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Attracting Talent through Accountability
By Sara Mackey, Marketing Communications Specialist, Statewide Marketing Consortium of the Wisconsin Technical College System

I was fortunate to attend WISHRM a few weeks back. A recurring theme I heard is the pain of struggling to hire and keep staff. I asked a workforce training specialist what might ease the pain for employers. She said the solution for many problems, including staffing, is accountability and leadership training, despite seeming unrelated.

“One of the most painful problems is a worker shortage.” Cindy Leverenz, MBA, PhD and workforce training specialist from Blackhawk Technical College told me. She suggests the shortage is a symptom of the problem. Change must begin at the top of the organizational chart for employers to keep workers on the payroll and stop the unproductive, costly turnover cycle.  “Business, and particularly manufacturing, is plagued by low morale,” Leverenz says. “The number one thing leaders must do is continue to develop individual relationships with staff, to help build trust. Along with developing trust, leadership needs to provide clear expectations.”

To Leverenz, these qualities are critical to overall morale, which is critical to everything. “They are essential to management’s credibility among staff.” Leverenz continued, “The problem many managers have is not wanting to deal with the complexities of people, especially when emotions are involved.” She gave the example of an employee in crisis or struggling personally. The manager might let the expectations slide for a while, trying to cut them some slack. “While that may be okay short-term, leadership needs to reinforce expectations, and never be confronted by the issue of performance.” This is where trust really erodes among employees and morale sifts through the void like quicksand.

How do you set expectations from the get-go? Leverenz says, “Some employees just want to come in, do their job and go home.” However, in the current environment, that person may be needed in other capacities, to work on another line, or in a different job from time-to-time.” Leverenz points out that most job descriptions include a line at the bottom saying, ‘other duties as assigned.’ She asserts it should be placed at the top of the job description in a bold font, thus communicating expectations up front. This signals to the employee that they are part of a team and are expected to contribute to the team.

Leadership can also foster trust among employees by treating them with respect, versus leading like an authoritarian. “Most people want to be able to think for themselves and be empowered to do just that,” said Leverenz. When employees understand the company’s mission, vision, values and goals and their role relative to that, they have a more global perspective.

Leverenz is currently working with a rapidly growing company that takes a proactive approach to this issue. All employees will get accountability training. This sets expectations and helps maintain the organization’s culture. Hopefully, the difference is felt in minimizing turnover, good morale, optimized productivity and higher profits – important to any company’s success.

Wisconsin’s technical colleges are uniquely positioned to help employers attract and retain a quality, skilled workforce with technical and soft skills alike. Connect with your local college at www.WTCSystem.edu/colleges to learn more.

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