Workforce. Workforce. Workforce.


A common theme from our Business Connections visits this past year – as well as most any conference we’ve attended or article we’ve read – is workforce.  While it’s exciting that the state’s unemployment rates are so low (2% regionally!), it’s also worrisome and leaves many organizations wondering where they’re going to find good employees for their team.  Fortunately, Manufacturing Business Technology magazine has some tips for you to stay ahead of labor challenges in 2018 (and its good advice for EVERYBODY – not just manufacturers!).  When you have time, you can check out the entire article here.  For now, here are a few take-aways and my own personal thoughts:

  1. Get proactive on hiring skilled talent:  There’s no denying there’s a talent shortage for skilled positions and chances are your hiring needs are very similar to others in your neighborhood.  While you may not be in direct competition product wise, you are competing in terms of attracting and retaining employees.  Get creative.  Be flexible.  Think outside the box.  Do you offer summer internships to college students?  Are you able to have an apprenticeship program?  Those are two great ways to create your own pipeline for a talent pool.  Home Base Iowa is also a great resource to connect you to skilled veterans transitioning to the workforce. Consider contracting workers for a project or providing flexible schedules for skilled baby boomers who are ready to slow down, but not looking to retire completely.
  2. Gain alignment between hiring managers and HR: Are you hands-on during the hiring process, or is someone else screening potential employees before you ever see their resume or have a conversation?  I know it takes valuable time and energy to sort through resumes and visit with each candidate, but a “gatekeeper” sometimes does their job a little too well – what might appear one way on paper can come off totally different in person.  If it’s a critical position, get involved in the hiring process from the start.  Pick up the phone and have a conversation, even if the candidate appears a little green or rough around the edges.
  3. Hire quality.  Train skills:  I know of a few companies in our region that do this and they do it well.  If you find a good person, hire them, then figure out where they fit in the organization.  Start them in a general position, let them get a feel for the company, rotate through departments to “job shadow” over a six week period, then assess where they belong.  Maybe they were originally interested in assembly, but through rotation realized they enjoyed painting or welding even more.  Hire someone who is coachable and they’ll excel.  Also make sure you’re developing good leaders who can mentor new hires.
  4. Leverage the new “stuff”:  There are several types of assessment tools that can be useful during the hiring process to get a good read on personality, emotional intelligence, cognitive thinking, and aptitude – but don’t rely solely on the results.  Also don’t forget to call references, sometimes it’s amazing what they have to say!  Be sure to utilize everything in your toolbox, and your gut instinct, when making hiring decisions.

Another way to help address labor issues is by joining hands with other employers to make sure your community is a viable place to live, work, and play.  While workforce will likely be a hot topic for years to come, being proactive and making use of available resources can help you get the right people on your team. 


Always remember, you’re not the only one struggling; it is a common issue across the board - throughout our region, across the state, and nationwide!  

Stacie Euken, Economic Development Coordinator

Midwest Partnership EDC

Workforce workforce issues workforce developmemt

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