Think Expeditious…Become Expeditionary

Time, Speed, Distance, Maneuver, Movement – (T x S = D) (D / S = T) (D / T = S)

March 2020

This blog is written with the positive intent and motivation to promote ideas and/or a concepts based upon experiences while conducting the professional workforce system service of a Rapid Response Coordinator, while at the Virginia Community College System from 2008 – 2010 and Thomas Nelson Community College, from 2010 – 2017. The contents are expressly the opinion of the author meant to provide the opportunity for discussion, engagement, innovation, alternative direction, and thought. And, it does not in any way expressly speak for, take a position, represent the intent, ideas, policies, laws, mandates, processes, or procedures already in place by the Department of Labor and the Commonwealth of Virginia Workforce System.

New concepts and terms in Rapid Response introduced: 2EX Concept, expeditious, expeditionary, the time, speed, distance conundrum, surge layoffs, decentralized service delivery, nuances, emotional intelligence, maneuver, holistic rapid reemployment, unity and clarity of message, direct liaison authorized, “the wolf closest to the sled,” leadership by follower-ship, standoff technology, the whole person concept, and parroting.

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The 2EX Concept

If we are poised and ripened by experiences to learn from the past, the economic downturn of 2008 – 2009 was a highwater mark and watershed event for various aspects of the workforce system. In a look back, and in retrospect and reflection, most of the ideas and concepts that I have applied to my workforce profession and career are inextricably linked or tied to my military career. To me, the American military is the world’s largest fraternity and sorority, and once imbued with its ethos, ethics, training, mindset, and culture, one is a member for life. I had no way of knowing that I would generate an idea and concept from hearing and using the word expeditious in the workforce system during and from the economic downturn of 2008 – 2009; and, that I would be able to join it together with the word expeditionary and create the 2EX Concept. 

I was able to make the connection and extrapolate the use, because I first heard the term rapid response (in a different context) and the word expeditionary in the context of when I was a commissioned officer in the United States Navy. In 1992, I read the Honorable Sean O’Keefe, Secretary of the Navy, Admiral Frank B. Kelso, II, Chief of Naval Operations, and General Carl E. Mundy, Jr., Commandant of the Marine Corps, conceptual white paper “…From the Sea Preparing the Naval Service for the 21st Century.” This document fundamentally changed naval strategy, operations, and future shipbuilding. What does this have to do with the workforce system you may logically and reasonably ask? The meaning of the word expeditious is “marked by or acting or proceeding with prompt efficiency and optimal effectiveness.” The word expeditionary is often used as a military term, but is adaptable, malleable, and transferable to any robust, highly functional system or team. In concept, an expeditionary team can be a valuable and viable part of a main force or initiative. For example, to extrapolate the use of three regional local workforce areas, by having three Regional Rapid Response Teams, who are sent, tasked, or assigned to operationally conduct or carry out a mission, goal, or event (layoff event) from the main force (Rapid Response Program/Coordinator) as a smaller force, in another location or area from the main force with speed, effectiveness, maneuver, movement, and efficiency (expeditious). This is the 2EX Concept in very simple terms. Why is it important? Because in the workforce system, the Rapid Response program needs to be prepared and ready for all eventualities. In peak times of surge layoff events, there is no time, effort, or processes to “flattened the spiked layoff curve.” The curve is only flattened by prior training, planning, and preparation, and not during the layoff event. You are either ready to provide quality and consistent services to impacted employees or you are not. From the Rapid Response service delivery concept, the two “EXs,” expeditious and expeditionary fit like a glove to meet high demands and expectations within the workforce system when required. In order, however, for the 2EX Concept to work optimally in the federal Rapid Response program and have sustained success, it is not as easy as it may look or sound. First to define: Rapid Response is a federal program, administered by all states under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act dislocated worker funding stream. It’s main impetus or goal is directly focused on dislocated workers, those impacted workers permanently losing their jobs through no fault of their own. The goal is to provide a knowledge and information gateway to the impacted employer and employee, so that they will be able to make informed decisions on how to proceed in transition. To espouse and embrace the 2EX Concept will require fundamental changes in thought, and cultural mindset; knowledge and awareness of laws, mandates, and statutes, the intricate and experiential understanding of nuances; effective partner collaboration, training, high emotional intelligence, and preparation, all which are key, significant, and fundamental tenants to have sustained success. And more importantly, they are great equalizers to overcome the workforce system conundrums of time, speed, and distance that reduces efficiency of the Rapid Response service delivery process in providing value-added services to the impacted employer and employee.  

