinator. A proud plug for the Community College as a viable and valuable training option and the importance and strategic value of quality customer service.

In reading the Triangle of Engagement for Success, you will see these overarching themes tied to the experiences mentioned above not in any significant order, such as knowledge and awareness, the knowledge gateway, quality customer service, lifelong learning, the hierarchy-of-needs, income maintenance and asset protection, the deficit training approach, hiring events, rapid reemployment, feeder input,  and authentic partnerships;  all inextricably linked as part of one support and training holistic system whose end state should have one specific purpose. And, that is to attain that illusive job.

At the end, I offer 27 points for discussion in moving forward into a dynamic future.  Please let me know and hear your thoughts. 


In the mid-summer of 2008, I started the process to complete my Virginia Workforce Professional credential and certification. As a Rapid Response Coordinator for the southeastern/eastern Virginia (SEVA) region, I was accustomed to working with impacted employees and businesses. However, it was the act of completing the modules in communication, collaboration, and partnerships for the certification that I began to understand the significance and importance of workforce system partnerships. With that understanding, in September 2008, I began planning a Rapid Response summit. With no funding or facilities of my own, relying on in-kind contributions for facilities and refreshments, the planning extended to an eventual solid date of April 30, 2009.  The problem was, since there was no history or such regional collective meetings and collaboration, it was difficult to get workforce system partners (at the time primarily employment commission and one stop center operators) together to meet for a Rapid Response meeting about how to do Rapid Response better. Regionally, it was unheard of; no one did it. Subsequently, I ended up having to cancel the meeting in an email to the partners. Also, in that email was an attachment that laid out my intent and provided them knowledge and awareness of the reason for the meeting and the strategic value added - what is in it for me (WIIFM) (see contents of email in blog article “Culminating Points of Engagement and Success.”

On November 15-16, 2010, the SEVA Rapid Response Summit finally occurred with approximately 35 members, primarily from the employment commission, one stop centers, community colleges, economic development directorates and a few businesses/employers in attendance. And, with this effort, it completed a three-pronged approach to outreach or engagement in Rapid Response, including the impacted business/employer, impacted employee, and the workforce system.  The workforce system includes and considers any organization or entity designed to support, assist, or train dislocated workers in the slightest way, to get back to work as quickly as possible a partner.  It includes workforce system partners, the military veteran dislocated workers, the education system, economic development directorates, and community-based organizations that work in tandem, parallel, and engage toward a common goal, with the ultimate end state a successful job marriage that meets the specific needs of the business/employer, and gets the impacted worker back to work as quickly as possible.  This engagement confirmed my belief that people and organizations normally do not connect or engage because “they don’t know what they don’t know,” and if they see no value in it for them. In 2012, I would later call this metaphorically speaking, in my white paper “Layoff Aversion: “Get Your Mind Right,” June 2012, “the magnet on the refrigerator “or the knowledge and awareness doctrine.     

In September 2014, I wrote an article called “The Rapid Response Transition Triangle for Employment Success.”  Because of the brevity required for publishing the article, I realize now that in providing a version of the Triangle for Success diagram (below) in the article, that I never fully explained the concept of “Triangle Engagement.”  The impetus and foundation for “Triangle Engagement” is supported by a thesis and approach of proactive outreach or engagement based on the supposition that there is a continuous and unending lack of awareness and knowledge or familiarization deficits that exists with the impacted business/employer, impacted employee, and workforce system partners; disconnecting, disengaging, or misaligning them based on “not knowing what they don’t know.”  So, we can diminish knowledge deficits through the process and pattern of holistic engagement, by continuous/unending understanding, and familiarization with each other. There is one important point to this: Engagement is not a one-time fix; and, it is not just focused on the business, over the business cycle.  Albeit, the business is the primary customer; however, it is wholly centered on the continuous need for awareness and knowledge as a strategic connection across the entirety of the system. This has to be so, because of the perishable and transitional characteristics of knowledge; engagement has to be holistic and for life with the business/employer, impacted employee, and workforce system partners. Engagement is required for lifelong up-skilling, learning, improvement, self-actualization, and as a continuous feedback mechanism for continuous improvement. 

