Future 50 leaders sound off

The top executives of the 2013 Future 50 companies recently provided their recommendations about how to resolve some of the most significant challenges facing businesses in the region.

The Future 50 Awards will be presented by the Council of Small Business Executives of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce on Thursday, Sept. 19, at The Pfister Hotel in downtown Milwaukee.

At a recent roundtable discussion, the executives of the winning companies were asked two questions about the challenges the region faces. The first question was: “By 2015, one in five workers will be 55 or older, resulting in a critical shortage of qualified employees. What are you doing to address this?” Some of the salient answers included:

  • “Adjust to the younger generation’s perception of a work/life balance. Generation Y is infinitely more accessible (i.e., available via mobile devices) than the retiring generation. Use that as an advantage to your company and embrace the work/life balance the incoming generation expects. This generation watched their parents get laid off and see their career in the workforce differently.”
  • “There’s going to be a shift in the way the world works, whether you like it or not. We have to figure out the proper way to work with both (the older generation and the young) so that when the shift occurs, there are elements of the old but we can harness the skills of the young.”
  • “Hire people with the right attitude. Skills can be taught.”
  • “Companies need a training hierarchy, but companies are too lean now. Unfortunately, often your training investment is lost to other industries and companies. Take care of your high performers. Cross-train your employees. Identify key individuals within the organization to step into senior positions and expose them to broader responsibilities. It’s all about people and process along with coaching and mentoring.

The second question posed to the executives was: “On this year’s application, we asked what you believe is the greatest challenge for business in the Milwaukee region. The two most common answers were education and Milwaukee’s image. For both of these challenges, what change and solutions would you recommend?” Here are some of the responses:

  • “The city makes a great impression once you get people here and past the boundaries of the perception of Milwaukee. Utilize organizations such as Fuel Milwaukee when transplanting employees to Milwaukee. Introduction to Milwaukee events is extremely effective in retaining talent. Milwaukee is difficult to navigate independently.”
  • “Milwaukee is a ‘starter city,’ drawing students from across the country to our universities and colleges. Milwaukee must retain college graduates. As Milwaukee is not a destination city, the allure of the coasts/larger cities capture young talent. However, Milwaukee boasts a wonderful place to settle down. Seek out graduates after five years as their perspectives change.”
  • “We’ve got to get back to the basics of proper family structure. We’ve got to change the social expectation/construct. What do we expect? When kids are raised in environments where they’re not taught, they have no understanding of right and wrong. The question for businesses has been centered on education, but it extends further – what is your business doing to affect the social construct?”
  • “We must highlight Milwaukee’s success stories in business and showcase some of the positive that’s there. We need more diversity in the success storytelling/promotion of Milwaukee. The MMAC could send out a ‘good news’ business highlight every day (i.e., Did You Know…). Solicit from the membership items that point to ‘Positive Milwaukee.'”

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