The benefits, however, far outweigh any drawbacks. In the proper context, thinking expeditious and having expeditionary involvement has nothing to do with the number or size of a layoff event; it could be a one person or a one-thousand-person layoff economic impact. It is important to understand that thinking expeditious will allow us to be preparatory in any moment and becoming and being expeditionary will allow current and future Rapid Response teams to be able to prepare for and respond from the main force to: (1) layoff events impacted by catastrophic loss due to natural disasters or the ripple economic impact of a global pandemic; (2) be prepared for surge events and increase surge capacity driven by sheer volume and large numbers; (3) will enhance and expound upon any decentralized service delivery and rapid reemployment model; (4) with applicable training and substantiated need assessments, is transformational, customizable, and malleable to fit any Rapid Response service delivery platform; (5) allows to expand and conquer distances and conduct layoff events as quickly as possible with quality, consistency, maneuver, speed, effectiveness, and efficiency; (6) becomes a benefit to stewards of the public’s austere resources when and where distance outweighs demand for services; (7) allows for training to become the glue for outreach, continued awareness, engagement, and continued collaborative partnerships; (8) allows all layoff notifications to become track-able layoff events with assigned numbers, rapid reemployment initiatives, and follow-on metrics; (9) allows for the sustainment of continued quality, professionalized services and presentations, consistency of services and consistency of effort for holistic rapid reemployment based on need assessment; (10), allows ability to meet the Department of Labor and state mandates of a mass layoff of one; (11) allows for unity, consistency, and clarity of effort and the intended message, and (12), allows for parallel, in tandem, effective, and efficient use of stand-off technology such as teleconferencing and video-teleconferencing that will increase speed, save time, and cover significant distances.

The Time, Speed, Distance Conundrum

In the fall of 2008, the recession and economic downturn had begun and was in full swing and effect; companies were closing and laying off at record rates and in record numbers. I was a Rapid Response Coordinator in Southeast Virginia. In Virginia, the Rapid Response program operates in a decentralized format with a State Coordinator and Regional Coordinators. In 2008, there were four Regional Coordinators representing approximately 25 percent of the Commonwealth. Because of the unfortunate economic downturn, I was in a peak, as opposed to a valley…meaning someone’s demise of receiving word of losing their jobs, left me extremely busy trying to coordinate services with a team of viable workforce system partners, to impending impacted employees prior to their layoff. To place it in the proper context and perspective, in a normal year, I could expect to conduct about 30 to 35 Rapid Response confirmed layoffs events a year, where companies were either closing or laying off employees as a reduction-in-force. However, from 2008 – 2009, those layoff numbers probably doubled or could have tripled based on what I knew or was aware of, and not counting what I was not aware of.

To be clear, ostensibly, those layoff numbers only reflected or represented the numbers that I was able to physically capture and knew about through the federal requirement and the employer’s submission of a Worker Adjustment Retraining and Notification (WARN), or from confirmed local field intelligence by any means of notification other than a WARN (Non WARN). These notification processes did not represent all the layoffs that occurred; companies that summarily closed without connection to or notification of the workforce system. Because of the interconnection and interplay of supply and demand between primary and ancillary employers and the economic ripple effect, and how one employer’s success or livelihood is contingent/dependent upon another, they could not remain open. Equally, because of sheer numbers (through put), I was just not physically able to respond to, coordinate, and provide services to every employer as a Coordinator of the Regional Rapid Response Team (then the One Stop Center and Employment Office) using the service delivery model. See the Rapid Response Fact Sheet.

This is due to what I call the time-speed-distance conundrum. Again, preparation, planning, and sustained training are the only way to solve this conundrum. In the Navy, in the enlisted Navigation Department, as a Ship’s Navigator, and as a surface warfare watch officer, I routinely used the time, speed, distance mathematical algorithm. If you knew time and speed, you could solve for distance. If you knew distance and speed, you could solve for time. And, if you knew distance and time, you could solve for speed. In the workforce system, this algorithm works only if you are efficient and successful in solving for and having control over all three variables, which is very difficult.  For example, if the affected business decreases through impending actions the variables of time and speed and increases distance, then efficiency in Rapid Response falls precipitously.