 

Why Outreach or Engage?

In three-pronged holistic Triangle Engagement, we should engage the business/employer because they are the gatekeepers and employers of human capital. They are the ones that must respond to dynamic change and the constant infusion of technology. They make products, provide a service, employ workers, and most importantly, they pay taxes that support the workforce system.  Again, they are our primary customer.  We need to engage the impacted dislocated workers, those who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, by providing them quality in knowledge and awareness of the path to the “knowledge gateway” in the workforce system.  If we are successful at this, then they can make informed decisions about how to best proceed in their transition in order to get back to work as quickly as possible. Time is a precious commodity and knowledge is a valuable resource for the impacted dislocated worker, because they have assets and wealth that they are trying to protect.  Every day that goes by that they are not working and putting money in their bank accounts and paying taxes, they have to take money out of the bank and diminish or deplete wealth, resources, and assets.  And finally, we need to engage the partners in meetings, summits and forums to know and understand each other, to keep open the communication and collaborative connection points because they have different and divergent resources. However, because of the enormity of the task, no single partner can do it all alone, operating as a silo in a vacuum; nor, is it mandated, or are they expected to do so. Partners must authentically communicate and collaborate as agency partners to reach desired goals or end states in a holistic synergy of effort.

I learned many lessons about the power of engagement and the atrophy and weakness of knowledge deficits.  So, in November of 2010, in preparation for my impending Rapid Response Summit, I sent my rough draft of what would be my regional service plan called “Diminishing Knowledge Deficits” and my PowerPoint presentation on quality to Ken Messina from Massachusetts, a renowned Rapid Response expert, for his approval and input. To be intellectually honest, it was Ken Messina that recommended that I include Economic Development in workforce system partnership engagement. The missions of Rapid Response and Economic Development were a natural fit…business retention, attraction, and expansion; all having a need for the well trained/qualified impacted dislocated worker.   In keeping with this thought and concept, the first phase in my Rapid Response service plan (first draft) in January and promulgated in April 2011, I stated that in the Positive Proactive Outreach phase of Rapid Response in the Southeastern/Eastern region that “A positive proactive outreach program will diminish knowledge deficits and will empower the affected employer, the affected employee, all involved partners within the Virginia Workforce Network (VWN) toward the positive action of reengineering and reemployment services.” I did not realize it at the time, because vision and ideas are an ever-evolving process; however, by including those three entities as part of a holistic outreach process, I created what I would later call in 2013, the “Triangle for Success: Impassioned Engagement or Triangle Engagement.”   After having success with this concept and process in the field through various forms of “Triangle Engagement,” I first introduced the term the “Triangle for Success” at the Workforce Investment Academy Conference in Roanoke, Virginia, on October 16, 2013, in a PowerPoint presentation called “The UnAmbiguous Vet,” which was a play on words. At the time of the writing of the article, military veterans did not have a clear path in workforce assimilation.  This presentation was based on a white paper that I wrote in October 2013, and later published for a quick-shop presentation at the National Association of Workforce Boards (NAWB) Conference in March 2014, called “The Veteran Triangle for Success: Impassioned Engagement.”  This white paper focused on the three-pronged approach for the transitioning military veteran as a dislocated worker and the intangible barriers and institutionalized impediments to military veterans successfully assimilating into the workforce after service; and, also based on military veterans (dislocated workers), employers/businesses, and workforce system partners “not knowing what they don’t know’ or the lack of knowledge and awareness. One example is “what is a military veteran?”  Or, not knowing what is wrong with the statement or saying “military veterans and retirees.” 

Previous to this, I had attended a presentation on the Virginia Values Veteran (V3) Initiative, by its then director, Joe Barto, in Virginia Beach, Virginia, on August 6, 2013 and was inspired by his presentation to write the white paper.

