Introducing ETA’s Strategic Boards Toolkit!
Posted 7/7/2016 12:01 PM by Brandon Carter
This blog was submitted by Virginia Hamilton from the Employment and Training Administration.
WIOA establishes boards as private sector-led entities focused on the regional economy and closing the gap between supply and demand in the labor market. The U.S. Department of Labor describes their roles as follows:
As strategic leaders, state and local workforce boards, in partnership with governors and chief elected officials, facilitate public-private partnerships; support sector strategies and career pathways that advance opportunities for all workers and job seekers, including low-skilled adults, youth, and individuals with disabilities; foster innovation; develop a vision of a market-responsive workforce system and monitor and evaluate the performance of the system, using board-established measures.
Here are some ways to engage board members and keep them focused on strategy and action.
Conduct your Meetings as a Conversation
How you conduct meetings is as important as what you talk about…sometimes even more important. If you want an engaged Board, design meetings that will allow everyone to talk and be heard. Yes, everyone. And for the record, Roberts Rules of Order is not mentioned in WIOA. Many people think that by making decisions through motions and formal votes, their work is somehow more valid. .There is place for voting and recording those votes in your minutes. But if you want true ownership by your Board, make decisions through consensus. Consensus requires bringing diverse points of view into the conversation, and listening carefully. Below is an example of how that might work.
Start with Data
One effective way to engage your Board is to spend time looking at data together. Bring some interesting and useful data (WITHOUT PowerPoint slides) to a meeting for a discussion that will lead to a new policy, practice, research or project.
For example, consider scanning the local labor market for clues about challenges that the board might take on. Find census data about labor force characteristics: demography, education levels, poverty, unemployment, labor force participation, etc. Add recent reports from economic development agencies, colleges, and local economists. Send the data out ahead of time (but don’t assume people will read them). Decide ahead of time which data seem most relevant to supply and demand. Bring hard copies and an executive summary of the data to review at the meeting
Consider having staff facilitate the discussion; your chair should be involved in the conversation, not running this portion of the meeting. The flow below presumes a facilitator leading the conversation, and, importantly, not adding his or her opinions or ideas.
1. Start by asking everyone at the meeting to look through the data briefly and jot down what strikes them. Go around the room and ask each person to share one piece of data that stood out for them. “I was surprised at how low the number of college graduates is.” “What stood out for me is the huge gap between levels of education what’s required where there will be a lot of job growth.” Make sure everyone has a chance to share.
2. Ask everyone about their initial reaction to the data. Some may have already stated that they were surprised, depressed, or excited, but ask: What specifically discouraged you about these data? Let the conversation go for a while. Then ask: where do you see opportunity? Let them talk for a bit.
3. At this point, I strongly encourage you to break into smaller groups of 3 or 4Initial reactions are often negative, but the group discussion will usually outweigh the grumbling. Ask each group: What implications do these data have for our work? Where do you see opportunities for the Board to play a role? How does our strategic plan (local or regional) address the issues these data bring up?
4. After about 10 – 15 minutes, bring the groups back together, and ask them to report out. Record the answers on a flip chart. Board members will have suggestions for more research, a new project, partnering with other organizations, etc.
Last, elicit next steps from the board. You may decide you your plan is on track. Terrific. You have validated your prior work with data, and that’s a great accomplishment. If it seems like the data indicates additional work, ask who is interested in working with staff to outline a new project, do research, or convene meetings. Record next steps.
This example illustrates several principles of good meetings. First, you have engaged everyone in a topic, rather than presenting ideas for them to react to. Each person has had a chance to share ideas and be heard. You have also turned the content of the meeting over to the Board. They own it, and will be more invested in following through on next steps. Third, there is action at the end. Board members look for action – they want to know the point of this conversation and what will happen as a result.
Be sure to follow up and report back at the next meeting. Not following through is worse than not having the conversation at all.
Check out ETA’s new Strategic Board Tool Kit materials are being posted to WorkforceGPS. http://bit.ly/293WHmh. Check back for new materials being posted over the course of the next month.