I Think You’re Going to Like This One

OK, I admit I’m a little biased when it comes to the Chamber’s BizVoice magazine. After all, I have been here since day one of the publication back in 1998; it consumes a large part of my days (and evenings and weekends sometimes) and it’s a passion.

But we’ve got a good one coming up. It’s nervous time right now — the final few days before going to the printer. The editing, proofing, fact checking and more always cause a bit of anxiety, but that’s part of the business. As with two of our other issues (Best Places to Work and Annual Awards Dinner), we get to show off the work at a special event in addition to the normal statewide (and beyond) reading audience.

The September-October issue will first be seen August 25 at the fourth Indiana Companies to Watch awards program. We have profiles of all 43 companies being recognized, an interesting roundtable with four of the winners and additional information on the economic impact of these and previous CTW companies.

In addition, there’s a feature section on business deals. We relied on the expertise of about 20 "dealmakers" throughout the state to allow us to put together a package we think you will enjoy. Also, our five-part Workforce Wise series concludes with a look at two workers simply seeking that next career opportunity.

We have a talented communications team at the Chamber. I’m thankful for their efforts and dedication. 

Don’t Take Older Workers for Granted

They say you don’t truly appreciate what you have until it’s gone. I can personally relate to that. My grandmother passed away last year and now that she’s no longer here, I wish I had taken advantage of more opportunities to learn from her wisdom.

Many businesses are experiencing their own losses – with the impact felt more on their bottom lines than in their hearts – as seniors retire from the workforce and take their knowledge with them.

Addressing the shrinking and aging of the nation’s workforce is at the center of the Workforce Wise initiative, launched by the Chamber in December 2009. We’re covering this topic with a five-part series in BizVoice® magazine. The current issue features the second installment, which focuses on training opportunities for older workers.

Sometimes, downsizing or a desire to switch careers prompts seniors to pursue training. Often, this happens in the manufacturing field, where people need to upgrade their skills to meet the increasingly complex demands of new technology. Higher education institutions often partner with companies and individuals to provide the training. Ivy Tech Community College’s work in this area is highlighted in the story, along with an organization called Experience Works, which delivers training and employment assistance to low-income, unemployed individuals age 55 and older.

What I miss even more than my grandmother’s cooking (she always lamented that her food didn’t turn out well while the rest of our family members were clamoring for her recipes), is her wisdom.  “What you worry about today, you’ll laugh about tomorrow,” she would say. That was one of my favorites.

Perhaps companies that prepare now for the retirement of older workers will have the last laugh.

Indiana ‘Gem’ of a Home Earns National Award

Our BizVoice magazine is featuring a Workforce Wise series in 2011 (read the first installment here), focusing on older workers and their important contributions to companies and communities. It’s a crucial issue — one that is receiving little attention.

While we look at workplace efforts, an Indiana company has earned a national honor for its home design work geared toward the older population. Here’s a summary:

A Burns Harbor home built by Treasure Homes Inc., Wheatfield, has been honored with a 2010 Livable Communities Award from AARP and the National Association of Homebuilders.

The award honors builders, developers, remodelers and architects whose work incorporates design features that work for people of all ages and physical abilities – a key consideration as baby boomers turn 65.

Treasure Homes’ winning design, dubbed “The Gem,” features a no-step entry, a stylish and functional kitchen, 36-inch wide doorways and modern bathrooms with such features as a low-curb shower, lever-controlled faucets and raised electrical outlets.

Such features go by the name of “universal design,” since they facilitate easy use by people of all ages and physical abilities.

In addition to its universal design features, the Prairie-style bungalow has been certified under the National Green Building Standard to the Emerald level, with an Energy Star rating of 5+ and a HERS score of 46.

Since 2007, AARP and the National Association of Homebuilders have honored builders, developers, remodelers and architects who incorporate universal design in their projects.

“These builders, remodelers, developers and architects are being recognized as leaders in the effort to meet the needs of the nation’s age 50-plus consumers and their families,” said NAHB Chief Executive Officer Jerry Howard. “This fast-growing market is very important to our industry, and these award-winning projects provide great examples of design innovations that promote safe and comfortable living.”

View photos and videos of “The Gem” and other 2010 Livable Communities Award-winners.

