Chad T. Ahern
Vermont's Labor Pains
In this past Saturday's Burlington Free Press Art Woolf had a wonderful piece contemplating the future of Vermont's labor force. In it, he points out that Vermont's employers are going to be (or are) facing some serious problems filling open positions at all organizational levels and across for-profit, governmental, educational, and for-purpose/non-profit organizations.
While I commend Art for starting the conversation, I don't think he went far enough.
Rainer Strack's 2014 TED Talk takes Art's thoughts a few steps further. In Mr. Strack's talk, he highlights the coming challenge won't be centered on finding high-quality talent, but an outright "war for talent". Companies, governments, and organizations will need to compete to simply find enough warm bodies to fill the necessary positions to get required work done. This challenge gets far worse if you focus on highly-skilled, talented professionals.
Here is the scary part for Vermont...this will play out on an international level.
So what can a small state like Vermont do?
As Mr. Strack points out (at about the 10:00 minute mark) that out of 26 possible work factors, four of them are most likely to help you find or keep your employees over the long-run. Interestingly these focus on the person, not on their skill-sets.
#4 - Having a great relationship with the boss
#3 - Enjoying a great work-life balance
#2 - Having a great relationship with colleagues
#1 - and the top priority worldwide is being appreciated for your work [and recognition]...[n]ot only once a year with the annual bonus payment, but every day.
Mr. Strack also points out that to succeed in this new labor market, we must develop a "people strategy" and we must rethink our attitudes that people are vibrant, resources and assets, and not just head counts.
Vermont already has a reputation for being a welcoming state where we focus on people. Democracy plays out at a local, personal level. For the most part, most businesses in the state would be considered small.
Vermont's small, personal nature should make it easier for us as a state to start transitioning from an HR environment that focuses on benefits, head counts, and legal matters to an approach that is far more holistic. We, of course, can't abandon the legal side of HR, but we can do more to attract talent (especially top-talent) from elsewhere by developing practices that celebrate the wholeness of the people who come to work in our Vermont workplaces.
This is how we will solve Vermont's talent shortage.