Filling the job openings: Employer–employee communication is vital for vibrant organization

Employers cannot always get what they want, but if they try providing the proper leadership, they might just get what they need.

“Organizations and teams that excel view planning and enhancing the several dimensions of their communication as crucial. … (Both) within and up and down the organization, with clientele and stakeholders of the organization (valuing) a diversity of knowledge, skills, and experiences enriches the lives of organization participants,” Leholm and Vlasin (Increasing the Odds for High-Performance Teams: Lessons Learned, 2006)

My 45 years of business experience has made it abundantly clear that organizations that offer pride and hope to employees both attract and retain productive workers. Having served on a Michigan Works Board (workforce development board) from 1999 to 2006 during the low-unemployment era, I recall discussion centering on where the workers would come from to enable further economic growth. How we could entice older workers, or those early retirees to re-enter the work force?

Peter Cappelli of The Wharton School of business at The University of Pennsylvania, recently blogged, “By the mid-2000s, many big employers and even some government agencies were preparing for the Great Labor Shortage to set in by 2010. Now: The economy…as they say is facing a skills gap.”

He asks, rather, if the real issue is employers’ expectations of skills, training and pay being expressed as “the skills gap”, and being lumped into overall hiring, rather than new workers without work history. Yet, most applicants have work histories. In fact, student achievement has been better compared to previous generations. Cappelli notes that business majors outnumber liberal arts majors at the rate of graduation by seven to one. Moreover, since 2001, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees have increased at a rate equal to or greater than the overall increase in bachelor degrees being awarded.

He cites a study from the Chronicle of Higher Education, that only twenty percent of employers consider an applicants’ academic experience an important priority. Interestingly enough, it was revealed that in 1979, young workers got an average of 2.5 weeks of on-the-job training a year. Sixteen years later, 1995 it was down to 11 hours per year, and focused primarily on workplace safety. By 2011, an Accenture study showed that only about a fifth of employees reported getting (any) on-the-job training from their employers over the past five years!

In a LinkedIn Post, Derek Gillette asked, “Where Have All the True Leaders Gone?” He stated, “People perish not for a lack of discipline, but for a lack of vision.” And, moreover, leadership is not about creating more (organizational) structure, rules or methods of enforcement, but, rather, it is about showing (employees) a significance and purposeful future that will lead to them being motivated to make better right-now choices.

“So what does that potential looks like?” he asks, “How much time is worth investing before the investment becomes too costly?” A recent Gallup poll showed that 70 percent of U.S. workers are not engaged with their jobs or their own potential for a bright future. If they are not benefiting from a leader, who will spend time investing into their potential?

Most importantly, it is a belief in a bright future that keeps us going. Pride in the product we produce, or in service we provide along with hope that the future will be better. Gillette proposes there is a need for the true leaders to invest the time it takes to see employees’ potential.

Cappelli indicates that today, many companies are hiring from the outside rather than growing their own talent. This, unfortunately, leads to declining tenure. A quick fix by hiring solely on ability to do a job is at the expense of future employee potential.

While schools cannot provide work-based skills and experience, he suggests, “Instead, employers need to be much more involved, in providing opportunities for new grads to get work experience. We need a different approach: one where employers are not just consumers of skills, but are part of the system for producing them.”

Leadership is evidenced in sharing the vision with employees and encouraging methods to accomplish the goals. Every business plan should (at a minimum) provide management with clear objectives. It is the employer’s responsibility to utilize the resources, including labor, to be successful.

Michigan State University Extension educators working with the MSU Product Center provide business counseling and help to guide business planning for clients.

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