The Implications of Indiana’s Aging Workforce

Ellen Miller, executive director of the Center for Aging and Community at the University of Indianapolis, discusses a lack of focus on maintaining older workers in a BizVoice video segment. To read more on this topic, see the article in BizVoice magazine on Workforce Wise and some interesting findings relating to the aging workforce.

Wise Comments About Workforce Report

When the Indiana Chamber Foundation released its Workforce Wise report last week, it invited Mac Parker and Martha Lamkin to the event to add some perspective. Neither disappointed. Their personal stories are symbolic of the entire study — taking advantage (both on the job and in the community) of the experiences and passions of the Baby Boomer generation.

A few of their insights and comments:

  • Parker, an attorney with Baker & Daniels for more than 50 years, brought with him nearly 20-year-old magazine clippings broaching this same subject — the consequences of an aging workforce. While the tendency then was to "push this back" and "talk about that tomorrow," Parker emphasized that "tomorrow is here now."
  • He noted the dramatic difference in 75 million Baby Boomers and 25 million members of Generation X.
  • Finally, Parker said he was glad to see attention to the subject of what communities can do for potential retirees, describing that group as "very desirable new residents."

Lamkin has enjoyed a long and successful career in education-related issues, philanthropy and community involvement. She sees tremendous value in not forgetting about older Hoosiers both in the workplace and in society.

"Employers need to value this mature, reliable element of the workforce. We want to keep those persons engaged in the workplace and in a mentoring role," she says. "I also encourage every person to be engaged in community life. For older adults, it’s personal fulfillment, an opportunity to own our community responsibilities."

Helping educate young people is one of those areas of responsibility. While sons and daughters may have already passed through the education system, older Hoosiers can still, Lamkin explains, "run for the school board, mentor students, be part of booster organizations," and in the big picture, simply be a "positive influence in students’ lives."

The Workforce Wise web site has the latest report, as well as other informative studies. Lamkin and Mark Lawrance, the Chamber VP who oversaw the study over the past year, will appear on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick to discuss the latest. See when the show airs in your area (during Christmas week).

Wise Up! Older Workers Have the Right Stuff

A new initiative from the Indiana Chamber Foundation that was released today has a cool name (Workforce Wise) and an intriguing logo (check it out on the report or web site). Even better — and on a much more substantive level — it includes very pertinent information to help address a growing workforce challenge.

That challenge is not new — the aging workforce. But this compilation of prior research, newly commissioned studies and additional input is comprehensive and looks at ways to turn the challenges into opportunities. You can read the official language in the press release and report. Here’s my view on key takeaways:

  • Employers, don’t lose your greatest asset (people who know how your organization works) because you weren’t prepared. Be flexibile, figure out ways to make it work for you and these key employees and you won’t be sorry
  • Employees, your job is to learn new skills and also adjust to changing circumstances (most of you are willing, and employers and educators are there to help)
  • Communities have a big stake here. People who continue to contrbute on the job and in society in general are far preferred to those who are shut out and primarily become users of public resources

A number of people put in a lot of good work to make this report possible. It’s one of those projects that can — and will — have a lasting impact. Invest a little time in the 32 pages, including informative charts. It will be worth the effort.  

Foundation’s Workforce Wise on the Way

The Indiana Chamber has a foundation. No, it’s not a foundation that provides grants and resources to needy organizations. But it is providing valuable information for all Hoosiers in the form of long-term public policy research that often is used to improve the business climate for Indiana companies and their employees.

Need a few examples:

  • Indiana INTERNnet evolved from a foundation study that clearly identified Indiana’s loss of talented young people and established increasing internship possibilities as one of the tools to reverse that trend. Employers and students have been benefitting from the program for the past eight years.
  • Ready Indiana was a product of foundation research into the state’s existing workforce and what is needed to help those employees adapt to jobs in today’s and tomorrow’s economy. Ready Indiana helps match company training needs with appropriate providers and resources.
  • State tax and education policies have emanated from the research, and today’s strong push for local government reform owes part of its recent beginnings to the Indiana Project for Efficient Local Government study in 2004.

What’s next? Look for Workforce Wise — an in-depth look at the aging population and its impacts on the workforce, communities and economic development — in the coming months.

Check out some of the past Chamber Foundation studies and reports.