INSIGHT ON: HR/Recruiting – Talent search

Posted on Aug 1, 2015 :: HR/Recruiting
Sean P. Johnson
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

He's got visionJamie Cartwright never anticipated he would become a key cog in Weidert Group’s efforts to recruit young professionals to Northeast Wisconsin.

In fact, he’s not even your typical marketing professional.

But when Weidert President Greg Linnemanstons first exchanged emails about an internship with Cartwright — an anthropology major returning to school after a project in Africa — he sensed a talent he didn’t want to risk slipping away to a competitor or another state. After his internship, Cartwright joined the Appleton-based marketing firm full time and serves as both an example for, and important link to, other young professionals.

“One of the important lessons we have learned is the importance of the links of our current young professionals to securing other young professionals,” says Linnemanstons, whose company recently won a “Bubbler Award”, presented by the group NEWaukee, which recognizes efforts on the part of Wisconsin companies to attract and retain young talent.

“Interns have been an incredibly important part of that process for us,” he says. “We know our internship program has helped us build strong relationships with the universities.”

It’s a network that has attracted additional young talent to Weidert Group, including former interns who connected to the company through Cartwright, who were impressed by the experience he had doing “real work,” and wanted a similar experience.

No need to go to Chicago or New York for that “great experience,” when it can be had right here in Northeast Wisconsin.

“Weidert Group was really open and willing to accept new ideas from me at the first staff meeting,” he says. “I felt valuable; that I could contribute immediately. I’m not sure I would have had that experience elsewhere.”

Weidert Group’s experience in the past few years recruiting and retaining young talent also caught the attention of Reggie Newson, secretary of the Department of Workforce Development, who visited the company to discuss its strategies and successes.

For his part, with millennials and GenX now the majority of the workforce— a group often more interested in where they work and they lifestyle they will lead than who they work for — recruiting and retaining this group has become a top priority. Newson has spent months travelling the state talking with recent graduates who report they are leaving the state because they don’t see opportunity here.

“We really want to understand what drives young professionals who are educated at our state universities to leave,” Newson says.

While the young professionals that are leaving say there is no opportunity, the companies that would employ them complain young professionals don’t want to work structured hours or don’t want to be in high pressure situations, he says.

Linnemanstons says both perceptions are misguided. He points out there are many companies in Northeast Wisconsin that create and deliver world class products and services. Working in this region offers a chance for young professionals to do high-level work early in their careers. As for employer concerns, he says young pros may desire to work differently, but they work just as hard as any previous generation.
Human resource professionals in the region tend to agree.

Debra Pagel, who recruits for Schenck SC, says what this group is really looking for is a company that will offer them a more defined career path with lots of feedback and opportunities.

“They are incredibly collaborative and are used to instant feedback and gratification,” says Pagel, director of human resources consulting for Schenck. “If you think about it, they have always been connected to the Internet. They are used to things happening instantly.”

When it comes to recruiting young professionals, Schenck — like Weidert Group — has found a strong internship program is key. They will want to do real work as well, Pagel says.

“Get them involved early and have clearly defined goals and objectives,” she says. “We want them to choose this as a career, so we want to show them the real possibilities.”

That’s been a key element to the internship program launched by Heartland Technology Group in 2006.

“The last thing you want is for an intern who might be a future employee to spend the summer unboxing PCs,” says Tracy Presteen, human resources manager. “We want to expose them to real world experiences and opportunities.”

Heartland is not only trying to recruit young professionals to the region, but it is doing so in the information technology sector, which is highly competitive and where there is a shortage of workers to fill the available positions. Reaching them early through an internship program is vital, and the company is also an active sponsor of college level technology groups and programs.

“Almost 99 percent of our new hires have come from our intern pool,” Presteen says. “They know how we work and have already built good relationships.”

In her conversations with young professionals considering Schenck, Pagel says she often hears they are looking for opportunities to be involved with the community they will live in. Knowing what those opportunities are and encouraging them, even if the company is not directly involved, also helps.

Showing a little flexibility and a relaxed work environment won’t hurt either.

Schenck, for example, is closed most Friday afternoons during the summer.

“We all need to look internally and look for those things that will set us apart,” she says. “Little things do matter.”
Once they are here, Presteen says many of Heartland’s young professionals realize there are great opportunities for them outside of work as well.

“We are at a point now where some who joined us are married and are starting families here,” Presteen says. “Northeast Wisconsin has great opportunities. We just need to make sure we show them.”