Moreover, the workforce system does not move at the speed of business. Time is a precious commodity. So, the more protraction and time that we have from the employer/business through early detection and warning via a trained, informed, and engaged workforce intelligence and information network (WIIN), the more quality and efficient services can be provided. Informed employer/businesses can help immeasurably with the time, speed and distance equation by notifying of an impending transition early before the layoff occurs and not after. During the economic downturn of 2008 – 2009, a significant number of employers/businesses notified or sent WARN notices after the layoff occurred. I realize that a lot of this was due to the suddenness and instantaneousness of the downturn. Notification after the layoff has occurred, however, disconnects impacted employers and employees from the valuable knowledge gateway for them to make informed decisions on how to proceed in transition. There are valuable services that employees who have permanently lost their jobs through no fault of their own (dislocated workers) are eligible for, to assist in restoring the whole person and in helping them get back to work as quickly as possible. Conversely, notification, if it is in a condense timeframe, sub-optimizes Rapid Response service delivery. Imagine trying to provide transition services to 20 employers/businesses, and they all will close or layoff within two weeks as opposed to providing services to 20 employers/businesses, and they will all close or layoff within 90 days. If the latter is done, it is a win-win. The impacted employees can connect to the workforce system knowledge gateway and Rapid Response service delivery is not wholly stressed with high demand and a condensed finite amount of time to accomplish the request for services. Therefore, early warning makes manageable service delivery response times.

The speed of which employers decide to layoff, especially, during an economic downturn must be countered against the speed and efficiency of which the workforce system can respond. A slow response could overwhelm and saturate the Rapid Response service delivery process to the point where it reaches a tipping or culminating point of paralyzed sub-optimization. During the economic downturn of 2008, we as a Rapid Response team, simply could not get to all the impacted companies and provide services per the service delivery model, without running out of time because of the sheer volume of layoffs; because of the speed of which layoffs occurred; because of the lack of early warning notification from the employer; or, the distance to travel to get to each event was not plausible based on the time required to get there. So, it became a decision point of addressing which layoff was the most important, impactful, and the closest, “the wolf closest to the sled.” The service delivery model required that we conduct a Rapid Response Manager’s Meeting to the management/supervisory staff of an affected or impacted employer and/or a Rapid Response Informational Briefing or presentation to the impacted employees of each employer to ascertain and assess the specific needs in a group format.

A Cultural Mind-Set Shift Required (A Look Back)

To be intellectually honest, the first time that I had ever heard the word expeditious in the workforce system, and specifically, in the Rapid Response profession, it was used with the term or phrase “expeditious brief,” by the acting lead Rapid Response Coordinator during the economic downturn of 2008 – 2009, in trying to keep up with the many requests for Rapid Response services. The guidance fit with the service delivery method in how Rapid Response was conducted in Virginia at the time, under the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, where service delivery allowed One Stop Center and Employment Office Managers the autonomy under certain circumstances to conduct Rapid Response Manager’s Meetings or Employee Informational sessions with layoff numbers involving 25 impacted employees or less. See the attached Rapid Response Fact Sheet. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2015 superseded the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, and, it provided more clarity and specificity on when Rapid Response will be involved in service delivery. The new law made the service delivery model of “25 or less,” obsolete by establishing and directing Rapid Response involvement in a closure or mass layoff an employee impact of 1 (discussed later).

 The 2008 service delivery guidance per the attached fact sheet was merely to let the One Stop Center and Employment Office Managers focus on any impact less than 25. To be clear, the Lead Coordinator did not tell me how this was supposed to be done; nor, was there expressly direction or written guidance to follow. I wondered was the expeditious brief merely the less than 25 process previously discussed. Or, was it a structured process that I was not aware of? I had never heard the term “expeditious” used in the Rapid Response program. So, I wondered how I might conduct this process. I attempted to do research to find out what the expeditious process entailed and how this service delivery process was different than a regular Rapid Response employee informational presentation event. I googled expeditious brief and found nothing. I perused the layoff manual and found nothing. I asked a policy analyst at the Department of Labor, and no one had ever heard of the term. I quickly rationalized for my own use, benefit, and direction in the development of the concept, that the term should not represent a documented tangible service delivery model, process, or platform, but should  be used as an abstract and intangible term, and merely represent in context an imaginary verbal and mental line of demarcation between a full blown Rapid Response layoff event where the Regional Coordinator expressly participates in coordination and conducting Rapid Response events, and a step down delegation of responsibility to another entity within the workforce system in another location (expeditionary). I did not use the term expeditionary during the 2008 – 2009 economic downturn for these stepdown events. Only the term expeditious. Recently, in 2019, I added the term expeditionary after rereading the white paper…From the Sea, previously mentioned, and realizing that the expeditious mindset fit the expeditious definition and worked together in tandem, hence borne the 2EX Concept.

