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Jan 30, 201811:56 AMMaking Madison

with Buckley Brinkman

Can we really transform Wisconsin?

(page 1 of 2)

I’m frustrated.

Wisconsin faces an economic transformation with many promising opportunities. Still, many of our business leaders remain locked in on outdated workforce approaches that fail to recognize the changes taking place. We are on the threshold of the most significant transformation our generation has seen, but moving much too slowly to take advantage of it.

We have an opportunity to improve our state in a way we will never see again, pushed by a body gap that will force all organizations to change or disappear. We’re stuck using historical approaches in a transformational environment. The path to create a bright future is wide and clear, but we’re missing it because we insist on taking the path through the old-growth woods.

The numbers show us that every organization will struggle to find workers for the foreseeable future. Manpower Group projects that the Wisconsin workforce will grow by only 0.4% between now and 2040. That’s a net increase of just 15,000 workers during that time (after accounting for 76,000 retirements every year). You can see the front edge of the body gap with the state’s unemployment rate at 2.7%. Only one county (out of 72) is above 5% unemployment and only six are above 4%. In fact, 47 counties are below 3%. By anyone’s definition, we are at full employment.

This has huge implications for future growth, as the mathematical formula is very simple: Workforce growth + productivity growth = economic growth. Productivity growth requires change and investment — a time consuming process. Full employment means that almost all the traditional workers are engaged. In this situation, it’s in all our best interests to engage nontraditional workers, as every organization’s growth depends on finding a reliable source of new talent.

Conventional approaches are not enough in this environment. In order to thrive, your organization needs a transformational narrative about three facets of your talent strategy. The first facet is branding your organization and having a good story to tell about why someone should work for your company. Second, you must understand how to engage the three Ts — talent, technology, and techniques. Finally, you must understand how to tap into nontraditional labor forces. Narratives are key for future growth and these stories must be fresh, not reruns.

Branding narratives mean telling a distinctive story about why talented people should work for your organization. It starts with a clear explanation about your business and business philosophy, and how employees fit into your vision. This first step is where most companies stop, yet it’s not nearly enough. Two more elements complete the picture. First, show employees how they can make a real difference both inside and outside your organization. Second, provide opportunities for employees to reach their full potential. These three elements must form a distinctive narrative, not some “mom and apple pie” pabulum. Do it right and you are positioned to secure an unfair share of the best talent.

The future also depends on engaging all of the three Ts. The body gap makes it critical to develop an integrated approach to these elements. Engage your talent. Remember the narrative. Find the technology that fits your future. It should create the foundation to fulfill your comprehensive narrative. Finally, use talent and technology with new techniques to maximum advantage. Please don’t repave the cow path. Use this combination to transform your operation.


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About This Blog

Buckley Brinkman is executive director and CEO of the Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing & Productivity and writes about the manufacturing sector in Greater Madison and throughout Wisconsin. He has a breadth of experience in helping companies drive growth, world-class competitiveness, and performance excellence, and has led efforts to save dozens of operations in the U.S. by finding new ways for them to compete. A Wisconsin native, Brinkman holds a business degree from the University of Wisconsin and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.



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