Submitted by Nick Gerhart, PI515 Board Member, Executive Vice President of Homesteaders Life Company

Is your company hybrid? Virtual? Face-to-face? A business leader cannot escape this conversation. What is the future of work? What will the office look like? Will there be an office? What about corporate culture that business leaders work so hard to create and foster?

No one has all the answers to these questions today, but these questions are really surface-level discussions in our minds.
As business leaders we all know we face a huge challenge. An aging workforce where millions are preparing for retirement, changing demographics and a large population of young people preparing to enter the workforce in the next five years, shortages in STEM talent (in particular technical and digital skills), and a huge workforce that is starving for mission and purpose.
Our nation is facing an immense shortage of IT professionals. The economies that capture data, harness artificial intelligence and machine learning, and upskill their workforce will win in the new digital driven economy. Iowa needs to lead in the effort to upskill and reskill, but also in opening the funnel of opportunity for all young people.
Pi515 believes that with challenges come the best innovation and ideas. With a challenge like this, we need big ideas and an environment that fosters development for all. We need to look for talent in places that may not be top of mind. We need to create the talent we need and develop it just like coaches do athletes. We need to leverage new ideas and means to recruit talent, develop talent and onboard talent.
We have years of experience in finding talent where others believe it is difficult. We have seen young people from diverse and challenging backgrounds excel in work and education that is very technical and develop strong STEM skills. Today’s young people must develop critical thinking skills, a drive for lifelong learning, digital skills, and STEM skills to compete in an ever growing global economy.

As the bond between employer and employee evolves (some argue diminishes), and we focus a lot on the return to the office or not debate, companies that understand how to win the talent war will excel. 

Companies realize that experience is valuable, but it is equally valuable to have young professionals, and even high school students, engaged with the most up-to-date technical skills and know that promoting systems to apprentice, mentor and develop young people is key. Creating the ability to connect, develop, onboard, train and retain will become key metrics to business success in the coming years.

When it comes to developing our youth and presenting opportunities to succeed, we encourage Iowa employers to look outside the box for talent and skill building.

Get students involved in your company and mission early, set up apprenticeships and work-based learning opportunities, mentor young people, but most importantly, just get involved. The students coming up are full of innovative ideas, drive to succeed and ability to learn new skills.  

With the great resignation in full gear and a number of Iowans preparing to retire in the near future, now is the time to future-proof your talent and talent pipeline.

Think creatively on how to engage with students and nonprofits that are driving the change we need in our state. Work to evaluate whether your current hiring and job recruitment is really capturing the talent you need and think about how you can partner with people and firms to help you change the trajectory of your company, our community and our state.