Why is Stephen Strasburg, the pitcher picked first by the Washington Nationals in Major League Baseball’s 2009 draft, getting so much media attention? My guess is that, besides being impressed with his fastball and contract, the baseball world is fascinated because of his potential to jump to the Nationals after just a couple of months in the minors.
Did Strasburg need seasoning in the minors? Between 1965 and 2000, only 20 players drafted by MLB teams went straight to the majors. Baseball teams usually count on what the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence (in Category 5, Workforce Focus) call the “learning and development system”--the minor leagues--to develop players’ skills and address the major league team’s core competencies, such as pitching strategy, situational hitting, and baserunning. Officially, Strasburg was sent to the minors "for the benefit of [his] development," said Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo. “We have to do what's best for the player and for the organization, long-term.”
Like baseball teams, Baldrige Award recipient ARDEC has to develop its workforce to succeed, as its application summary explains. The engineers and scientists ARDEC needs to support its core competencies--armaments expertise, innovation, and engineering management--often aren’t available from academia or private industry. ARDEC “grows” these in its workforce: “Our workforce learning and development system balances the needs and desires of employees with the core competencies.” ARDEC’s approach to strategic workforce planning was recently described in a case study by the American Productivity & Quality Center.
ARDEC’s annual investment in training was about $2,000 per employee when it received the Baldrige Award. Annual training hours per employee were about 70. Both were higher than the American Society for Training and Development’s best-in-class benchmark.
Most of this training is handled in-house by ARDEC’s own experts—in the classroom, on the job, via the Web, and with mentoring and coaching. A bonus is that this training transfers knowledge to the next generation of scientists and engineers. For new hires, ARDEC’s program mixes study with on-the-job training. The results?
The clear message: like baseball teams, ARDEC doesn’t expect to hire fully developed employees. Instead, it invests in workforce development, and that investment pays off.