The Rapid Response Fact Sheet guidance under the previous Workforce Investment Act, in my opinion, caused significant cultural and procedural challenges and created chasms that sub-optimized talent and collaboration and actually worked against in nature and character, the very thing that we were trying to accomplish in Rapid Response, per national mandate, which was and is to have quality and consistency of services and unity and clarity of message and information to the impacted employer and employees no matter where they were in the Commonwealth. For instance, if each One Stop Career Center or Employment Office Manager conducted all layoff events less than or equal to 25 impacted employees individually based on receiving and responding to their own intelligence, then how were these events tracked within the workforce system? At the time, in 2008, they were not. And, as a Rapid Response Coordinator, for unreported layoffs (Non WARNs), I had no idea of the regional impact, and neither did anyone else in the Commonwealth, of the impact, scope, and size of the layoff event process within my region and exponentially within all other Coordinator regions throughout the Commonwealth. In my opinion, it forced a culture of deeply rooted subliminal competition, disunity, lack of collaboration and partnerships, and lack of clarity and inconsistency of message. Moreover, there was no collective training or direction to ensure a consistent message; it was done willy-nilly, with each One Stop Career Center and Employment Office providing their own focus, materials, and version of what they thought the impacted employees ought to know and each Regional Rapid Response Coordinator did the same. Again, if each did it their own way, then where was the quality, unity, clarity, and consistency of the informational message, so that each impacted employer and employee could make an informed decision on how to proceed in transition, no matter where they were in the Commonwealth.

Collaborative Service Delivery

Having been in the military, I understood the concepts of accountability and responsibility. Being the Regional Rapid Response Coordinator who was accountable, how then, could I still maintain accountability, and at the same time, be able to delegate the responsibility of conducting the layoff event to another entity, such as the One Stop Center or Employment Office Manager? With this new 2EX Concept, even if the impact numbers were less than or equal to 25 or greater, I could still use the help when required of the One Stop Career Center or Employment Office Managers. This was accomplished by formally assigning the One Stop Career Center or the Employment Office Manager, as lead person to conduct the presentations for assigned Rapid Response layoff events using a term often used in the military called “direct liaison authorized.” Direct liaison authorized also fit like a glove in the expeditious and expeditionary concept, and provided clear, concise, and unambiguous directional guidance and step-down authority to the expeditionary Regional Rapid Response team as to who was the leader of the group, in charge of conducting the Rapid Response layoff event, regardless of the numbers. Even though we still had the challenges previously mentioned in service delivery coordination with quality and consistency, as a Coordinator, I still had knowledge, control, and accountability of the trackable layoff events.

Fast forward to 2015 with the new direction of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, this approach equally accomplished the guidance of a layoff of 1, per the Department of Labor guidance coupled with the Business Services Coordinator concept (discussed later).  And, fast forward to 2017, the 2EX Concept allows the Rapid Response team to accomplish the grant funded trackable layoffs and metrics criteria per a Memorandum of Understanding. More importantly, even though I did not realize it at the time, back in 2008 and forward, it forced us, the Southeast Virginia (SEVA) Rapid Response Team, who were separate partner entities, to work with a synergy of effort as an informed team, that built much needed collaborative trust and understanding over time that allowed the 2EX Concept, that would come years later, to flourish and come to full and successful fruition.

Winds of Change…2008-2018

Since the economic downturn and recession of 2008 – 2009, five significant changes have occurred in Rapid Response in Virginia at the federal, state, and regional level that have significantly impacted and now drive how we attempt to provide quality and consistent Rapid Response service delivery.

First, in 2012, all layoffs, both those reported by the federal requirement of the submission of a WARN, which were always tracked; and, any layoff regionally reported by any means other than a WARN (Non WARN), which in 2008, were only regionally tracked by Regional Rapid Response Coordinators, are now reported and centrally tracked by a State Rapid Response System, becoming in totality, part of the entirety of the holistic state layoff event effort and also part of the Virginia Workforce Connect job service tracking system.

