What happened to all of our experts?

Michael P. Duncan | TLT President's Report April 2020

Strategic workforce planning is critical to growing our industry.

Companies need to identify and cultivate future leaders in their organizations and empower them for success.
In today’s talent-driven environment, many STLE corporate companies are having to deal with a multitude of key workforce issues:
  • An aging population in our field.
  • A smaller pool of potential employees that have the education and skills necessary for becoming key contributors and leaders.
  • A need to retrain employees for different responsibilities and roles.
  • Lack of evolving training programs for new and existing employees.
  • A need for advanced degrees.
  • Difficulty in attracting new employees and students into our industry.
  • A lack of multidisciplinary education from institutions.
  • Limited training opportunities for students in tribology and lubrication engineering because of a lack of funding at the university level.

So how do we deal with these issues? According to an expert on the subject,* compensation matters most, which increases loyalty and engagement. Millennials and non-millennials have similar priorities such as income, career advancement, training and work-life balance, but millennials want purpose and recognition, too. If compensation is what motivates employees, what they are most afraid of is being left behind as a result of insufficient skills and inability to keep up with the latest technologies. “Becoming obsolete” is the biggest concern for today’s worker, twice as concerning as being laid off, the expert finds.

For me, our aging workforce (the “experts”) must pass on the knowledge to the less experienced individuals in our company before they go—“exit stage left.” This knowledge transfer could be in the form of supervising, mentoring, producing training documents or working alongside these individuals. In addition, we need to identify and cultivate the next leaders of our organizations and empower them quickly.

In the future, the workforce will undoubtedly leave some voids in our organizations because of baby boomer retirements, job hopping to more attractive opportunities and the lack of qualified individuals. The work inevitably won’t disappear, therefore, it is likely our organizations will need to adapt to this change by utilizing more “hired guns”—temporary staffing consisting of contractors, consultants and part-time employees for specific projects and activities.

In addition, don’t look past the employee referrals, as I have found this to be a wonderful way to add to your organization during this time of talent shortage. Also, every employee should be continuously building their network by communicating with suppliers and customers, social networking, joining and becoming involved in an association or professional society such as STLE, taking educational courses and communicating with local universities. We all have a responsibility to find the best people to join our respective companies. Finally, there are some very talented staffing partners (recruiters) that are specific to our industry that can help fill key positions in your organization.

For the senior managers out there, also remember to keep the workplace fun and engaging as this tends to lead to employee happiness and a high level of interest. Invest in benefit programs (401K, profit-sharing, bonuses, etc.) and health and wellness plans. Keep your employees involved and communicate more often. Having open dialogue and developing personal relationships with your team can make the difference in retaining a key contributor.

Lastly, our jobs will require us to adapt to ever-changing business demands and customer requirements. We must be focused and actively engaged to avoid stagnation and obsolescence. The future is unclear but change will undoubtedly come swiftly as the baby boomers sail off into the sunset. Make sure you have gathered some of their knowledge before the ship sails.

*Click here.

Mike Duncan is executive vice president of technology of Daubert Chemical Co. in Chicago. You can reach him at mduncan@daubert.com