Gearing Up To Renew, Reenergize

Posted on Nov 1, 2009 :: Editor
Margaret LeBrun
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

A funny thing happened on the way to coping with the economic realities of 2009. As companies cut back, laid off workers, froze – or “clawed-back” – salaries and benefits, a lot of them now admit they went too far.

OK, so maybe funny is the wrong word. Ironic, unfortunate, even tough might be more like it. And now, the new fear: As we pull out of this recession, the best employees will leave and snatch better opportunities, sure to come along as companies begin filling key positions again. If you’re an employer and this has not occurred to you, think about it. You know your competitors have.

Thirty-five percent of Wisconsin employers surveyed by QTI Consulting this fall expressed some degree of concern about losing key employees due to changes they had enacted in human resources programs because of the economic downturn (see page 14). A significant majority of companies also said that retention of top talent and employee engagement are problem areas explicitly because of cost cutting measures enacted in late 2008 and early 2009.

“There appears to be a new human resources anxiety out there,” Mary Wettstein, vice president of the Fox Valley Market for QTI, said during an October breakfast event at Butte des Morts Country Club in Appleton to announce the survey results. “What if the economy really is doing better and we’re not well-positioned for this?”

While almost a third said they plan on expanding next year, 53 percent of companies reported that current staffing levels are too low for an economic upturn.

Will you be ready? Fall is an opportune time to take stock. It’s prime time for economic development conferences, networking events and CEO roundtables that can help rejuvenate your business and professional agenda. At Insight, we kicked the season off with a gala open house, featuring our many business partners in a mini-expo right in our office (see page 18). More than 200 of our clients, partners and friends (some say it was closer to 300, but after five solid hours of fun, we lost track!) helped us celebrate in style.

One valuable venue is the St. Norbert CEO Breakfast & Strategy Series, which kicks off Nov. 3 with Rob Cera of Baylake Bank and Nov. 17 with Joyce Bytof of Coldwell Banker The Real Estate Group. We featured Cera in our October issue; a preview of Bytof’s talk appears on page 49. If you haven’t been to one of these before, I encourage you to attend. Business people learn a lot from each other at these events and meet a lot of interesting community leaders, as well. Grand Thornton and Insight Publications are sponsors of this year’s series – I hope to see you there!

Next month the fifth annual New North Summit will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 8 at the KI Center in Green Bay. “A Date to Renew” is shaping up as a don’t-miss event, a full day devoted to collaboration and networking among leaders in the 18-county region of Northeast Wisconsin (see page 13). David Ward, founder of NorthStar Economics, the organization that conducted the study leading up to the formation of New North, Inc., will keynote the summit. Later, a Taste of Entrepreneurship, featuring foods from regional restaurants, will offer a fun backdrop for networking. Register by Nov. 16 at and pay $45 ($55 after that date).

Insight magazine is pleased to again be producing the annual New North Report to the Community. This year’s report, which will be distributed at the summit and mailed to Insight subscribers, will highlight the accomplishments of scores of committees and hundreds of volunteers working to build upon the economy of Northeast Wisconsin.

We’re also pleased to be a sponsor of the First Business Bank Economic Survey event, scheduled the afternoon of Dec. 17 at Butte des Morts Country Club. You may have received a survey in October – the results will be revealed at the event. Watch for details in the December issue of Insight magazine.

Margaret LeBrun

About Margaret LeBrun

Co-Publisher, Executive Editor View all posts by Margaret LeBrun →