Second, nationally, in 2012, the Business Services Team Coordinator concept came into effect. In my Rapid Response region, in 2013, the Business Services Coordinator became a valuable asset in completing the “warm hand off” in the furtherance of the whole person concept and the continuance and coordination of Rapid Response substantiated need-based services (job fairs, hiring events, seminars, workshops, and supportive services etc.) in both front-end and back-end phases of the layoff in attaining the workforce system goal of rapid reemployment. The Business Services Team concept got rid of the “fell off the cliff” approach and mindset to Rapid Response service delivery, and answered the “then what” question, which was, after the completion of Rapid Response events (Manager’s Meeting and Employee Informational presentation), then what happens to the impacted employees? The operationalized concept ensures that there would be a real or tangible connection and continuance of services until meeting the ultimate end state of employment.

Third, the workforce system now operates under the Department of Labor law Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which replaced the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998 in 2015. This act expressly removed the ambiguity and provided more in-depth specificity and guidance in Rapid Response service delivery on the times when Rapid Response will be involved, and services would be delivered to a layoff of 1. 

They are: (1) A notice of permanent closure of a facility, store, enterprise, or plant has been provided by an employer, regardless of the number of affected employees (a layoff of 1). This law change was significant, because it fundamentally removed or alleviated the mass layoff exception in the Virginia Fact Sheet service delivery, allowed under Workforce Investment Act; where in Virginia, the less than 25 rule (previously discussed) allowed the state Rapid Response service delivery system of the One Stops Center or Employment Office Managers to provide Rapid Response services without regional Rapid Response direct involvement. As a side note to this, in my recent regional training sessions in late 2019, I found that many workforce system operators and stakeholders were very candid and stated that they were not expressly aware of this law change. And, they were still expecting to conduct Rapid Response events using the less than 25 rule. Therefore, continuous training of the Regional Rapid Response Team is fundamental for sustained success; (2) Announcement and notification of a mass layoff. A mass layoff can be defined by a state, but under no circumstances may a State’s definition exceed the minimum threshold of 50 workers. However, it can be set to as few as 1 impacted worker by a layoff (again a layoff of 1). The law further states that when the mass layoff minimum is not defined, any layoff affecting 50 or more workers; and, upon receipt of a WARN (approximately 2 percent of employers in Virginia) regardless of the numbers of workers when the layoff is announced (again a layoff of 1); (3) Rapid Response will be involved when a mass layoff per the state’s definition; or, causing 50 or more job dislocation has occurred due to a natural disaster (requiring defined governmental or emergency manager declaration); (4) Rapid Response will be involved when a Trade Readjustment Act petition has been filed; and, (5) a state mandate, Rapid Response Services should be delivered in all cases where a Non WARN layoff occurs; any layoff notification via confirmed field intelligence other than the submission of a WARN notification. With this, it is important to note that the Department of Labor does not expressly or wholly recognize or use the term Non WARN; nor, is it codified in any law or part of any Department of Labor policy, process, or procedure. Non WARN is a term expressly used in Virginia and several other states. It is my opinion this is the reason the Department of Labor provides unprescribed broad guidance for States to define a mass layoff from 1 to 50. Hence, in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, the term mass layoff supplants or is substituted for the term and concept Non WARN, again because the Department of Labor does not use that term, and again, it is used in Virginia and several other states. In Virginia, in being intimately involved in the development and institution of the Non WARN concept and layoff process, I know that the Non WARN criteria is an intended catch-all that involves all employers that do not meet WARN criteria, which in Virginia, represents approximately 98 percent of Commonwealth, with no maximum or minimum layoff impact. Again, a layoff of 1. Therefore, if the WARN captures 2 percent of the employers and the Non WARN captures 98 percent of the remaining employers, and all closures are a layoff of 1, then that is 100 percent coverage. Therefore, if any state is using the Non WARN concept, if they clearly and unambiguously understand the concept and the intent of the concept, then there really is no reason for a State to define a mass layoff, per the Department of Labor’s definition. Under the Non WARN operationalized concept, as discussed, a mass layoff is inherently covered. And, defining a mass layoff is merely a duplication of effort and could cause unneeded confusion. Please note again, points one through four were direct Department of Labor mandates of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. Point five was a Commonwealth of Virginia Workforce Development mandate called Rapid Response Activities: Layoff Aversion Assistance – 403-02 (2018), passed in July 2018.

