“Have you been in Boston on business?” The standard question came from my friendly Uber driver as we wound our way out of Cambridge toward Logan Airport. The next logical question: “Where are you heading back?”

As it turns out, my driver, Michaelson, had more than a passing interest with his questions. You see, Michaelson and his wife are immigrants from Nigeria and are considering a relocation to a metro area with a strong economy and good prospects for employment and advancement. When I told him I lived in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, he focused a little harder: “And how is the job market there?”

I told Michaelson that the job market is very strong in DFW and that I had just read an article in the Dallas Business Journal talking about how the lack of skilled talent is affecting the region: “To be a world-class business locale, it’s crucial for North Texas to attract the best talent from around the country and the world. But a skills gap exists here and nationwide preventing young adults from landing jobs in growing industries.”

Michaelson’s reaction surprised me. He was very animated as he described the nationwide skills shortage and the fact that it wasn’t always this way. Employees don’t feel that their companies have an interest in providing for their security and growth. Companies used to recruit new graduates from high school and give them the job skills training they needed to be successful. They built employee trust and loyalty by making a commitment to their development. “Why is this not the case any longer, as this type of commitment builds loyalty from the employee, and all stand to benefit?”

Our conversation reminded me of a book I had just finished: “People Over Profit” by Dale Partridge. Partridge is an advocate of conscious capitalism and attributes much of the cynicism and dysfunction in our economy to once-great companies that have abandoned traditional commitments to three critical stakeholder groups: team members, customers and vendors. While Partridge sees a dire situation, he also has hope, as many new economy companies and older players in the market place higher value on their relationships with these traditional stakeholder groups. They are using greater transparency and accountability to build trust and loyalty.

Small and mid-sized businesses, which have such a feeling of immediacy and dependence on team members, customers and vendors, are in a great position to leverage workforce training to improve performance and build loyalty. Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Hire for attitude and aptitude, and when you’ve found the individual you want in your organization, make a commitment to their ongoing development. Let them know they are valued and a crucial component to your success.
  • Democratize the training you provide, giving employees input to the content you offer, as well as a hand in creating it. Then, make it easily accessible on a platform and in a format they want to use.
  • Ensure your training organization is lean but capable. Stay up-to-date on trends that the training industry can leverage but also on factors affecting the business that you need to account for in your training programs.

As Michaelson handed me my luggage when he dropped me off at Logan, I handed him my card and told him to call me if he made his way to DFW. I hope I hear from him. We need people like him.