The battle for employers to recruit and retain is a now too familiar refrain in West Michigan, and competition for employees throughout the country (and the world) has been of immense concern to local business owners. Windquest President and Grand Action leader Dick DeVos reiterated those national concerns during a presentation to the 101 Best & Brightest Companies To Work For in West Michigan last week, emphasizing business leaders need to be most concerned about culture and retention in that battle. He underscored West Michigan attributes as a part of that strategy. Both are points with which the Business Journal agrees.
Having just returned from California for the opening of the Amway $2.5-million business center (and a side trip to D.C.), DeVos noted conversations with the executives and owners of “major, major” companies which centered on recruitment and retention and cultural issues. “We now have employment concerns surrounding low unemployment and turnover,” he observed. Answering a question as to what one thing employers should focus on most he quickly said “culture. Be more attuned to the culture of an organization rather than the strategy. There are certain tensions for a CEO to pay attention to those costs related to retention; the cost of churn can be missed.” He also noted, “We have always placed high value on people here (in West Michigan).”
Underscoring that point are recent Business Journal reports of business owners who are creating new avenues to salve the issues, most recently that of Rockford Construction’s Dimensions program, which at its core furthers the network of trade contractors Rockford, and other general contractors, can work with during a time when skilled labor is at a premium. It offers the dual advantage of connecting minority-, veteran- and disability-owned companies to a wider network, expanding their business opportunities. Rockford CEO Mike VanGessel told the Business Journal, “We’re doing a lot of exciting projects, and when you’re going into neighborhoods, you want to work with as many people as you can that are local. It’s the circle you want to develop and keep the local spending close to the area to contractors and businesses you hope to help and build.” It also offers an inventive approach for Rockford to diversify its pool of subcontractors. “When we have local businesses right here within our community, it’s our responsibility to do what we can to support their effort,” he added.
It’s just one Business Journal story underscoring DeVos’ observation, “A secret sauce in West Michigan is companies where owners live and work in the community.”