Fourth, In September 2017, Rapid Response had expressly moved from control under the Virginia Community College System Office in Richmond, Virginia, from (2008 – 2010) to four decentralized community colleges (2010 – 2017); and, is now the responsibility of the Virginia Employment Commission, as a grant sub-recipient of Rapid Response funds, contracted to specifically to track and conduct layoff events per an expressed Memorandum of Understanding, using economics and analytics in job search assistance as an enhancement in the workforce system context of rapid reemployment. It still uses an assigned layoff event number and is entered in the Virginia Workforce Connect job service system. Additionally, these tracked layoff events now had trackable rapid reemployment metrics for each layoff event in the Rapid Response program using workforce system rapid reemployment as a front-end piece and proactive initiative in Layoff Aversion.

Fifth, in March 2018, I received numerous Worker Adjustment Retraining and Notifications (WARNs) informing of a major grocery store chain layoff affecting 37 stores, impacting over 3000 employees, a surge layoff event.  Again, I found myself in the same situation as the economic downturn of 2008 – 2009…in the time, speed, distance conundrum. Shortly after notification, the grocery store chain started to shutter, idle, close, and sell stores before I could coordinate, schedule, and physically get to them to provide Rapid Response services. As a Team of Partners (One Stop Career Centers, Employment Offices, and now the Community Colleges), we gave it a Herculean effort, but it was a physical impossibility to get to all the stores to provide Rapid Response services per the state service delivery model within a 60 day specific timeframe, but if we had been trained in the 2EX Concept, and having the expeditious and expeditionary mindset, we could have done much more to help the impacted employer and employees.

The Success Mindset

With the Disaster Rapid Response initiative a national mandate and the recent intensification of fires, storms, and hurricanes, which in my opinion, are due to the current and impending effects of human induced climate change, in tandem with the five points of change previously mentioned, I began to ask myself some introspective questions and give myself answers, especially after the surge layoff event of the large grocery chain in 2018. In remembering the lessons learned in 2008 – 2009, it is important that we as a Rapid Response Team, start to think expeditious and become expeditionary in mindset and modus operandi in deliberate planning and  training, in a preventive, and preparatory way, so that in times of economic downturns, recessions, depressions, surge layoff events, catastrophic natural disasters, and unforeseen geopolitical situations that ripple and rifle through our economy, we as a viable and functional Rapid Response Team, can be ready to respond to and provide optimum consistent, customizable, and quality service delivery to impacted employers/businesses and employees.

In the fall of 2019, I took the lessons that I had learned  and the expeditious brief model used in 2008 – 2009, and the five change impetus points in the current service delivery of Rapid Response and instituted and modeled the expeditious and expeditionary 2EX Concept into the service delivery platform with the three local workforce operating areas. In order to meet laws, mandates (previously discussed), memoranda of understanding, and mandated requirements, Rapid Response service delivery had to be conducted a certain way. The 2EX Concept accomplishes this and seeks to do one more fundamental thing…it answers the question of “what if.”

The following terms and points are germane to the 2EX Concept and are defined and must be known and clearly understood to have sustained success in Rapid Response service delivery:

