There just aren’t enough qualified candidates,” is an all-too-common refrain in today’s talent market, causing frustrated hiring managers to turn to recruiters more and more. However, “take a number,” is also increasingly as common to hear, as recruiters are barraged with client orders piling up and jobs going unfilled. Labor shortages are in full swing, inflation is on the rise and people quitting jobs at record rates.

Businesses trying to keep up with the accelerating economic recovery are facing all kinds of hiring problems, and training and development just might be the answer: Companies willing to invest in talent development can generate a lasting win-win for both themselves and their people.

Speaking with Millennials and Generation Zers, you’ll hear common story — that getting a college degree and then landing a full-time job in their career field is not quite working out to plan. Those lucky enough to be in the most demanding industries may be faring alright, but higher education is failing to provide the job-readiness that professional development programs offer.

The demand for corporate training and development is high, as it can equip people with the skills they need to succeed in their roles.

I’ll speak from my experience building a consultancy. At first, we faced a very serious challenge of wanting to be the “best in the world” at deploying a brand-new technology from Microsoft. However, there simply were not enough people in the world that understood the underpinnings of the technology. This forced us to create the kind of corporate training program of yesteryear, only as a bootstrapped startup — translation: It had to be ultra-lean.

Here’s what we learned from creating a bootcamp that ultimately benefited everyone involved. It starts and ends with four simple steps:

  1. Build a True Boot Camp

Training bootcamps are for the motivated and those looking for someone to invest in them. For our consultancy, we developed a literal two-week bootcamp. We produced PowerPoints, labs and had instructor-led training (ILT) for every step of it. Like a true bootcamp, you have to assume your learners are beginners — everyone is equal, if you all start at zero. Cover the basics; cover the fundamentals, and cover the “why” and “how” of the skills and competencies you’re teaching, not just the “what.” Memorizing a bunch of facts won’t create lasting growth or new leaders. Teach your learners how things work and why you do them a certain way so they can make their own judgements and come up with new ideas in the future.

Most importantly, establish a culture of support (see tip No. 3) early and often. There are no “stupid questions,” as long as you learn from the answer. It’s ok, and it’s expected to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”

 2. Embed

After the bootcamp, get people on projects and into the fire. As soon as it is safe and practical, get your learners doing real-world work. Real-world experience is important, because without the risk of consequence, the skills learned in the bootcamp will quickly be forgotten. Pair your learners with mentors and embed them in teams that exhibit your culture of support.

Encourage your learners to be visible when they succeed and ensure that they are known outside of their project team. Visibility breeds future opportunity and upward mobility for all.

 3. Develop a Culture of Support

Talent development is everyone’s responsibility. Encourage team members to ask questions, bring up new ideas and debate existing approaches. Take the time to explain the “why” and the reasons behind a decision. By not exposing your learners to the real factors behind decisions you shield them from growth. This in turn breaks the spirit of individuals who might have otherwise had grown faster through that exposure.

 4. Promote From Within

Why should people work hard and put in the work for steps one, two and three, if there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? Encourage everyone to be visible beyond their team, and to share their successes. Learners who value a culture of support and growth won’t consider this bragging. In fact, if done right, it’s actually inspiring. It inspires others to new heights and helps the visible get promoted and not passed over for new opportunities. For this investment to work, companies must be committed to promoting from within.

This might appear to be a classic ‘”chicken and egg” problem, but it doesn’t have to be. If businesses are willing to move first by building and investing in lean training programs that reward graduates and other raw talent with a culture of support and growth, everyone can win. People forced to pivot their careers will appreciate and reward companies that are willing to invest in their professional development.