The talent wars Substitute action for PR gimmicks

June 25, 2011
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It is a quandary, and one that gravely threatens the economic stability of this region and the state. A new study released last week by the Michigan Colleges Foundation, a consortium of 14 independent colleges and universities in Michigan, determined just 11 percent of all students polled believe that Michigan businesses offer broad enough job opportunities for them to stay and work in this state as graduates. Hope, Aquinas and Calvin are a part of the consortium. Van Andel Institute Millennial Board members were included in the survey. The students viewed earning opportunities, broad job opportunities and quality of life infrastructure including affordable housing, easy commutes and access to parks and bike and hiking trails.

The students were asked to evaluate the three metropolitan areas of the state: Grand Rapids, Lansing and Detroit. Of those, students felt most positive about Grand Rapids. The study notes that keeping talent in Michigan “will depend upon the ability of businesses and learning institutions to partner together to promote to these students the specific quality of life amenities” cited.

The Quaeris program, established by more than 30 regional businesses including Amway, Steelcase, Meijer and Herman Miller, is dedicated to providing support for the Millennial generation, last week hosting a conference featuring the mayors of Grand Rapids, Holland and Norton Shores to determine their thoughts on how to make the region more attractive for their retention.

In the same week, however, Holland City Council voted to deny a request to add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to its anti-discrimination policies. Holland employers, including Herman Miller, made the request based on their concerns in research of Millennials who in general do not harbor such biases — but are biased by the communities that do. Members of the Holland business community are reportedly very concerned about the “pending” talent war, though the Business Journal notes it has arrived.

Early in June, national media reported on UBS regretting its move to suburban Connecticut and its continuing consideration of moving back to Manhattan because the company has not been able to attract talent to its new location. As noted by policy wonk and Michigan Future Inc. President Lou Glazer, the same issue exists for companies like Google. We can add Herman Miller and their business counterparts.

Glazer commends New York City Mayor David Bloomberg for helping maintain a city open to the creative class despite the fact that New York’s tax rates are among the highest in the country. Glazer wrote in his blog last week: “The leadership of companies like Google and UBS aren’t stupid and they are certainly profit maximizers. They don’t seek out high-cost places to locate their operations. But they know that talent trumps low (business) costs, because it is the skills of their employees that determine their success and ultimately profitability.”

Even another region-focused lip dub cannot put out the fires that consume talent attraction opportunities.

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