  1. Expeditious – It is not a physical or tangible service delivery process. Instead, it is an intangible or abstract state of being in mindset, meant to exude a sense of urgency in establishing a clear and unambiguous verbal and mental imaginary line of demarcation to the collaborative partners as to what is a full-fledged Rapid Response Layoff event involving the Regional Rapid Response Coordinator, and an event where the responsibility to conduct the layoff event has been formally assigned to a One Stop Career Center, Employment Office Manager, or Business Services Team Coordinator for execution. The Regional Rapid Response Coordinator is still accountable and responsible for the expressed assignment, tracking, coordination, and completion of each layoff event per the grant and Memorandum of Understanding.
  2. Expeditionary – a tangible state of being in physical movement, maneuver, and speed meant to increase time, increase volume, and extend the reach (distance) with, professionalism and efficiency to increase the quality, consistency, and effectiveness of the Rapid Response service delivery initiative. Highly trained, collaborative Regional Rapid Response Teams can be sent, tasked, or assigned to operationally conduct or carry out a mission, goal, or event (layoff event) from the main force (Rapid Response) as a smaller force in another location from the main force.
  3. Trust – the core quality and attribute of the expeditious and expeditionary 2EX Concept, is trust. Trust is subjective, intangible, and an abstract that means different things to different people. Trust is the strong belief in the reliability, truth, ability and strength of a person or entity. Trust is a commitment that takes years to build and merely seconds to destroy. The expeditious and expeditionary concept cannot succeed without trust. It is a non-event…a non-starter.
  4. Collaborative Relationships and Partnerships – must be built on trust, commitment to the team, high emotional intelligence, with a buy-in, and commitment to quality, consistency, and to the holistic success of the Rapid Response Team of Partners. Being an exceptional partner should not just be a tactical goal, but a strategic goal of every collaborative partner.
  5. Core Partners – Requires the identification of core partners in the Rapid Response service delivery model. Core partners and their roles should be expressly defined. In the Southeast (SEVA) region, those partners are a trained representative from the One Stop Career Center (WIOA), the Employment Office, and the Regional/territorial community college. Other partners are substantiated and added based on the results of the need-based survey questionnaire. For example, if the survey results find that a high percentage of impacted employees are 62 or older, Rapid Response could bring in the Social Security Administration as a viable partner for needs-based employees contemplating retirement. The 2EX Concept will be stressed and probably will not work if you have various partners within each regional local operating area. Core partner identification and role definition should be clearly defined.
  6. Coordination – Each layoff event, regardless of the numbers is still the discretion, accountability, and responsibility of the Regional Rapid Response Coordinator. They must be gainfully involved in the coordination, the assignment of the layoff event number, the scheduling and completion of the event, regardless of impact number.  Layoff events are not legitimately recognized events and cannot be tracked, unless expressly assigned a layoff event number and tracked in the central tracking system as a WARN or Non WARN confirmed intelligence prior to providing services. Rapid Response service delivery should always be conducted in a group format.
  7. Execution and Service Delivery – an expeditious and expeditionary (2EX format) is conducted by a regionally trained and informed One Stop Center Manager, Employment Office Manager, or Business Services Team Coordinator (meeting conductors), after responsibility to conduct the expeditious event has been formally assigned in writing in email via “direct liaison authorized.”  The conductor of the event would be provided surveys, measurements, and updated presentations; and, will provide updates, reports, and any measurement and survey tools back to the Regional Coordinator. It is a military joint-ness concept of understanding the importance of the completion of the operational mission, requiring and demonstrating leadership by followership and has nothing to do with seniority. In a military joint exercise environment, a senior command may report to a subordinate command to complete the mission, because the subordinate command has the expertise to complete the mission. Therefore, you can see how trust, leadership by followership, and collaborative partnerships, must be mainstays and anchoring cornerstones for sustained success. It is the same service delivery that would be applied if the Regional Rapid Response Coordinator were conducting the event, except the only difference is, the Regional Coordinator is not individually conducting the event, but is being provided sustained, professionalized, collaborative assistance to extend the service delivery reach to as many impacted employers/businesses and employees as possible.
  8. Quality and Consistency – When applicable and practicable, the Rapid Response service delivery must be conducted the same way in all the regional workforce areas to achieve quality, consistency, unity, and clarity of message. Each One Stop Career Center provides an updated territorial PowerPoint (PPT) presentation. Each community college provides an updated territorial PPT presentation. The Employment Office provides a consistent quality unemployment and job service PPT presentation, all of value for use, no matter where you are in the Commonwealth. Done this way you will have unity, quality, clarity, and consistency of the same message and information; consistency of professionalized services and presentation; and, consistency of effort in attempting to achieve holistic Rapid Reemployment (the whole person concept).
  9. Measurement for Need Assessment/Improvement – The Rapid Response Coordinator will provide the conductor of the event with the need assessment measuring tools of the Transition Survey Questionnaire and the Employee Evaluation of Services. The conductor of the event will ensure that the forms are disseminated, collected, and returned to the Regional Rapid Response Coordinator for processing. The Rapid Response Coordinator/Rapid Response Administrative Technician will ensure that all data is entered, and each event closed with an employer satisfaction survey.
  10. Training – is essential for the success of the 2EX Concept…thinking expeditious and becoming expeditionary. In 2019, I conducted training in my region in all the three workforce areas, which included a review and understanding of all the relevant basic Rapid Response concepts and an overview of the 2EX Concept and how it would work to rid the region of the Babel Effect.Knowing the fundamental concepts is important for functional and cross-functional teams. If all regional teams are trained consistently the same way, then they understand the same conceptual language, the Rapid Response terrain, and can be used to assist and help when one region is in a peak and another is in a valley.
  11. Parroting – In training, we must diminish parroting, which is detrimental to consistency in any kind of training. Parroting define “is a person who repeats or imitates the words or actions of another unintelligently.” Those who think that they know and understand the concepts, but they do not; nor, do they understand how all the dots connects will do significant damage to the 2EX concept and process. I will provide you some examples: (1) We were proactive; we went to the employer’s work site and told his employees about unemployment insurance prior to the layoff. (2) We are going to meet people where they are; we are physically going to the employer’s site and tell them about services the workforce system provides. (3) We need to be proactive and conduct the unemployment insurance presentations at the front-end of the layoff. And, (4) lastly, we are scheduling a Proactive Rapid Response Meeting and we are inviting a community college representative, the Unemployment Insurance Manager, the Employment Office Manager, and a representative from economic development to attend the meeting.What is wrong with all these statements and questions; and, how do all the dots connect? If you do not know the answers, and if you do not understand the connection, then you can see how detrimental parroting can be. The higher the position, the greater the platform, and the greater the platform the greater and exponential is the damage. Other than trust, there is no phrase or term more important than training for the 2EX Concept to have sustained success.After completing training in all three workforce areas, I looked for opportunities to model and employ the 2EX Concept and three times had resounding success. Training…like engagement is for life. It is wholly necessary to address atrophy in skills and natural transitional workforce attrition so that Rapid Response Teams are always ready for any impending circumstance.
  12. Equipment – Each Workforce Board and Employment Office would be required to provide funding for a portable projection screen, a laptop computer, a cellular telephone, and a projector for on-site presentations and standoff technology such as teleconferences and video-teleconferences, if required in the future, due to disasters or unforeseen circumstances.

