While I was sending out my Christmas cards this year, I realized that I have seven adult nieces and nephews that grew up in Michigan. This wasn’t the surprise. What was a surprise is that of them, five have moved out of state and two have remained. I don’t think that this is an unusual situation. When I talk to my friends and neighbors with adult kids, one of the inevitable questions is “Where do they live now?”
So why don’t we have the employees we need in Michigan? Here are some of the reasons:
– More people are able to retire. The recent record stock market levels have allowed some baby boomers who have held off retiring to now take that step. At the same time, the economy has been adding jobs faster than young people are entering the workforce.
– New graduates are leaving the state. We completed a project last spring where we evaluated the labor market for a client. The results were pretty disturbing. For example, of the 279 graduates from MSU’s 2013 Supply Chain Management program, only 37 reported that they had accepted jobs in Michigan. The remainder were headed out of state.
– Current employees are leaving the state: Allied Van Lines has labeled Michigan a “High Outbound State” based on the number of families they have relocated out of the state in 2014. These aren’t new college graduates hiring a moving company, these are experienced employees moving away.
– Michigan jobs don’t match the skills of our workforce. There’s currently a mismatch between the skills of candidates and open positions. We need more engineers and skilled trade employees, but those aren’t the fields people are choosing.
– Michigan’s weather isn’t a draw. Last year we had to contend with the polar vortex. This year started with the Battle Creek/Kalamazoo area in the national news over a 200 car pile-up on I-94. Whenever our region makes the national news in a bad way, it hurts recruiting.
– Manufacturing jobs still aren’t viewed as desirable. Michigan has a strong manufacturing based economy and our recent economic growth has been supported heavily by the resurgence of the automotive industry. However, until parents are comfortable recommending a career in manufacturing to their kids, filling these jobs is going to continue to be a challenge. Manufacturing environments have improved dramatically, but their reputation still has a ways to go.
Frankly, I’d like nothing better than to have my nieces and nephews move back to Michigan, but since I’m not willing to squeeze them all into my house, we’re going to have to encourage them to come back with good jobs and great communities, not Tami’s cooking. Here are some things that employers can do to help:
– Be an employer of choice. This includes creating a positive environment where employees have the ability to learn new things, be challenged in their work, and be recognized for their accomplishments. Applicants have their choice of companies, make them want yours.
– Pay competitive wages. Compensation does matter. People want to live comfortably and snow blowers are expensive.
– Be inclusive. Young educated professionals expect people to be treated the same. Michigan’s recent designation as the fifth worst state in the nation for LGB citizens by Rolling Stone Magazine certainly doesn’t help us attract top talent. Encourage your elected officials to provide equal rights to everyone.
– Work on improving our communities. Millennials and skilled professionals want to work and live in places with vibrant downtowns, public transportation, and outdoor activities. What does your community offer them?
– Provide training. There are new programs which have increased funding and support of skilled trades programs at community colleges, including the implementation of a “13th year” program for high school. Let’s get more young people into these programs.
– Hire and develop great leaders. Nothing drives employee engagement more than having great leaders who care about their people and embody the culture you for your organization. If you have leaders who have been allowed to fly under the radar with either toxic or self-fulfilling agendas, you will not succeed and your high performers are at risk of leaving.
As a lifelong Michigander, I know what an amazing state this is. We have strong communities, great people, beautiful beaches, and an occasional warm day to enjoy them. I’d like nothing more than to share it with my nieces and nephews. And maybe have them shovel for me…