 I developed the ladders or steps inside of the “Triangle for Success” in 2011, when in a general or casual conversation about Rapid Response, Dr. Deborah George-Wright, Vice President of Workforce Development at Thomas Nelson Community College in Hampton, Virginia asked me words to the effect, what does dislocation and success look like?  And, for me to answer the question or respond by “beginning with the end in mind,” which is a Steven Covey statement. Based on a cursory understanding Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs,” Rapid Response consists of quality and consistency in  (1) engaging businesses, (2) engaging the dislocated worker or impacted employee, traveling in the center of the triangle up the ladders toward a successful job marriage, continuous self-improvement and self-actualization, and (3) engaged workforce systems, which again, includes but is not limited to: military veteran dislocated workers, workforce system partners, community based services (examples Food Bank, Red Cross, and Salvation Army),  supportive services, economic development and the educational systems, inextricably linked as one entity toward a common purpose for a successful job marriage based on a chosen in-demand field or career selection.  So the “Triangle of Engagement for Success” is how I see dislocation and success in Rapid Response.

Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

The impetus and foundation for “Triangle Engagement” is based on Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs.” If my memory serves me correctly, I first heard of Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” when I was a college student taking a psychology class at Wingate College (now Wingate University) in the mid-nineteen seventies. I realize that I am dating myself; however, hopefully, with age comes experience, wisdom, and creditability. It is probably the only thing that I remember about the psychology class other than reading about Ivan Pavlov’s dog and the conditioned response.

Through the years, however, I have always kept Maslow’s teachings in the forefront of my mind; the brilliant and accurate concept of the “Hierarchy of Needs” as I began my professional career. And, I especially saw its relevance in real life situations as a leader and supervisor of people during my military and workforce careers. I have seen the “Hierarchy of Needs” play out in real life in numerous occasions and various scenarios. And, as a basic leadership tenant, I have found that people do not normally perform well at work, if they have basic human, safety, security, and supportive needs to be addressed and adhered to first. So, fundamentally as a leader, if my subordinates had health, welfare, childcare, marriage, or home life issues or concerns, my advice and response to them was to always take care of those things first. Take care of your sick child, your wife, or yourself first.  Once those needs have been adequately shored up, then one can return to work and be their best at being productive.

Income Maintenance and Asset Protection Concept

Later in my professional career, in August 2006, I became the Southeastern/Eastern (SEVA) Regional Response Coordinator, and in doing this job, I have had numerous conversations (hundreds) with people impacted by a job loss transition. In active listening, the number one concern as a common theme that kept bubbling to the top was a deep and abiding concern about their basic needs being met and maintaining and protecting their wealth and assets while in a job loss transition. This is why I articulated in the article “The Rapid Response Transition Triangle for Employment Success,” that dislocated workers are a different type or kind of worker, because they have tenure or longevity in the workplace, and they have attained wealth and assets. This was especially true during the economic downturn of 2008, when numerous employees were dislocated during the Great Recession. It was during this timeframe that I began to listen, visualize, and see that a dislocated worker was a different kind of worker, because they have accumulated over time…houses, furniture, cars, money, etc. They are different than the recent college or high school graduate, because of the accumulation of assets and wealth; and, protecting those assets and wealth is what drives their psyche, mindset, and the majority of their decisions about connecting or whether to connect and use the products and services provided by the workforce system.

In tying this relevancy to the federal Dislocated Worker funding stream, the fundamental mission of Rapid Response is to return those who have lost their jobs due to no-fault of their own, dislocated workers, back to work as quickly as possible. The question then becomes…what does as quickly as possible look like and really mean to the dislocated worker who is trying to maintain and protect wealth and assets and address basic safety and security needs, when in a job loss transition? What does it mean to the business with an immediate need? And, what does it mean to the training provider assisting the employer/business who wants to remain solvent, relevant, and keep their people employed?  The goals and end states must be aligned and inextricably linked.  

It is with these educational and foundational backdrops and my many experiences of work in the field, that I was able to visualize, develop the framework and concept of what actually happens to dislocated workers in a job loss transition by making the “Triangle of Engagement for Success” into a PowerPoint presentation that I have use in Rapid Response manager’s meetings and employee briefings to date.

