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Author’s note regarding the rationale for this post:

There are three reasons for writing this blog post:

 

First, there needs to be some form, process, or methodology that takes us to the next level to increase optimum involvement and connection of businesses in the workforce system as method of operating in culture and mindset to maximize the tenants of rapid reemployment and layoff aversion. The only federal mandate connection point is the Worker Adjustment Retraining and Notification (WARN) Act, which is reactive, assumptive, presumptive, and problematic in reaching the majority of businesses for frontend proactive engagement. Layoff aversion and rapid reemployment are frontend proactive concepts intertwined and interplaying with a reactive notification (WARN Act) process. The WARN process has both vitality and utility, but it works best with a backend reactive mindset and culture in the dislocation phase.

 

Second, public workforce systems need to understand the importance of establishing effective communication, trust, and confidentiality to optimize the concepts of rapid reemployment and layoff aversion.

 

Third, when created, depending upon the context, the terms Non – WARN or Non – Warn have different meanings…to be further explained in my next blog post. One can call the concept whatever they like, but the primary tenants for the concept to work are collaborative partnerships, trust, and confidentiality. Some states are posting Non –WARN log information for public view, even on the Internet. This process works against trust and confidentiality and with respect to layoff aversion and rapid reemployment, in nature and character, works against the very thing that they are trying to accomplish. Businesses are reticent to see the public workforce system as a partner, if there is no trust. The Non – WARN mindset embodies an environment of trust and confidentiality.

In the first quarter 2015, there were a total of 243,911 businesses in the Commonwealth of Virginia. 5,255 businesses had greater than 100 employees; and, 238, 656 had 99 or less employees (Virginia Employment Commission Labor Market, November 2015). So, 97.8 percent of all businesses in Virginia have less than 100 employees; and, even though this percentage makes up the majority of businesses in Virginia, they do not meet federal requirements for submission of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. The WARN Act requires a 60 day notification for employees impacted by a mass company closure or reduction-in-force with equal to or greater than 100 fulltime employees.

This notification aligns businesses with their Rapid Response program, a federally funded program, administered by states under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), Dislocated Worker funding stream. Rapid Response is a voluntary knowledge gateway that connects businesses, who are the gatekeepers of human talent, and their impacted employees, to the public workforce system, by providing relevant information and knowledge, for both to make informed decisions on how to successfully proceed in their impending job loss transition; or, to help retain or expand businesses by training, retraining, and up-skilling their workforce based on need.

rapid-reemployment-feeder-model

Rapid Reemployment, a subset of layoff aversion, meets the talent needs of businesses as a proactive frontend concept with a direct focus on the needs of impacted employees; meeting them where they are in life by assessing skill-sets, identifying training and human need deficits; and, addressing and training to those deficits, ideally, while they are still employed with their current business. This will allow the layoff impacted employee to be positioned or set up to meet the needs of their new or impending business for a successful transition and job marriage prior to the layoff. The ultimate goal is to “prevent dislocation and unemployment,” (Department of Labor, September 2015).

The problem is the concept of Rapid Reemployment is incongruent or misaligned with the current WARN mindset, which exists only for businesses greater than or equal to 100 or more fulltime employees for the following reasons: (1) The WARN model is reactive and supports and substantiates a layoff or dislocation mindset. Therefore, workforce system involvement is normally dependent upon receipt of written notification of an impending mass layoff or closure via a WARN submission from a business. (2) The WARN model espouses exclusivity in connection to the public workforce system; because only 2.2 percent of businesses in Virginia are subject to WARN criteria; leaving businesses with less than 100 fulltime employees (97.8 percent) potentially unaware of benefits available to them, and/or having marginal participation in the complete transition process because of the lack of knowledge. (3) Because of the WARN submission dislocation mindset, most layoff impacted businesses wait close to or until the 60 day window to notify state Rapid Response for workforce connection, assistance, and involvement. Experience has shown that 60 days is not enough time to schedule impacted businesses and employees for Rapid Response events (on-site Manager’s Meeting and the Rapid Response Employee Briefing), to connect, inculcate, and indoctrinate impacted employees into the public workforce system, and to get them trained, retrained, or up-skilled to meet the needs of the current or new business; or, for impacted employees to be matched for employment with a new business. Ideally, the workforce system needs four to six months or greater to effectively accomplish this effort. (4) When submitted, WARN information is available to the media and public domain; this makes businesses hesitant or reticent to get involved and participate early with the public workforce system, because of the lack of confidentiality; and (5), business delayed notification and connection to the public workforce system equals delayed training, which actually contributes to talent skill gaps and deficits.

