Four Insights from the Talent Demand Report

The 2018 Talent Assessment and Outlook report from our Talent Demand Working Group was released just two weeks ago. Within that report are four insights from focus groups which were conducted among West Michigan industry leaders in seven sectors. While unique insights could be found that were specific to each of these sectors, these themes emerged as common to most employers across the board. These themes are:

  • Millennials,
  • Company culture and benefits,
  • Soft skills, and
  • Social media in hiring. 


Younger workers—often referred to simply as “millennials” among the focus group employers—emerged as a common topic. There is some flexibility in defining who is included in this generation. The Pew Research Center, for example, defines a Millennial as someone born between 1980 and 1996 (or ages 22-37.) In the case of the focus group, most seemed to be concerned with workers who were young and early in their careers.


Notably, the focus group shared similar perceptions of millennial workers, but disagreed on whether these traits were negative or positive. Many shared that methods of communicating in the workplace were shifting. For example, they found that millennials tend to prefer texting to making phone calls. However, some employers were adapting to these preferences and enjoying new messaging channels, while others found they were overall harmful to efficiency. Additionally, many employers also noted that millennials seemed to be ambitious as a whole. This was sometimes a weakness when employees overlook the skills and knowledge necessary to advance in the workplace, but other times added value when employers clearly defined career pathing.


Company Culture and Benefits

Company culture often came up in conjunction with the subject of millennials, as employers found that this is a subject young employees tend to bring up in interviews. In an effort to improve culture to attract and retain these young employees, such as planning events for staff or promote volunteer opportunities.


Benefits were another common subject. Many employers expressed that offering health insurance is no longer optional for attracting or retaining employees. Rather, they have begun offering benefits such as more vacation time or tuition reimbursement.


Soft Skills

The third insight that employers shared was that many employees or interviewees lack soft skills. Also known as Employability Skills, these are skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, or communication. Most noted that these skills were lacking among younger workers.

Interestingly, specific pain points varied somewhat between industries. While most employers found that new hires struggle to problem solve and independently, for example, Information Technology employers cited communication as a particular problem as customer service skills become more important.


Social Media in Hiring

Since last year’s report, the employers in the focus group in every sector have established presences across social media channels for the purpose of attracting and recruiting talent. Not all employers are enthusiastic about the use of social media, however, most find that these channels are effective in comparison to traditional job boards. In particular, some have found success in using platforms such as Facebook as a referral technique. This is especially important in industries such as Construction or Manufacturing, where jobs are often filled through word-of-mouth or employee referrals.


Many companies have also turned to LinkedIn to recruit candidates for more specialized roles. This was found to be especially prevalent in the Health Care sector.

What do you think of these insights? Do you agree or disagree with the employers, or have something to share about these subjects? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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