Recruiting and retaining the best workforce

Recruiting and retaining the best workforce Main Photo

22 Aug 2019

economic development

Workforce development is a topic on the minds of business owners and economic developers around the nation. Minnesota is no different. It’s projected that the state will be short 239,000 workers by 2022.

Across Minnesota, and throughout Great River Energy’s member-owner service area, economic development partners are working proactively to address this workforce challenge. Here are a few examples of some of the innovative initiatives making the state more competitive in attracting and retaining talent.

Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation (GSDC)

GSDC’s mission is to spearhead economic development in the greater St. Cloud region. Part of this charge is to expand and nurture the area’s talent base.

The organization is working to expand its talent recruitment strategies in 2019 by working with area schools to promote learning about local jobs and employers. It’s also aiming to educate parents about in-demand jobs as well as connect with “hidden talent” groups such as immigrants, veterans, professionals in transition and those with disabilities.

Talent Director Gail Cruikshank touted GSDC’s recent success in creating and executing Exploring Potential Interests and Careers (EPIC), a collective, community-driven career exploration experience for students.

The event took place in February with more than 2,300 students from 24 schools attending. More than 100 partner companies participated. Of the employers and educators that attended, all said they would attend a similar event in 2020.

“Our goal is that this will be an annual event. In addition, we are working with local schools to host variations of this event on a smaller scale within their schools throughout the year to enable all students and faculty the opportunity to gain this exposure to career exploration,” Cruikshank said.

Find more information about EPIC here:

Greater MSP Partnership

The Minneapolis St. Paul Regional Economic Development Partnership is committed to stimulating economic growth and prosperity in the 15-county metro area. The public-private partnership is funded by charitable donations and works with economic development organizations throughout its region

Tiffany Orth, senior manager of the “Make it. MSP.” talent attraction initiative of Greater MSP, noted the region is facing “unprecedented workforce shortages,” which “demand that we do things differently and work together to better attract and retain talent.”

This translates to “listening to talent and learning about individuals’ experiences, stories and perceptions. We use those insights to guide the work and to help empower other employers in their work,” Orth said.

Among the many strategies at work for talent attraction in the metro, the “Develop in MSP” campaign is highlighting local tech professionals through digital storytelling tailored to reach specific audiences around the country. More info is available on the MSP Tech web page.

A “BE MSP” Workplace Inclusion Toolkit was created using insights and data collected from 1,200 professionals of color regarding their experiences living and working in the region. The information is available to assist area employers in securing and retaining diverse talent in their organizations. More information about the toolkit can be found here.

Greater Mankato Growth (GMG)

GMG exists to intentionally develop its region by promoting, supporting and serving as a catalyst for economic development through: business growth and development; talent growth, retention and attraction; regional livability and advocacy of the marketplace.

Vice President and Director of Government and Institutional Affairs Patrick Baker said Greater Mankato is facing similar workforce challenges to the Twin Cities metro area due to significant economic growth but not enough workers to keep up with that trajectory. A recent talent forecast shows that the North Mankato Metropolitan Statistical Area will need an estimated 2,782 new workers by 2020.

The organization recently convened a group of stakeholders to generate a plan of action around talent attraction. One piece of the plan is to hire a full-time employee to work on connecting businesses to available talent, resources and services.

Providing opportunities for professionals to grow has long been part of GMG’s plan. It has a successful Leadership Institute as well as a longstanding Young Professionals program, which involves mentoring, networking and professional development.

The organization is also piloting a community navigator project where new employees are matched with longtime community members based on shared interests. The goal is to help newcomers network and engage with the community.

To attract potential employees, GMG sponsored a “More Mankato” website to tout the area’s quality of life with high tech tools like virtual reality videos. See more at:


NORTHFORCE is a collaborative initiative to attract, manage, place, enrich and retain talent in a region that includes counties in both Minnesota (Aitkin, Carlton, Cook, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake and St. Louis) and Wisconsin (Ashland, Bayfield, Douglas). It’s overseen by APEX (Area Partnership for Economic Expansion) and the Northspan Group.

Through the NORTHFORCE website, job seekers can pinpoint which positions are the best fit.  Employers can post job opportunities for free and get matched with a specialized pool of candidates. 

“We are providing a critical, curated service to employers and job seekers that connects career-minded individuals with professional advancement opportunities and supports our regional employers’ current and future workforce needs in Northeast Minnesota and Northwest Wisconsin,” said Northspan President and CEO Elissa Hansen.

NORTHFORCE’s Mentor Connection Program has been successfully pairing college students with local leaders with the goal of talent retention. The year-long mentorship program provides mentees with valuable networking and professional development experiences. Mentors have a chance to enhance leadership skills, develop talent and give back to the community.

Learn about some of the Mentor Connection success stories: