Mackinac Policy Conference 2018 Recap: Three Pillars and HR

August 15, 2018

The 2018 Detroit Regional Chamber Mackinac Policy Conference is several months in the rearview mirror, but the discussions that took place on the island shouldn’t be swept aside. While important topics are raised at these annual conferences, the desired change never takes place there. It takes place in the weeks and months between these annual conferences but only if the necessary focus and energy directed at solutions is maintained.

Talent retention, workplace trust, and future workforce needs are going to have a major impact on Michigan’s success going forward. These are all issues Michigan leaders should still be helping address.

A sense of urgency around the three pillars of MPC18 is still bubbling beneath the surface, but sustained action is needed to ensure positive momentum before the 2019 conference rolls around.

As a human resources and staffing organization, AccessPoint has a direct role in helping find solutions for these pillars, all of which tie directly to our industry. For Michigan’s future, businesses of all sizes and their leaders need to recognize the role they’ll have to play and work to address the issues brought up at Mackinac.

Michigan’s Preparedness

There have been multiple news stories and opinion pieces, including a column by our own Shelley Mitchell, AccessPoint’s Executive Vice President of Staffing, regarding a shortage of skilled trades workers in Michigan. This is an issue that touches the first MPC18 pillar, Is Michigan Prepared?

The skilled trades gap is not a Michigan issue, it is a national issue. And I would argue a societal issue. By this I mean that for some, the attainment of a skill should be as valued and perhaps as encouraged as a college diploma. While not unique to Michigan, the issue could have greater ramifications for Michigan than other states. The current economic gains Michigan is experiencing mean nothing if current vacancies in skilled trades workers remains. In addition to simply filling open positions, there’s a strong need to keep our current workforce from leaving our state for others. Keeping workers engaged in and fulfilled by their work and invested in their career is a focal point for all HR reps, particularly in fields where workers are already in short supply.

This shortage is already causing issues in our biggest city, with a recent article examining how a lack of skilled trades workers is slowing redevelopment projects in Detroit. One reason the author cites for lack of progress is the lucrative opportunities for skilled trades workers elsewhere, draining Michigan’s already short supply of talent in these fields.

Employees share responsibility in being engaged in their work and their company and certainly in being invested in their careers, but there is so much companies and their leaders can do to drive these things. Ensuring our skilled trades workers remain engaged and connected at the workplace is going to be critical for Michigan’s future success. Leaders have an important role to play here and must be ready to take on the challenge for Michigan to continue its recent success.

Trust in Institutions

Trust is such a jugular issue and is currently so fragile. There is a high level of distrust in our governments, our leaders, in the advertising and messages being directed at us every day, in the brands delivering those messages and in our own companies. Given the current climate of political discourse, racial issues and recent sexual harassment news, HR pros and organizations’ leaders will have their hands full ensuring workers trust that they’ll be listened to and believed. But all of this presents us with enormous opportunity. If we can earn the trust of our employees through our sincere and authentic actions, they will work that much harder to earn the trust of our customers and create a competitive advantage for us.

At the advent of the “Me Too” movement, a common complaint was mentioned. Many workers, in every field, didn’t feel as though they would be listened to or believed if they came forward regarding harassment or discrimination.

Professional HR departments can help create respectful atmospheres that foster trust among all employees, regardless of race, gender or ability. Firm policies related to all types of harassment can help show employees they’re valued.

Respect for all employees helps create a trusting, cooperative environment, which leads to the best ideas and work output possible for an organization.

The Mobility Disruption

There’s a major shakeup in the auto industry coming. With Michigan’s fortunes still inextricably linked to the industry’s success, being prepared for the changes mobility and autonomous vehicles will create is imperative for our state.

The growing mobility sector of the auto industry is tied, again, to the skilled trades gap in terms of workers. Manufacturing jobs will still need to be filled to keep this industry moving. Without the proper workforce, the mobility disruption the Big Three hope to lead might face its own disruption.

HR policies will need to keep the best and brightest in Michigan. Creating workplaces that foster respect, fulfillment, pride and provide adequate compensation and benefits to the skilled workers filling these roles are staying in state. Michigan can’t lose out on the kind of talent needed to be a winner in this field if we hope to compete to be the leader in the latest disruption of the auto industry.

The three pillars from this year’s conference show the dangers that can come from being complacent and, in turn, the opportunities that are there for us if we sustain our focus and efforts on addressing these important issues. If we want to see Michigan continue to succeed and grow, all industries, but especially HR pros and companies, need to take direct action to identify the threats facing our state. Working together, we can follow the necessary steps to address these potential pitfalls and keep moving forward.

INSIGHT WRITTEN BY:
Luis Perez