 

The Path to Success

 

Income Maintenance and Asset Protection Strategy

Income maintenance and asset protection strategy is the first rung (diagram provided above) in return to work and a position of normalcy or a new normal in life.  The foundation for moving up the triangle is first meeting basic physiological, psychological, safety, and security needs of the business/employer and the impacted employee. To be intellectually honest, the term income maintenance came from my Rapid Response briefing partner at the Virginia Employment Commission, Hosey Burgess.  Hosey, who is the Director of the Norfolk and Portsmouth Offices, would discuss income maintenance from the standpoint of unemployment insurance, as income maintenance in his unemployment insurance presentations at scheduled on-site Rapid Response Employee meetings.  Later, I added the term asset protection and briefed it from the standpoint in Rapid Response as an over-arching umbrella term including savings, unemployment insurance, severance pay, social security, and all other pay during a transition as part of an income maintenance and asset protection strategy that each impacted job loss employee would have to develop before moving up the rungs within the triangle. And, before discussing or considering a career pathway strategy, which is the next rung in “Triangle Engagement.”

At the Workforce Investment Academy in Roanoke in 2013, I introduced Rapid Response as asset protection to Rob Gamble of The Innovation Foundry and prominent briefer in Rapid Response for the Department of Labor, during his presentation. He stopped in the middle of his presentation and stated words to the effect…that it was the first time he had ever heard of anyone referring to Rapid Response as asset protection and was intrigued by the concept. The income maintenance and asset protection doctrine in Rapid Response can be successful in two ways. 

The first method or way applies to the impacted employee or dislocated worker. In applying Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” as a fundamental underpinning, I have found that it is difficult to talk to people about careers or a career pathway, until they are able to meet and shore up their basic safety, supportive, and security needs. How will I keep the lights on, make the car payment, keep the children in school, make the house payment, and keep the water running while transitioning from this job loss experience to the next job; and, subsequently taking classes, coursework, or attaining a certification or re-certification for self-betterment? The employment commission, Social Services, Rehabilitative Services, the Social Security Administration, financial counseling, credit management, and many other supportive services play significant and key roles in shoring up and solidifying an income maintenance and asset protection strategy.

Until recent efforts, it was the fundamental misunderstanding in this basic life survival tenet that caused workforce systems to misalign and fall short in meeting the basic needs of the dislocated worker, and subsequently, the businesses that uses and requires human capital as a resource in filling skill gaps and keeping employees highly trained. This misalignment within the workforce system occurs when the needs of the impacted worker and the needs of the business are at odds with workforce system initiatives. It appeared that workforce systems never really understood income maintenance and asset protection doctrine; for, they scheduled for the dislocated worker long term training classes for credentialing and certifying, instead of short-term training classes, well outside the income maintenance and asset protection strategy of a dislocated worker. 

For example, the requirement for the dislocated worker are those expressly placed in a job loss transition due to a natural disaster, reduction-in-force, or a closure of a company; separations due to no fault of their own, in order to preserve and maintain assets, this worker probably cannot afford to sit in a class room for a year and take a course for a certification, when their income maintenance and asset protection strategy (savings, unemployment insurance, severance pay, and retirement pay etc.) will only last for six months. The length of the coursework, in nature and character, unintentionally excludes and disconnects the dislocated worker who is naturally driven by the primordial nature of survival instincts previously mentioned. Hence, the sooner the dislocated worker gets back to work, the better the chance to save and protect assets.

The second method or way, which interplays with the first method, is using the concept of Rapid Reemployment, which I defined as a subset and frontend strategy of layoff aversion. Once the layoff is imminent, if impacted businesses/employers and employees contact the workforce system early enough for protraction, then Rapid Reemployment strategies can be used such as successful job matching, conducting hiring events, conducting resume writing and interviewing techniques workshops for in-house and outside hiring prior to the layoff.  Use of frontend incumbent worker and on-the-job training programs, partnerships and use of staffing agencies for temporary and long term employment, the completion and certification of frontend short-term training, retraining, and up-skilling prior to the layoff or dislocation, and, engagement with regional economic development directorates involved in business attraction, retention, and expansion, of which, all exist and demonstrate an expressed need for trained and qualified human capital. This approach and Rapid Reemployment strategy was first voluntarily used in April 2011 during the Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) Disestablishment, and subsequently operationalized in the Southeastern/Eastern Virginia (SEVA) region on February 7, 2012 (SEVA Rapid Response Forecasting Team Minutes 2/7/12 “Get Your Mind Right”) and reinforced in an email to Rapid Response partners on March 14, 2012.  

