What to Do If You Rely on Trained Employees

Jul 2, 2014
This article is part of a series called Opinion.

Recently I got to be a fly-on-the-wall at the quarterly Industrial Roundtable luncheon at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Yes, it was a fancy lunch in a fancy boardroom, and I was very impressed — but that’s not the point. In the room, there were about 20 leading Midwestern industrial manufacturers and distributors updating the Fed’s staff economists on the state of their businesses and industries.

I’m neither an economist nor an expert in manufacturing, so many of the details of their reports were a bit over my head. I can say that no one in the room was particularly excited or worried by the economic situation. The general consensus was that modest growth was expected to continue for the near future.

I did hear some disturbing concerns, though.

People reported increased productivity through automation, but that they couldn’t find “qualified” people to hire. Of course! The jobs themselves require increasing sophistication in order to operate a variety of computer-aided machines — robotics, CNC training, new ERP software, etc. Much of this technology is new, so obviously there are few “qualified” employees on the market — they haven’t been trained yet.

Employers, educators, and government officials play “hot potato” with the responsibility to create qualified employees. Each group says that responsibility to train, re-train, or educate potential employees should fall on the other two. The real issue seems to be that no one wants to foot the bill. Training time for new technologies can be long. The cost of a mis-hire can be high.

As a recruiting and talent acquisition expert, this is not the first time I’ve heard these concerns, but it was dramatically reinforced in the setting of the Federal Reserve Bank. Listening to very successful senior executives say they couldn’t find trained employees made me want to shout, “Hire for aptitude and pay to train!” It is the employer who will ultimately benefit from having the right people on board, so the cost of having those people is a cost of doing business. If your business success relies on trained employees, then do it!

The luncheon made me feel curmudgeonly, but I’m looking forward to the next one. It will be my second one and I think, if the opportunity presents itself, I’ll start that conversation.

This article is part of a series called Opinion.