Vail Valley Partnership CEO: Through employee training, employers can take a strategic view (column) |

Vail Valley Partnership CEO: Through employee training, employers can take a strategic view (column)

Chris Romer
Vail Valley Partnership

We need to play chess, not checkers.

Simply put, it means we need to be strategic, not reactive, in addressing challenges related to growth and community vitality.

The most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows Colorado private sector wage growth increased by 4.4 percent in 2017, compared to the prior year. The combination of low unemployment — 2.7 percent statewide, and lower in Eagle County — and strong wage growth has prompted sidelined workers to re-enter the labor force and find a job.

Through the first half of 2018, the state is on track to add 70,100 jobs this year, a level of job growth that was not anticipated by economists. Colorado job growth has been led by the accommodations and food services; construction; professional, scientific and technical services; and health care sectors.

The Colorado economy should continue to enjoy solid growth into 2019.

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This continued economic growth sounds great on the surface. One train of thought would be that maybe we should just ride the wave and enjoy the good times, and accept the fact that every boom cycle has a corresponding bust cycle. But that would be playing checkers.

Alternatively, we could recognize that continued job growth and economic vitality require addressing some of our fundamental workforce issues. Workforce, at its core, is simply the balance between people (54,974 in Eagle County) and jobs (39,783 in Eagle County). Everything is connected — jobs, population, housing, infrastructure — and we need to plan for resiliency. Strategically planning for resiliency would be an example of playing chess.

Those interested in additional details and statistics can check out the Colorado Economic Review Through June at

So how can we play chess?

One of the creators of Disney University — Doug Lipp — summed it up nicely when he said, “unless we continually strive to improve our products, service and leadership style, we automatically concede defeat to the competition: No one is ever too good to stop improving.”

How do we play chess and continue to improve as a community and as businesses in a time when budgets are tight and staffing challenges exist across most every industry? Or, what can employers do when wages alone aren’t enough to attract top talent?

Consider how you train and invest in your employees.

The “UpSkilling Playbook,” developed by UpSkill America at the Aspen Institute, is a new tool for employers interested in policies and practices to educate, train and develop frontline workers. The playbook highlights examples of employers modeling upskilling strategies and advises on how to implement those practices. Training — upskilling — your workforce to better fit your future needs and develop your future employees is one model.

Organizations such as Skillful offer tools and tips for employers that help businesses reduce recruiting costs and boost retention and engagement using a skills-based model.

Training opportunities exist locally, including the Platinum Service Program. Customer service is a point of distinction and what sets competitive businesses apart. The Platinum Service Program helps businesses establish customer service expectations, set goals and reward outstanding service by providing mystery shopper evaluations to participating businesses.

A focus on employee training can improve business performance, profit and staff morale. Training your staff can result in better customer service, better work safety practices and productivity improvements. It demonstrates to your team that you value them.

Local businesses can play chess by investing in training for their employees.

Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at

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