The Non-WARN Mindset

The successful alternative is for businesses to shift to the Non-WARN mindset. The Non-WARN term and designation is a status for any business reporting closure or reduction-in-force via any means, not required by federal law to submit a WARN (99 or less employees). The Non-WARN mindset provides confidentiality, synergy of action, free space, innovation, and the opportunity to take Rapid Response and Rapid Reemployment to a level of optimum efficiency and complete business inclusivity.

The Non-WARN model is not a new law, federal, or state mandate, policy, process, or procedure; it is strictly voluntary and uniquely beneficial for businesses. The term Non-WARN was created in Rapid Response after insightful experiences with highly visible major plant closures in eastern/southeastern Virginia. The term was used to differentiate in reporting between those businesses that had submitted WARNs available on the state public website and those businesses not meeting WARN criteria and were only locally, confidentially, known by proactive means or confirmed intelligence.

The public workforce system should espouse proactive and impassioned business engagement with a three-pronged holistic or systems approach to promote the Non-WARN mindset via proactive front-end outreach and engagement to make all businesses knowledgeable and aware of services available to them prior to a layoff or expansion to ensure workforce system connection in the future when required. Second, connection to the workforce system via Rapid Response should be demonstrated by seamless, collaborative engagement with a Team-of-Need-Based-Workforce-Partners that should provide quality, confidence, consistency, confidentiality, and trustful partnerships with impacted businesses and those with needs. Third, workforce system engagement of impacted employees should address training deficits, human needs, supportive services, income maintenance and asset protection, and viable, short-turn-around-training, credentials, and career pathways, because for both the business with an expressed unfulfilled talent requirement and the impacted worker without a job, time is a precious commodity.

proactive-system-success

Espousing the Non-WARN concept provides the most accurate picture of what the complete layoff and job loss transition actually looks like; and, it demonstrates the outreach effort required to provide assistance to unaware and unknowledgeable businesses. For example, there were 14 businesses attached to and directly impacted by a WARN announced large business closure; and, of those 14, only three were subject to WARN submission criteria. By including Non-WARN-able ancillary businesses in the model, the actual figure of impacted employees was approximately 3,100 compared to approximately 2,500 employees that met WARN criteria. However, one would never have arrived at these inclusive figures with the traditional exclusive WARN approach and mindset…only three businesses would have been relevant during the major layoff.

proactive-rapid-response-rapid-reemployment-modelSuccess and Win-Win Benefits for Businesses 

For Rapid Reemployment to work and have success will require proactive engagement, involvement, and effort from all businesses. The Non-WARN model and mindset proactively syncs with Rapid Reemployment, which requires public workforce system early involvement by extending the training reach through impassioned engagement, proactive business outreach and awareness, confirmed intelligence, frontend business connection, and layoff protraction, to conduct training and complete certifications with layoff affected businesses and those with impending needs prior to a dislocation.

Success in establishing the Non-WARN mindset with businesses for Rapid Response and Rapid Reemployment to work optimally, all businesses should espouse and promote the Non-WARN mindset; and, the workforce system should expressly target the approximate 5,255 WARN criteria businesses (equal to or greater than 100 fulltime employees) to inform and educate them that they should not wait until 60 days to make contact with state Rapid Response. However, if WARN-able, they can still submit the WARN when approaching the 60 day window. Non-WARN-able businesses can make contact with Rapid Response anytime…the earlier, the better, for both, and have established trust and confidentiality with the public workforce system in all transactions.

Espousing the Non-WARN mindset has significant benefits for businesses in that (1), the mindset and pro-action establishes important frontend relationships, trust, and confidentiality between the business and the relevant partners of the public workforce system. (2) It expeditiously addresses and trains to talent skill gaps prior to dislocation and matches the requirements with the speed and needs of businesses. (3) It saves and protects business and employee assets and retirement by keeping workers employed. (4) It saves businesses from paying severance pay, which actually delays connection to the public workforce system and eventual assessment into training programs, if required. (5) It reduces unemployment rolls; and, (6) it reduces increases in unemployment taxes. Last and most importantly, (7), the Non-WARN mindset ensures inclusivity by diminishing business knowledge deficits and ensuring maximum connection and participation of all need-based businesses and their impacted employees to the public workforce system

With the obvious vacuum that will be created in the workforce by the impending retirement of the baby boomer generation, a direct tactical and strategic focus on espousing and changing the workforce and business human resources narrative to the proactive Non-WARN mindset, discussion, and action is imperative and is an absolute necessity for expediting and advancing training, accomplishing credential attainment, and in filling viable skill gaps in a talent diminished market.

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).