Employing staff as technical experts, work coaches and mentors is critical to the overall success of Correctional Industry (CI) programs. The civilian workforce must be forward-thinking, have the capability to accomplish the expectations of the organization today, the capacity to grow and develop with an organization to meet the challenges of tomorrow, and the desire to do both.
Strategic workforce planning is the process of defining organizational goals for current and future needs, then planning how to recruit and/or develop a workforce that is capable of implementing and achieving goals.
In order to recruit, retain and develop staff, a well-organized plan that addresses each element should be developed based on the Strategic Plan. In workforce development planning, strategies and goals are clearly defined and the specific functions are outlined. The plan involves defining the work roles needed for each function, including the number of persons needed, and the competencies required.
Correctional Industries are multi-faceted, operating a business model that provides incarcerated individuals with education and training in both technical and soft skills. These skills are essential for a successful transition to the community. CI plays a critical role in the successful reentry of individuals through the context of work.
CI programs operate through a workforce model of civilian staff and incarcerated workers. Working directly with the incarcerated individuals, the civilian workforce is responsible for teaching, coaching and mentoring in an effort to ingrain the newly acquired skills and influence behavioral changes. Successful programs utilize evidence-based training to develop staff skills in problem solving, conflict resolution, active listening, communication and negotiation, which in turn increases workforce engagement, accountability and productivity.
According to research by Audra Bianca, “ What Constitutes the Most Important Part of Employee Development?” employee development is something that managers and human resource professionals give much attention to because employees are an organization’s most critical asset. When viewing employees as capital, organizations will invest money, time and other resources in their development. The return on investment expected is simple: the better employees perform, the greater their contributions to the organization, resulting in a healthier organization.
Employee development inspires workers to be loyal and produce innovative ideas. When employees are given a chance to sharpen their skills and expand what they know, their fresh, new ideas contribute value to the organization. If employees are not challenged, they have few reasons to be creative, imaginative or invest in their work.
Staff should be developed and recognized as assets. A manager should serve as a leader, coach and mentor in order to connect and develop employees. It is vital to develop employees who can teach the skills necessary in order for others to become more effective on the job.
1. Conduct strategic workforce planning
a) Organization Mission/Vision
Prior to workforce planning an organization should evaluate its mission and vision to ensure they accurately represent the purpose of their existence and their future direction. The mission and vision will guide the direction of the workforce at all levels within the organization.
b) Organization Values
The culture of an organization is directly related to its value system. Core values will guide the actions and behaviors that are expected. Once the mission and vision have been reviewed, the values should be evaluated to ensure that they will consistently guide staff to act and make decisions in a manner that supports the organizational culture.
c) Classification System
A job classification system is a structure for objectively and accurately defining and evaluating the duties, responsibilities, tasks and authority level of a position.
Each position should include a thorough description of job responsibilities, including the knowledge, skills, experience and education required to succeed. This system should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure it reflects role clarity, accurate responsibilities and expectations.
2. Identify workforce competencies
CI programs operate as learning organizations, developing staff skill sets to teach both the technical and soft skills to the incarcerated workforce. Training should include identifying and addressing criminogenic risk/needs factors for incarcerated individuals which are associated with maintaining a gainful attachment to the workforce. Operating a CI organization on the premise “you cannot teach what you do not know” will guide the ongoing development of staff to ensure they are role models for both the civilian and incarcerated individuals working in the program. Identifying and developing competencies in the following areas will promote a best-in-class environment:
a) Skill Set Assessments
The competencies of the workforce should be assessed, which may include interests, skills, values and personality. These assessments allow gaps in skill sets to be identified and gauge organizational compatibility. Options for filling the gaps may require reassigning staff to new roles, training, hiring staff with the required competencies and creating new structural opportunities.
b) Technical Skills
When recruiting and hiring, identify the technical skills required for each position. In the case of current staff, technical skills can be obtained through formal educational institutions or certifying organizations.
3. Provide professional development to ensure ongoing staff engagement and succession planning
The objective of professional development is to ensure that well-qualified and motivated employees are prepared to assume critical positions as they become vacant. As leaders, it is necessary to model, coach and support individual development.
CI staff are in a unique position because their role is to help individuals realize that they can change and provide them with the tools necessary to sustain the change. Sustainable change comes through the ability to influence behavior. Ongoing staff development should focus on the following areas:
Influencing changes in behavior
Role modeling behavior
Decision making strategies
Empowering others to innovate and lead
a) Cognitive Behavioral Training (CBT)
Competencies such as problem solving, critical thinking, decision making, managing conflict, written and verbal communication, and active listening are required for effective performance in many positions. Strengthening these skills will enhance the effectiveness of the civilian workforce as they teach, demonstrate and reinforce these competencies with the incarcerated workforce.