A viable opportunity to display and have success in this concept and strategy occurred on March 7, 2014, using the business/employer Dominion Power.  The Rapid Reemployment strategy was highly successful. (SEVA Rapid Response Forecasting Team Meeting Minutes “Developing Dominion Resources Rapid Reemployment Strategy),” and PowerPoint presentation “A Viable Model for Successful Business Engagement and Rapid Reemployment,” at the Hire Education Conference, in Hot Springs, Virginia on December 8, 2016.  Dominion Power had 97 employees projected to lose their jobs by December 2014 because of a plant closure. Due to early warning (August 2013) and involvement of frontend programs, procedures and processes, and employing the reemployment strategies mentioned above, not one single person lost their jobs. So…subsequently, if dislocated workers are able to keep their jobs, then they are able to protect their wealth and keep their assets. Hence, a viable, consistent, relevant, quality Rapid Response program is, in fact, income maintenance and asset protection for dislocated workers, by helping them return to the workforce mainstream as quickly as possible, hopefully preventing or averting the layoff, keeping them employed, and preserving wealth and assets.         

Career Pathways Strategy   

Once the income maintenance and asset protection strategy is firmly in place, the next rung up the “Triangle of Engagement” pyramid is an individual career pathways strategy. What is it that the impacted dislocated worker wants to do next in his or her career; and, what is their path or pathways to get there?  Key to accomplishing this goal within and using the workforce system…is the dislocated worker understanding that the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funding within and via the workforce system, will ensure that any career path chosen is in-demand. And, we want these careers chosen to be in-demand, because a well though-out, well trained, in-demand career will diminish the amount of times that an impacted employee is impacted by a layoff or in a job loss transition. It will ensure that they, dislocated workers, continue to work, pay taxes, contributing to Virginia’s and ultimately, America’s economic engine. And, most importantly, it increases their level of self-esteem in becoming benefitting contributing members of society in their quest toward self- improvement, upward mobility, self-actualization, and lifelong learning.

Meeting the Needs of the Employer (Job Match-ability)

The third rung is meeting the needs of the employer. Obviously, if the impacted employees has the skillsets and qualifications, then the key to success is to match them using employment commissions, one stop centers, labor market data, and hiring events to meet the needs of the impending employer/business with the need for the dislocated worker’s qualifications and skillsets, for a successful job marriage, hopefully, using the Rapid Reemployment strategy.

Prominence of Vision - Hiring Events

A best practice created by partner engagement in the SEVA region was the term hiring event, which is a voluntary strategy adapted by the SEVA Rapid Response as part of a comprehensive Rapid Reemployment strategy in April 2011. Hiring events are different from job fairs, because they are consistent with the mindset and psyche of dislocated workers. Only those businesses/employers with an expressed need and opening to fill job requirements can attend these events. By way of example, when in a job loss transition, dislocated workers cannot afford to waste time and gas and drive twenty miles across town to a job or career fair to shake hands, hand out resumes, collect, exchange business cards, and collect memorabilia, but have no chance or opportunity to get a job, because those businesses/employers have no openings.  So, it works well as a frontend strategy in rapid reemployment, a subset strategy of layoff aversion. 

The concept of what we now called hiring events was first used in 2006 by Nancy Stephens, then Operations Manager and Rick Seegers, the Business Services Manager of Opportunity Inc. Local One Stop Center in Norfolk, Virginia, as an offer to streamline and customize services to the affected business/employer during Rapid Response Manager’s Meetings. I remembered this strategy, and five years later, in 2011, I recommended the strategy to Hosey Burgess, mentioned earlier, to use this strategy as frontend rapid reemployment for the Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) Disestablishment affecting approximately 3,000 employees. Burgess also used the hiring event strategy with the closure of Gwaltney Smithfield, Portsmouth, Virginia in March 2013, and Dominion Resources, March 2014, where 97 employees were impacted by the closure of the plant, but not one employee lost their jobs. Opportunity Inc. continues to use this strategy; and now, Hosey conducts five to seven hiring events a week as a job service placement strategy.  Barry McElroy, then the Workforce Services Supervisor in the Portsmouth VEC office coined and created the term “hiring event,” which now has statewide prominence and use and maybe eventual national notoriety and use.

