Rapid Response - Solutions for Economic Transition

Soft Skills

While subject matter knowledge and expertise is a critical aspect of providing Rapid Response solutions, it is equally important to deliver the message and services of Rapid Response in a way that is well received and meets audience needs. As a Rapid Response provider you serve as a broker of information and services. Your goal is to present the information in a way that encourages employers and the workforce to utilize the support and services provided.

A number of attributes are essential to the success of a Rapid Response provider. Attributes include:

  • Being proactive – dynamic, dedicated, flexible, and passionate about Rapid Response;
  • Ability to think and make decisions quickly;
  • Resourcefulness;
  • Maintaining a positive attitude and having a sense of humor;
  • Functioning as a team; and
  • Willing to work non-traditional hours.

In addition, Rapid Response providers need to be skilled in presenting the appropriate information to the target audience, and maintaining contact with the audience to ensure that the appropriate services are provided in a timely and effective way. The process of effective Rapid Response, however, begins with building relationships with employers, workforce representative, training institutions, and service providers far in advance of a dislocation event.

This section focuses on three essential soft skills.

  • Building Relationships;
  • Presentation Skills; and
  • Outreach Strategies.

Building Relationships

Building dynamic relationships and effective connections among employers, workers, training institutions, service providers, and other community stakeholders is a critical component of an effective Rapid Response system. It is an on-going process that begins far in advance of a dislocation event.

The value of building and maintaining relationships includes:

  • Effectively responding to employer and worker needs. When Rapid Response providers establish and maintain critical connections, they can depend on those contacts during dislocation events, and draw upon those resources. However, it is important to have those connections already in place, so that when an economic crisis occurs, resources are accessed in a timely way.
  • Gaining intelligence on economic transitions. Maintaining dynamic relationships with employers, workforce representatives, and all stakeholder groups in the community provides a natural avenue of communication about regional economic changes such as impending layoffs or new industry expansions.
  • Ensuring ownership by all stakeholder groups. When information exchange occurs between Rapid Response providers and employers and industry associations, workers and their representatives, training and service providers, economic developers, and the larger community, then all stakeholder groups have roles to play in managing economic transitions. The result is an integrated approach to transition management.
  • Working together to develop solutions. When the concerned stakeholders have established connections, they are more inclined to work together to develop solutions to the challenges at hand.

Building relationships is a process that begins with identifying the critical connections that need to be made, making those connections, and maintaining them over time. For example, in connecting with employers, it is important to remember that establishing a relationship with human resources is critical. Other examples include connections with One-Stop centers, major employers, industry associations, workforce representatives, training providers, service providers, chambers of commerce, business groups, labor lawyers, and other groups as necessary. Connections also need to be made in advance with coordinators of programs that provide workforce resources, such as Wagner-Peyser, Adult and Dislocated Worker programs, and Registered Apprenticeship.

Maintaining dynamic relationships requires time and consistent effort. It is similar to developing personal relationships. Effective relationships are maintained when partners’ interests are addressed and their goals met.

Several strategies are helpful in building relationships and gaining intelligence on economic conditions. Formal introductions and direct contacts are one way, but building relationships extends beyond formal avenues and workforce-related events. In many cases, informal relationships at social events provide good sources of information about economic trends, impending layoffs, or employer needs. This implies being out in the community, continuously making those critical connections.

Enhancing the value and relevance of Rapid Response in the community depends on successful transition activities. The expectation is that Rapid Response providers:

  • Know what they do – Serve as resource managers, connecting employers and workers to resources and service providers; and
  • Do what they say – Effectively make the needed connections and deliver promises made.

Presentation Skills

Presenting information about Rapid Response to employers and other stakeholders in a concise and effective way requires knowledge, confidence, and experience. Once you have established a preliminary relationship with employers, it is important to present Rapid Response in a way that elicits a positive response and prompts them to utilize the services provided.

The following suggestions are provided as a guide in presenting Rapid Response to employers and other stakeholders:

