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COIN 2015 and Workforce Challenges

We keep thinking and talking about the COIN Summit and the topics addressed in this year's COIN Talent Report because the focus on finding and hiring great talent is so extremely relevant to growing companies in today's economy. The COIN Report did a fantastic job in laying out some of the current workforce challenges that need to be addressed by companies hoping to hire and retain the best. Our own CEO, Kathleen Quinn Votaw, helped articulate some of these challenges, drawing on her experience helping mid-size businesses find and keep great people.


Workforce Challenges

These are all challenges that companies need to acknowledge and respond to in order to successfully hire and retain fantastic talent. The COIN Report talks about these challenges as they specifically relate to Colorado, but these eight issues below are also pertinent to businesses across the country.

  • Rising Tuition Costs and Student Debt. These things obviously go hand-in-hand, but they can have different consequences when it comes to the decisions that are being made by potential employees. Rising tuition costs often mean that parents are helping students pay for their higher education, and this in turn means parents have more of a say in what careers their children choose. For those who don't have parents footing the bill, high student debt loads (55% of  Colorado students graduate with debt--and average debt load is $24, 520) also impact their career choices. So while they might want to pursue a very innovative and entrepreneurial field, there is a lot of pressure to choose a job with a steady income stream. Companies should acknowledge and address these various pressures.
  • Mandatory College Degrees. Despite the expense of college tuition and the problems associated with student debt, many employers demand a college degree even for entry-level jobs. The COIN Report suggests that companies rethink this policy in order to attract a wider variety of candidates. Employers might actually find that this results in lower turnover in certain positions, because hiring overqualified candidates means losing them once they find something that is a better match for their skill set.
  • Balancing Technology with Face-to-Face Interaction. Constantly changing technology puts pressure on employees to keep up or become irrelevant, but sometimes emphasizing technological expertise can come at the cost of losing employees with other valuable skills. At the end of the day, being able to work with other people (even if it's sometimes done remotely) is a valuable skill that should be fostered by companies.
  • Increased Emphasis on Customer Service. A negative review on Yelp or Google can really torpedo a company (especially medium-sized companies). Though training for customer service is a big investment, equipping new hires and current employees to adhere to high customer service standards will ultimately lead to happier employees and customers.
  • More Fluid Career Paths. Many employees today don't want the kind of steady, long-term career path that characterized the working experience of previous generations. Companies need to respond to this desire by offering lateral moves within the company, specialized training, and flexible staffing models.
  • Changing Generational Demographics. One of the big challenges in the current workforce is that Baby Boomers are beginning to retire in droves, greatly changing workplace dynamics. In January 2015, Millennials became the largest share of the U.S. workforce. Companies need to work hard to balance the demands and preferences of the different generations and also find ways that they can work together and share expertise. As Kathleen observes in the COIN Report, “There is a true grit that you get only through doing the work, and we need to enable communication between the seasoned and newer employees.”
  • Demand for Flexibility. Many employees want a flexible schedule, whether to accommodate childcare limitations, to avoid a wicked commute, or to otherwise balance work and life. Companies that can offer telecommuting and other flexible work options will therefore have a better chance of retaining talent.
  • Passion and Cultural Fit. As we discussed over the last few weeks, a match between company culture and employee values and expectations is absolutely essential. Employees now have higher expectations about finding passion in their work, so creating a transparent recruitment strategy helps companies find the people who will be able to achieve that in their specific culture. Employers and employees alike are seeking that cultural fit because, as Kathleen shared in the COIN Report, “If you hire someone for the right skills but they’re not a fit with the culture, they’ll fail every time.” There are many challenges in the current workforce, but we think the eight above are ones every company should be consider when developing a recruitment strategy. Since companies often have a hard time matching up their desire to find the right talent with the ability to translate that into hiring practices, outsourcing to TalenTrust can be a fantastic option. We'll talk more next week about what outsourcing your strategy for recruitment, retention and engagement might look like and how it could help solve the people puzzle at your company.
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