Talent Solutions Playbook

The most successful organizations understand that the workforce is undergoing a generational transformation that requires calculated, robust strategies.

That is the purpose of this playbook: to provide practical, proven resources and tactics for employers to support the recruitment, development and retention of talent needed for our new era. These responsibilities have never been more crucial to the success of employers and employees alike.

The playbook was informed by West Michigan employers, HR leaders, and workforce professionals who are recognized for their expertise, credibility, and accomplishments. They contributed their insights to support the continued success of West Michigan, but these strategies are applicable beyond the region amid universal and accelerating workforce trends.

Labor force participation rates have been declining since the turn of the century; geographic mobility in the U.S. is historically low; the population is aging, and birth rates aren’t keeping up with retirements; and workers are flocking to jobs that offer flexibility, purpose, and a sense of belonging. The prevalence of remote work means many attractive jobs are with companies located outside of Michigan. Meanwhile, as the adoption of automation and artificial intelligence gains momentum, more low-skill Michigan residents are finding their skillsets obsolete. To combat the challenges of the evolving workforce requires leadership, long-term vision, and human-centered solutions.

The workforce consists of individuals who defy one-size-fits-all definitions. However, by understanding what workers value and what motivates them at their stage of life and career, employers can refine recruiting methods and messages. They can design benefits and practices that reflect the needs of workers of every generation.

It is essential to manage and influence your reputation among job seekers and employees. This is not about advertising. It is about the public perception of your company culture, values, and work environment. Companies with strong employer brands recruit top-tier talent faster and retain these workers longer. 

Skills tell what a person is able to do, while attitude (i.e., soft skills) determines what a person is willing and able to do. Soft skills are inherent, but technical skills can be taught. Relaxing job requirements – not standards – can help find overlooked talent. Eliminating artificial barriers to entry, like traditional requirements for degrees or experience, will expand and diversify your talent pool.

Employers who invest in upskilling their workers have a steady supply of internal candidates for even the most hard-to-fill positions. This leads to a larger candidate pool and increased loyalty and engagement among current employees, which guards against turnover. It also reduces the time required for new hires to become productive.

It’s never too early to introduce the next generation of talent to careers at your organization. Partner with K-12, higher education, and community organizations to develop work-based learning opportunities (internships, apprenticeships, job shadows) that empower students to solve real-world problems and learn on-the-job. It’s also smart to develop internal pipelines through robust upskilling and retraining efforts. 

Advanced automation and artificial intelligence are becoming more affordable and more capable, making it more feasible for smaller companies to remain competitive when labor costs are high. Technology can be used to accelerate productivity at every skill level and create well-paying opportunities for workers. 

An Essential Component: DEI

Prioritizing diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging are essential to attracting and retaining top talent. Intentional efforts must be made to strategically embed these principles into a company’s workforce, processes, policies, and culture. Advancing DEI involves engaging every department and employee. The work should not take place in a vacuum. For that reason, it is not called out as a separate strategy in this playbook. A DEI lens has been applied to the five strategies outlined above. Additional information, leading practices, and resources can be found in the guidebook, Five Essential Competencies of Effective Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leaders