Feeder Input (Deficit Training)

The fourth rung is feeder input. Feeders are those supportive, workforce systems, service, and community-based organizations that support, train, and prepare businesses/employers and impacted dislocated worker employees to meet the needs of economic and labor demand.  Examples of need-based feeders on the service and supportive sides are one stop centers, American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), adult literacy, Social Services, the Social Security Administration, employment offices or commissions, staffing, and veteran services. Examples on the training side include the local one stop center, colleges, community colleges, universities, trade and proprietary schools, hopefully providing short-term training (for reasons previously mentioned) based on the actions and mindset of the dislocated worker.  Feeders are malleable, customizable, interchangeable, and need-based, expressly focused on the needs of the dislocated worker and the employer/business. More specifically, feeders should not tell a business its needs. Feeders should ask businesses what they need, and prepare and train to those needs. This approach saves time and appropriately allocates and directs fiscal and tangible resources; it also provides clarity and unity of purpose within the workforce system for effective communication, collaboration, and engagement.

Feeder input is based on meeting people (the impacted employee/dislocated worker) where they are in life. And, to clarify, meeting people where they are does not mean going to where they, the impacted employer/business and employees are physically located (I have seen some trying to interpret and articulate the idea and vision without attribution or consultation). Meeting people where they are is an assessment of skillsets by one stop centers and educational training feeders to ascertain impacted employees deficits in training. I introduced the deficit concept with respect military veterans in “Veteran Triangle Success:  Impassioned Engagement.” This approach falls in line with the mindset of and supports the emphasis of the Department of Labor in getting the impacted employees back to work as quickly as possible, by not reinventing the impacted person, but seeing what entrance requirements, training, and certifications are actually required or needed to make them more readily hirable and employable. Again, dislocated workers are trying to protect wealth and maintain their assets, and for them, time is a precious commodity and knowledge is a valuable resource in order to help them make informed decisions on how to best proceed in the best path in their job loss transition to attain employment as quickly as possible.

 

Hence, short-termed training meets the needs of the impacted employee and that of the business/employer with an expressed need or skillset to fill skill gaps. So by way of example, if a person has spent twenty years in the Navy as a marine electrician, then he or she does not need to be reinvented and forced to take courses or fill requirements that they really do not need to attain a qualification or certification from a training feeder. Only train to the deficit; if the person has 80 percent of the skillsets then you should only be addressing and training the remaining 20 percent. If a person has 100 percent of the skillsets, then they should be interviewed and hired.  Again, and I cannot stress it enough, the deficit training approach provides a mindset and system for alignment and parallels and aligns with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) direction for dislocated workers to get back to work as quickly as possible.

Lifelong Engagement, Learning, Feedback Loop of Best Practices and Sharing of Ideas

Obviously when people are trained and certified and back to work with a business/employer, then they have reached or returned to a point of normalcy. And, once in this state normalcy, this person may continue to improve and self-actualize through engagement and obtain higher degrees and certifications. Again, the concept of impassioned three-pronged holistic engagement with the business/employer, employee, and the workforce system should be and is expected to be for life. Strategically, operationally, and tactically, it has to be; for we now live in the Knowledge and Information Age. The workforce and the workplace are in a constant state of transition, so knowledge is always in a constant state of disequilibrium and atrophy, an important, but perishable asset driven by constant change and the constant infusion of technology. This is what drives the fundamental tenant of lifelong learning. Impassioned engagement among the partners who truly “communicate, coordinate, collaborate, connect,” and learn from each other, expressly becomes feedback mechanisms of thought, the sharing of ideas, and through best practices for continued and anticipatory vision, new ideas, creativity, and subsequently innovation, which are necessary assets to stay relevant and in front of and not behind change.

