Too bad there’s no Geiger counter to identify future business leaders.
Wouldn’t it be great to just waltz through job fairs or boardrooms or rows of cubicles waving around this special tool until it beep-beeps in front of the perfect employee?
Instead it’s up to each of us – the department heads, the human resource directors, the line supervisors – to ferret out those people with the strong skills, personal vision and positive attitude to become tomorrow’s leaders.
Talent attraction, retention and training are the currency for most states’ growth, especially in the Midwest, where a rustbelt image has made it challenging to keep homegrown talent in the states of their birth. In Michigan this is critically important, say economic development experts, whose advice can be applied across many regions.
“We are dedicated to attracting leaders in Michigan,” notes Cynthia Richardson, director of Talent Attraction & Resources for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).
The state of Michigan has combined job creation and economic development efforts under one umbrella: the Department of Talent and Economic Development (TED). The collaboration allows the state to leverage its ability to build talent with in-demand skills while helping state businesses grow and thrive.
The department works to ensure that the state can efficiently develop, administer and coordinate Michigan’s economic, housing, and talent development initiatives and programs. Gov. Rick Snyder named Roger Curtis as TED director in November 2016.
But what is good talent and how can you foster it? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that question, especially for entrepreneurs and small business owners who can’t afford to hire someone to handle human resources full-time.
But here are a few suggestions for finding folks with the right stuff:
Be prepared to recruit from within. The first step to attracting major-league talent is to proactively seek out and develop talent within your own ranks. Upward mobility keeps morale high and allows you to hold on to talent.
Take a talent inventory. Even if you’re not currently hiring, there’s no downside to taking a hard look at the strengths and weaknesses of your employees. If you notice that, for example, your marketing department lacks employees with statistical backgrounds, keep that in mind the next time an opening pops up.
Develop a bold, engaging recruitment campaign. Before you can hire the best people, you need to get the best people interested in your company. Consider creating an application that goes where other companies may be too timid to tread. In a era of cookie-cutter, online job applications, dare to be different. Instead of robotically listing job requirements and descriptions, challenge your applicants to expound on their visions for the position. This process will show which applicants are up to the creative challenges that come with thinking on their feet.
Be honest about your company’s work environment. If there’s one surefire way to dampen the excitement of new hires it’s by misleading them during the recruitment process. Don’t overstate – or understate – job duties. But the honesty has to reach beyond the job description: Give them a realistic view of what the company’s inner-network looks like. First impressions are important and you don’t want a new hire feeling duped or blindsided her first few weeks in the office.
Don’t be afraid to give new hires responsibility. The last thing you want to do is squander new talent, so give new employees a sense of purpose.
Review your hiring process. Is your company doing all it can to make sure the application process is relevant? Before embarking on a big hire, have a word with your HR people. What’s worked well in the past? Pick the brains of your superstars to see what kind of talents would add well to the company mix.
Once you have the talent, keep developing it. Getting the best talent in the door is an important first step, but it’s certainly not the last. If you see an opportunity to engage and motivate your staff, then take it. We’re talking seminars, classes or even something as simple as letting them take the lead on a pet project. You want your most talented workers to feel engaged in the company and if you’re not careful to make sure they’re staying active and interested it won’t be long before they’re gone.
“With unemployment so low in Michigan right now, we can’t keep robbing Peter to pay Paul. Companies are just robbing each other for talent,” Richardson says.
If you build it, they will come
If you want to attract and retain talent, it’s important to market your company to your employees. By promoting the things that make your business – and your community – a great choice, you’ll find people who want to stick around a while longer.
Salary is, of course, the primary draw in attracting talent. But more professionals are searching for intangible, quality-of-life perks that make one job stand out over another.
Inside the company, perks or benefits such as commissions, health and retirement benefits, flexible scheduling, telecommuting, personal and professional development and advanced degrees can enhance a workplace culture.
Flexible workplaces with part-time or the availability of flexible hours, often helpful for those with family responsibilities, can result in easier recruitment, higher productivity and greater employee retention, according to human resource experts.
But finding and retaining talented professionals also mean looking outside your company’s four walls.
When attracting potential employees, it’s important to showcase your region’s quality of life, too. A work/life balance filled with cultural amenities and recreational opportunities are a priority for under-30 professionals today.
“How can we get college graduates here in Michigan? They want to know: ‘Is it a walkable city? Is there a good quality of life? Is this a company with corporate social responsibility?’ These are all intangibles that will entice graduates to explore a job here,” Richardson says.
12 essential skills for success
Garth Motschenbacher, director of employer relations and career engagement at Michigan State University’s College of Engineering, said he meets with employers all over the state and nation.
“When employers are looking at our engineering grads, they certainly expect that these students have achieved a certain level of knowledge,” says Motschenbacher. “But they also want to hear about situations when you were a critical thinker and a problem solver.”
