The Internet is abuzz this week with response to Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. By most accounts, it was a bold speech, an attempt by the president to “set the agenda” of debate over the next two years.
While it’s easy to get caught up in the politics around such a speech, doing so can overlook some key points that were raised – points that highlight how far we have come as a country since the Great Recession and how far we still have to go.
Regardless of who is in charge of which branch of government, the general sense is that our economy and our country are on the right trajectory for a good year.
Here are some of the key things to focus on:
Going forward, business will be dependent on science and technology. Even the most basic jobs of the past now require some smidgen of scientific knowledge. There’s a different set of skills required for everything from sales to design to fabrication. And developing those skills requires an investment in training – not only new employees, but your current employees, as well. If you don’t, your business will fall behind.
Access to higher education is imperative for developing the skills needed to keep the U.S. as a manufacturing leader. While the president focused on providing access to more potential students, it’s also important for businesses to develop partnerships with these institutions. Partnering with local technical schools, community colleges, high schools and universities can help give you access to people who are already developing these skills. And it can also help improve awareness of distribution as a career path – a perennial problem.
Unemployment has reached its lowest rate since June 2008. While this isn’t all positive – the labor force participation rate is also lower than it was seven years ago, for example – it’s a signal that competition for top talent will intensify.
Which also means that companies need to be more focused on keeping the top talent they have. In the fourth-quarter MDM-Baird Distribution Survey, we asked respondents what they were doing to keep their talent. The results signify that distributors and manufacturers recognize that it takes more than higher wages to keep the best employees. Employees want a good work culture where they can be engaged in the process. And if you’re focused on providing that – and reasonably good pay – it can go a long way toward combatting employee defection. (See the full summary of the 4Q2014 MDM-Baird Survey in this issue.)