Hence, in eleven years of direct field operations experiences, I offer the following 27 culminating points of engagement and characteristics that apply about successful Triangle Engagement as lessons learned:

  1. Since the creation of the term “Triangle of Engagement for Success” in 2013, I prefer not to use the term business engagement; for, it sends and implies a singular optic and focus on engagement as strictly for the business.  To have optimum success, it requires a simultaneous “Triangle of Engagement,” operating and forging tactical, operational, and strategic end states from the business/employer, impacted employees and workforce system partners, in a holistic synergy of effort of one.
  2.  The business is the most important and primary customer, because their center-of-gravity is the focus on the success of their business, which needs highly trained and skilled employees to be successful.
  3. Quality internal and external customer service are mainstays and cornerstones of “Triangle Engagement” for it has short-term tactical and operational success and long-term, value-added strategic connections.
  4. The voices of the business/employer, impacted employee and workforce system partners should all be as one, inextricably linked, toward a common purpose.
  5. The Community College is a key and significant player in the success of “Triangle Engagement” as a vehicle inextricably supportive of the mindset and psyche of the dislocated worker in their ability to provide short-term training; they should fully embrace and understand the strategic value of Rapid Response in serving as a connection point to dislocated workers…a seat filler and win-win as a comprehensive strategy.
  6. In “Triangle Engagement,” the adult/dislocated student is also the customer; they are inextricably linked.
  7. The workforce system is the educational system and the educational system is the workforce system; one entity…inextricably linked
  8. “Workforce development is economic development and economic development is workforce development”…one entity inextricably linked. 
  9. The workforce system includes and considers any organization or entity designed to support, assist, or train dislocated workers in the slightest way, to get back to work as quickly as possible a partner.
  10. The workforce system cannot provide mere lip service to the word partnerships. Instead, workforce systems must be willing to leverage resources, to authentically coordinate, and collaborate, expressly focused on the needs of business and training employees to fill skill gaps. 
  11. Unintentional disconnection occurs based on transitional knowledge and awareness deficits based on lack of familiarization, awareness, and “not knowing what they don’t know.”
  12. Businesses/employers contribute to skill gaps when rapid reemployment is not a front-end strategy of layoff aversion.  
  13. Impassioned engagement cannot be a one-time event or inconsequential meetings.
  14. Due to transitional knowledge deficits, the holistic triangle of engagement is for life…for lifelong learning, continuous improvement, upward mobility, self-actualization, the production of visionary leaders and the sharing of best practices and ideas as a feedback mechanisms of thoughts and concepts. This is required for continued and anticipatory vision, new ideas, creativity, and subsequently innovation, which are necessary traits to stay relevant, and in front of and not behind change.
  15. “Triangle Engagement” spans and supports the peak and valley business cycles of the business/employer and the workforce system.
  16.  “Triangle Engagement” is malleable, customizable, and interchangeable based on the needs of each entity.
  17. “Triangle Engagement” has immediate (tactical) and strategic consequences.
  18. In “Triangle Engagement,” followership is just as important as leadership. The leader must leave his or her ego at the door and realize that they do not have to be “that guy or girl,” and the efforts of the team and the accomplished end state of goals are more important.
  19. Quality and the insistence on the continuous improvement of quality are linchpins for holistic engagement.
  20. In “Triangle Engagement,” each entity must see quality as value-added and what is in it for them in order to connect, the business/employer, impacted employee and workforce system partners to stay connected, and stay engaged.
  21. The business/employer and impacted employee must see the workforce system as a true and trusting partner. The results of this will have long-term strategic positive partner relationships and implications.
  22. Trust is the key to engagement. It takes years to establish and seconds to destroy.
  23. Sharing of ideas will not happen if there is no trust. You cannot legislate or demand the generation ideas and a commitment to a common purpose. Integrity in leadership is key…humility instead of hubris.
  24. Provide and give credit to those with the vision to see and create ideas. The results are strategic and will ensure that you will receive more ideas. 
  25. The word innovate is not a verb; rather, it is a noun.
  26. Ideas keep us moving forward; the by-product is constant change.
  27. Continuous engagement prepares us to deal with and anticipate change.

*Curtis D. Wray has conducted Rapid Response Services in Southeast / Eastern Virginia for 11 years.