Talent transformation

YP leaders challenge: focus on the culture to attract young talent

Posted on May 1, 2016 :: Features
Sean P. Johnson
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Adrienne Palm and Brian Johnson like the look and feel of the road less travelled.

When it comes to attracting and retaining young talent in Northeast Wisconsin, they also know it’s the route most likely to help the region succeed in that critical mission. They challenged the region’s business leaders to begin thinking differently at a May 4 CEO Breakfast Series event. 

Traditionally, business leaders have invested in professional development programs as a lure to young pros, whether those are internal programs or their support of external groups. But the time has come to think more about boosting the culture of the greater community rather than providing specific skills needed for corporate advancement.

If the culture isn’t there, the talent is not coming, the two YP leaders say.

“A core message is that it’s less about professional development and more community transformation,” says Johnson, director of the Greater Green Bay Chamber’s young professionals group Current. “Young talent doesn’t chase jobs, they chase communities. It’s about having the amenities they want to see and experience in the community.”

It’s not that professional development and networking events should be abandoned, says Palm, Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce director of leadership for Pulse and Cultivate. But young professionals, particularly the creative class, can advance their career anywhere, which makes the cultural amenities of the region so much more important.

“Arts and culture are becoming critical,” Palm says. “They want to move to a cool place. It may be a cliché, but it’s also true. They are looking for the things we used to think could only be found it big cities.”

Examples of the assets young talent and creatives are looking for include simple things such as food truck rallies, public art or collaborative spaces. The assets are not necessarily expensive endeavors, but do require a change in thinking and approach, they say.

“We need the spaces and things to attract and keep these people in the area,” Palm says.

“We are kind of weird here and that’s exciting,” Johnson says. “If you want to be a place that’s interesting and relevant, you can. A transformation is coming.”