The National Institute of Corrections’ “Thinking for a Change” is one CBT program offered to CI staff. Upon completion, staff are qualified to facilitate this training to the incarcerated population.
b) Vocational Education/Apprenticeships
CI programs are enhancing their services by incorporating or collaborating with educational programming, vocational certifications and apprenticeships which tie directly to business operations. These are available through local educational institutions, the U.S. Department of Labor and other local or nationally recognized certifying organizations. Supervisors obtaining educational credentials will bring credibility to the program and act as role models.
c) NIC Employment Series
Evidenced Based Workforce Training Series
The Evidenced BasedWorkforce Training Series - based on evidence-based practices, combines cognitive behavioral interventions with motivational interviewing techniques to address gainful attachment to the workforce and/or job loss. This ‘hand in glove’ approach supports the honest exploration of thoughts, feelings and beliefs affecting employment while addressing quality of life issues. In addition, the series utilizes the Employment Retention Inventory (ERI) - developed as a case management tool, to connect justice-involved adults to appropriate services and support.
This series incorporates a spiral curriculum method where topics and themes repeat in increasing depth to allow mastery of knowledge and skills.
The Evidenced Based Workforce Training Series consist of the following training events:
Employment Retention: Principles and Practice (24-hour Regional Training)
Introduction to motivational interviewing techniques
Introduction to cognitive behavioral interventions
Career theory and assessments
E-Learning Modules (4-hour web-based training)
Employment retention strategies
Employment Retention: Criminal Justice System (40-hour instructor lead)
Continuum of care model
Career theory operationalization
Employment Retention Inventory
Professional Coaching Sessions (2-Hour Quarterly sessions)
d) National Institute of Corrections (NIC) – CI Executive Leadership Training
The NIC has developed a comprehensive leadership development program geared for the emerging leaders in the CI field. The program covers topics such as:
Managing Stakeholder Network
Balancing Internal and External Environments
Assuring Customer Satisfaction
Developing a Workforce of Incarcerated Individuals
Developing Staff Workforce Competencies
Ensuring Financial Self-Sufficiency
Evaluating Organizational Performance
This leadership development program focuses on bringing awareness to the competencies needed for the CI leaders of the future.
4. Integrate coaching as a communication and performance management tool.
Introducing a coaching model into a CI program will enhance the overall communication between CI staff and the incarcerated workforce/population. The premise of ongoing coaching is to gain timely and relevant feedback in order to assist an individual in developing to their full potential. Coaching becomes the model used throughout your CI program and can be used at any level between supervisors and staff members or between staff and incarcerated individuals. Coaching does not supplant a Performance Management System but rather supplements it with informal ongoing communication geared toward identifying both successes and opportunities for improvement. Coaching is a skill set that should be taught and continually reinforced to ensure it is accomplishing the intended result of influencing sustainable change.
5. Implement a performance management system
A performance management system should provide employees with:
A clear understanding of job expectations
Ongoing feedback about performance
Advice and steps for improving performance
Recognition of outstanding performance
The goal of a performance management system is to help improve employee performance and ultimately the productivity of the organization.
Performance management consists of a continuous dialogue between supervisors and their workforce in order to set goals and expectations, monitor progress, provide feedback, develop opportunities for improvement and evaluate progress. Competency-based performance management focuses on assessing and rewarding both how work is done (process) and the goals achieved (outcomes). Staff are aware of the competencies needed to achieve those goals and emphasis is placed on providing ongoing coaching and feedback.
For it to be effective, a performance management system should incorporate the following critical elements:
updated job descriptions
In the CI work environment both staff and incarcerated individuals should receive ongoing feedback through a formal performance management system.
Average Tenure of Employees
Days to Fill Open Position
Employee Engagement Surveys
Performance Evaluation System
Staff Turnover Rate
Bianca, Audra. What Constitutes the Most Important Part of Employee Development? Chron.
Marrelli, A. (2001). Introduction to Competency Modeling. New York: American Express.
Marrelli, A. (2001). How to Implement Performance Improvement Step-by-Step. In M Silberman (Ed.), The consultant’s toolkit: 45 high-impact questionnaires, activities, and how-to guides for diagnosing and solving client problems (pp. 210–218). New York: McGraw-Hill.
Minter, R. L. & Thomas, E. G. (2000). Employee Development through Coaching, Mentoring and Counseling: A Multidimensional Approach. Review of Business, 21(1/2), 43-47. National Institute of Health (NIH) Workplace Planning Instructional Guide
O’Tool, J. & Lawler III, E.E. (2006). The New American Workplace. Palgrave (Society for Human Resource Management), Macmillan.
Simonsen, P. (1997). Promoting a Development Culture in Your Organization: Using Career
Development as a Change Agent. Palo Alto, CA: Davies-Black Publishing.