In closing, any Rapid Response Team operating in a decentralized format makes the 2EX Concept (thinking expeditious and becoming expeditionary) both a viable and customizable workforce multiplier and option for a successful, consistent, and sustained quality Rapid Response service delivery. With the 2EX Concept being a Workforce System multiplier, it becomes a forced impetus to plan, prepare, train, and to ask the contingency question of “what if.” It optimizes holistic talent, professionalism, and partner collaboration.  When you are in the middle of a catastrophic disaster, a surge layoff event involving multiple stores, or a global pandemic with ancillary economic impact, it is not the time to think of your impending or required actions. These events will expose inherent weaknesses and vulnerabilities and will be a sobering reminder of the lack of vigilance and diligence in not learning the lessons of the past and planning for a turbulent and fluxing future. And, if found unprepared, the Workforce System will never recover, because of the time, speed, distance conundrum. The end state is that there will be customers who will not be optimally served and benefit from the knowledge gateway connection. Therefore courage, boldness, training, and preparation are fundamental keys to success.

It is not, however, an imperative that anyone adopts the 2EX Concept in practice and mindset. Hope…also unfortunately, is not a strategy. I started writing this blog in December 2019, having no idea of the ensuing insidious global pandemic lurking secretly on the horizon, that would be a pervasive silent formidable asymmetrical force and enemy, that virulently and ravenously attacked and permeated the United States and our core and basic American way of life with deadly precision. We are living in and having to navigate uncharted and unprecedented times in the workforce system and in life. Now, the 2EX Concept appears wholly relevant, applicable, and appropriate and further allows us to effectively communicate, collaborate, coordinate, connect, and be ready for sustained success in providing the impacted employer and affected employees the best possible services to meet the expressed mandate and end state of the Rapid Response program, which is to appropriately respond to and get the impacted worker back to work as quickly as possible. We all win when that occurs.


Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Section 682.300-330. Virginia Workforce Development/Rapid Response Activities – 403-02: Layoff Aversion Assistance. The 2009 Virginia Rapid Response Fact Sheet

Curtis Wray is a United States Navy 21-year veteran, a retired enlisted and commissioned Surface Warfare Officer. He has over 21 years in the Virginia Workforce Development System with experience at the Virginia Employment Commission (1999 – 2007) in job services, unemployment insurance, and a passion for the art of Rapid Response service delivery, providing this service while at the Virginia Employment Commission (2006 – 2007 and 2017 – present); the Governor’s Office for Workforce Development 2007 – 2008; the Virginia Community College System (2008 – 2010); and, Thomas Nelson Community College (2010 – 2017).