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Strategic communication is essential to recruit, retain, engage talent

Co-authored by Karin Bonev

We expect to see or hear the headline at least once a week. It’s the headline that laments the loss of manufacturing jobs in the Midwest and links the region’s economic challenges to a loss of middle class opportunity.

These stories ring true in hundreds of communities and tell a story of the past.

But the conversation that focuses on the future of manufacturing and the Midwest economy examines issues such as job training, talent recruitment and innovation. It examines the value of apprenticeships, corporate-college partnerships, research and development and foreign investment. At its most basic, this is a conversation about the competition to attract and retain talented workers.

Many of the manufacturing executives from across the Midwest and the nation that we interact with speak of the challenge to attract and retain talent. The most successful are innovative in their approach, relentless in their efforts and communicate internally and externally at every opportunity. To these leaders, communicating their internship programs, their recruitment strategies, their internal opportunities and their pride in their companies is as vital as closing the next sale.

In an excellent article, “Iowa’s Employment Problem: Too Many Jobs, Not Enough People,” Eric Morath of The Wall Street Journal explains how intense and necessary the fight for talent is across the country, but particularly in Iowa and the Midwest.

“If every unemployed person in the Midwest was placed into an open job, there would still be more than 180,000 unfilled positions, according to the most recent Labor Department data. The 12-state region is the only area of the country where job openings outnumber out-of-work job seekers,” Morath wrote.

It’s a statement that should concern any major employer.

Too often, organizations tracking the tight national and regional labor markets (the national unemployment rate was 4.1 percent in March) overcompensate with aggressive external recruitment and communications while overlooking the need to bolster retention efforts.

In his recent Forbes.com column, "Why Retention Will Be The Biggest Talent Challenge Of 2017," contributor Lars Schmidt wrote, “an over-emphasis on talent attraction and hiring without equal emphasis on development and retention will create problems for companies.”

Clearly, this is not a situation easily solved. It will be with the us for some time to come, particularly as signs increase of an economic resurgence in this part of the country.

Last August, David wrote a blog post that suggested ways organizations can tell their story in the mainstream media to attract talent.

In the next several months, we will describe how organizations can lay the groundwork for and then implement both internal and external communications to meet the ongoing challenges of talent recruitment, retention and engagement.

Where to start? It’s essential your organization can articulate its unique employer brand and how recruitment and retention efforts support it. Consider how easily you can answer these questions:   

  • Is your employer well defined and understood throughout the organization? Could your CEO, your office assistant and plant floor employees provide a similar description of your employer brand?
  • Does your employer brand differentiate you from other organizations?
  • Do your HR, recruiting, branding and communications teams coordinate communications with potential and current employees to recruit, retain and engage?
  • Which employee groups (i.e.: IT, manufacturing, engineering) will be important in supporting the long-term growth of your organization, and does your employer brand resonate with them?
  • Do your organization’s talent recruitment strategies involve partnerships, and are those explained internally as well as externally?
  • Is your communications portfolio of video, text and images well balanced and reflective of your organization’s employer brand? Are employees engaged with the internal conversation of your organization?

If you are pleased with the answers, you are likely effectively supporting your talent retention and recruitment efforts. If addressing these is a struggle, consider stepping back before trying to implement communications in support of talent management efforts. 

Do you consider other questions and issues when contemplating your employer brand communications strategy? Please send them along. We look forward to discussing them with you.

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