The approach is one that should be embraced by all, he adds.
“These are the kinds of things leaders do. It doesn’t matter if you’re fresh out of college or you’re a veteran at your job.”
Although each industry has its own job requirements, Motschenbacher says most companies are looking for workers with these 12 essential skills for success. Although this list was created by MSU’s Career Services Network and is geared toward college graduates, Motschenbacher says these life skills are vital to employees no matter their age or work experience:
1. Working in a Diverse Environment – Learning from people who are different from you – and recognizing your commonalities – is an important part of your education and essential preparation for the world you will join.
2. Managing Time and Priorities – Managing how you spend your time, and on what, is essential in today’s world. Learn how to sort priorities so you stay in control of your life.
3. Contributing to a Team – In the workplace, each person’s contribution is essential to success. Having the ability to work collaboratively with others is vital. This includes identifying individual strengths (yours and others) and harnessing them for the group, building consensus, knowing when to lead and when to follow and appreciating group dynamics.
4. Navigating Across Boundaries – Life is filled with boundaries – good and bad. Discover how to avoid the boundaries that become barriers so you don’t hamper the ability to collaborate with other people.
5. Acquiring Knowledge – Learning how to learn is just as important as the knowledge itself. No matter what your future holds, you’ll continue to learn every day of your life.
6. Thinking Critically – Developing solid critical thinking skills means you’ll be confident to handle autonomy, make sound decisions, and find the connection between opportunities you have to learn and how those opportunities will affect your future.
7. Performing with Integrity – It only takes one bad instance to destroy years of good faith and good relationships. It’s important to develop a code of ethics and principles to guide your life.
8. Developing Professional Competencies – The end of college is the beginning of a new education. Build on what you already know and keep learning new skills – your job will challenge you to grow and develop in ways you haven’t imagined yet.
9. Communicating Effectively – Developing listening, interpreting, and speaking skills is just as important as reading and writing.
10. Solving Problems – You may only have thought about problem solving when you’re faced with a crisis. Understand the process and mindset of successful problem-solving and you’ll more easily handle the bigger challenges that come your way.
11. Balancing Work and Life – You’ve got a lot to accomplish in limited time. How do you get it all done and still stay sane? The key is maintaining balance among the different parts of your life.
12. Embracing Change – Just about every aspect of life is in a constant state of change. Sometimes it may seem that no sooner do you get caught up than you have to start all over again. No matter how you feel about change, you have to learn to deal with it.
In search of future leaders
Richardson says the state collaborates with business leaders in Michigan to seek out talented workers and make them aware of all the good-paying jobs here.
Again this year, for example, the MEDC will attend two Service Academy Career Conferences with companies such as Quicken Loans, Consumers Energy, General Motors and Kellogg’s to recruit military veterans to work here.
“These are highly talented, officer-level job candidates who have a vast amount of knowledge and experience,” says Richardson. “They’ve served their country and now are looking to begin the second act of their lives. These are future leaders.”
Businesses and agencies from the Great Lakes State set up booths on “Michigan Row” and tout the benefits of working and living here.
Typical candidates at the May 11-12 job fair in Washington D.C., will have backgrounds including engineering, logistics, quality management, operations and information technology. They come from all branches of the military.
“Michigan has to work a little harder to attract veterans because we no longer have any active military bases here. We do, however, have five National Guard bases,” notes Richardson.
Another example of job recruitment efforts is the MEDC working with Ann Arbor SPARK and Michigan technology companies to attend Design Expo 2017 on April 13 at Michigan Tech University. More than 600 students will showcase the vast array of learning and research taking place at the Houghton, Mich., campus.
“This gives students a chance to show employers what they’re capable of doing and it gives employers a great first view of potential leadership and talent,” Richardson adds.
“This is just one way we’re bringing employers closer to future leaders.”
Michigan’s talent resources
Michigan has many resources available to employers in need of attracting and training top talent, with Pure Michigan Talent Connect being the state’s top talent exchange system.
The Michigan Global Talent Retention Initiative (MGTRI) focuses on retaining international students in Southeast Michigan to help employers fill unmet talent needs.
GTRI is a program of Global Detroit and includes the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University, UM-Dearborn, Eastern Michigan University, Lawrence Tech and Oakland University, as well as several regional economic development and business partners, including the Detroit Regional Chamber.
A recent GTRI report showed that 40 to 70 percent of all graduate students in the United States studying in STEM-related fields are international students.
“We know that utilizing international students rather than allowing positions to go unfilled helps companies compete and grow. And while our region is leading the nation in helping employers to consider international talent for hard-to-fill positions, more needs to be done,” says Sandy K. Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber.
Richardson says Michigan is rising to the challenge of filling the skills gap by recruiting and retaining talented workers.
“It’s a very exciting, positive time in Michigan right now.”