  • Know Your Audience. Gather as much information as you can about the employer or stakeholder. Know who the audience is (age, gender, nationality, educational background, experience) and what their needs are.
  • Do Your Homework. Have a good understanding of Rapid Response and its related programs in your own region – range of services offered, resources (human and material), other programs and funding options (e.g., unemployment and health insurance, job search, training, etc.), policies and procedures, linking to One-Stop career centers, etc.
  • Set Your Goal. Decide what you want to happen as a result of each presentation. The four main goals of any communication are to inform, request for an action, persuade, and build relationships.
  • Plan Your Presentation. List all the points you plan to cover. Plan your opening, main body, and closing of the presentation. Keep in mind why your audience would want to hear what you have to say.
  • Avoid Information Overload. When you overload your audience, you shut down the dialogue that is an important part of decision-making. Clarify in advance how much time you hav.
  • Rehearse Your Presentation. Practice your presentation over and over again until you overcome the distractions such as nervous tics and uncomfortable pauses. Delete any superfluous information.
  • Make a Powerful First Impression. A professional, and impressive appearance is of utmost importance. A confident voice and posture, effective eye contact, and meaningful gestures make good body language. Use short sentences and keep technical information at a minimum. Present the facts about Rapid Response and its services clearly and concisely.
  • Manage Expectations. Make sure you tell your audience what to expect from the presentation – what you will cover during the presentation.
  • Present with Passion. No matter what you do, we are all in sales. Selling is a transfer of emotions. When you present Rapid Response, make sure your listeners sense how strongly you believe in what you are saying.
  • Be an Active Listener. It is important to not only provide information about Rapid Response, but also listen to the needs of your audience. Active listening involves patience, openness, and the desire to understand. It requires hearing, understanding, interpretation, concentration, and judgment.
  • Keep Your Audience’s Attention. Tell your audience how they can get something they want.
  • Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” But be sure to find out the requested information and respond later.
  • Finish on Time. It is better to finish slightly early than to overrun your time.
  • Leave Informational Materials. Leave a brochure, CD, and/or business cards with your audience. This helps them review the information at their own pace and time, and contact you for further action.
  • Remember: Planning, preparation, and practice

The state of Pennsylvania has developed a seven-module competency-based training program for its state Rapid Response specialists. The training is conducted once a month for seven months and helps the Rapid Response unit to function as a team. One of the modules addresses presentation skills. It teaches Rapid Response specialists to be effective in a variety of formal presentation settings, both inside and outside the organization, and how to change tactics midstream when something is not working.
Source: Rapid Response Brief.pdf

Consultative Solutions Sales Techniques is interactive, face-to-face training that uses a variety of training media such as lecture, video, and role-play. It is structured in modular format and may be tailored to the specific needs of Rapid Response. Among the topics included are Effective Questioning, Making the Case for Rapid Response, Capability Statements, and Presenting Solutions.

Outreach Strategies

One of the main challenges facing Rapid Response providers is outreach to employers, especially those facing imminent downsizing, closing, or mass layoffs. The following information provides best practices and practical suggestions for outreach to employers.

Best Practices

  • Build and maintain dynamic relationships with employers, business associations, and unions. Building relationships is a process that begins with identifying the critical connections that need to be made, making those connections, and maintaining them over time.
  • Identify employer and worker needs. Effective Rapid Response depends on identifying employer and workforce needs, and working together to develop strategies and resources to address the challenges, including access to additional service providers.
  • Be prepared. Rapid Response providers need to be able to communicate what Rapid Response is, the range of services provided, and how the process works. They also need to gain a good understanding of how Rapid Response funds can be used.
  • Be informed. Rapid Response providers need to be informed of all the services provided, such as health insurance, job search, and training. They serve as information brokers of assets and services to help address employer and worker challenges.

Business Outreach
Develop a well-organized outreach plan that promotes Rapid Response:

  • Assess current outreach efforts – what is currently done, how effective it is, challenges, etc.
  • Identify outreach goals – what do you hope to accomplish by what dates. An example would be raising awareness of Rapid Response among a number of employers.
  • Identify target audiences – employers, unions, business associations, etc.
  • Conduct research on target audiences – challenges and how currently addressed, number of affected workers, available resources, etc.
  • Develop specific strategies to meet the goals. Strategies may include face-to-face meetings with employer/workforce representatives, making presentations at a particular event, or providing information about Rapid Response through a variety of avenues (newsletter, e-mail, brochures, etc.).
  • Develop a timeline for implementing outreach strategies.
  • Develop partnerships to enhance outreach efforts and reduce cost. Potential partners may be workforce representatives (e.g., WIBs, One-Stop Career Centers) or other employers that utilize Rapid Response.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of outreach efforts in promoting Rapid Response on a regular basis.

Practical suggestions for business outreach:

  • Develop relationships with, and make presentations to human resources managers and departments of commerce. They are usually cognizant of impending layoffs.
  • Use chambers of commerce and economic development departments to market to business communities (newsletters, advertisements, etc.).
  • Meet regularly with economic development groups.
  • Scan available sources through the Internet, via phone calls, and in person.
  • Ensure electronic connections to available communities of practice to find impending layoffs early.
  • Tap into existing peer networks such as the National Governor’s Association.
  • Gather information on all available resources (Federal, state, and local).
  • Identify and address employer needs – “This is what you need to do to address re-employment.”
  • Present research-based information to employers – “Research shows that ….”
  • Ask a state representative to contact a company; s/he may have more clout than a local representative.
  • Ensure Rapid Response services complement outplacement services.
  • Ensure consistent services.
  • Ensure employer and worker confidentiality.