Editorial

Heeding rankings will help sustain West Michigan business achievements

April 29, 2016
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Grand Rapids Business Journal notes this week the number of West Michigan companies that have attained rank in the Michigan Business and Professional Association’s 2016 Best & Brightest Companies to Work For, an honor especially for its rigorous evaluation in 15 categories with 30 pages of documentation.

The integrity of the process (which includes not just CEOs and C-suite staff but also confidential information from employees) is guarded and reviewed by the Illinois Institute of Technology and Center for Research and Development.

That process also revealed overall weakness among West Michigan businesses as a whole.

In full disclosure, the Business Journal acknowledges its participation on the MBPA West Michigan board, a perch from which the process is observed.

More than 1,000 companies competed for the Best and Brightest accolades, each completing the grueling documentation. That, too, is noteworthy, especially in West Michigan where privacy is prized among the many privately held businesses.

What is compelling here is the comparisons that can be made: West Michigan to Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, Milwaukee, Dallas, San Francisco, San Diego and Boston. It may be no surprise that West Michigan companies scored “significantly above” the national benchmark in community initiatives and right at the national benchmark for work-life balance. The latter certainly provides recruiters with bragging rights for the region against all others in the country.

Association president Jennifer Kluge noted: “This is a testament to the advantage of West Michigan as a tight-knit community. It shows employers’ commitment to the community and working together to ensure West Michigan is a destination for top talent. … West Michigan is truly competitive in these areas.”

Of concern is the West Michigan ranking of “slightly below” the national averages for employee education and development, and diversity and inclusion, employee recognition, selection and orientation.

Kluge explains that West Michigan’s “strong work ethic” is valuable but suggests the West Michigan region would find greater business success in spending time on training leaders and supervisors.

That was also an observation made by judges evaluating 138 nominees earlier this year for Grand Rapids Business Journal’s 50 Most influential Women in West Michigan.

Consensus among the judges from Lansing, Ann Arbor and Detroit was that West Michigan is home to “a lot of do-ers and uber volunteers, but far fewer leaders and innovators.”

As businesses in West Michigan continue to compete with other U.S. regions, it is especially important to see leadership training and employee engagement as a part of the succession plans.

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