Providing resources for communities and entrepreneurs to create and retain jobs in Antrim, Charlevoix & Cheboygan Counties.

MIWorks! Speaks at DDA Forum

Northern Lakes Economic Alliance and Networks Northwest continued their DDA Forums in November in Elk Rapids. Area DDAs are invited to meet and discuss relevant topics and share ideas to keep our Northern Michigan communities thriving and vibrant.

November’s meeting focused on attracting and retaining workers and how DDAs can help our local businesses find success in the employment field. Harold “Buck” Love, Business Services Coordinator for Northwest Michigan Works! joined the discussion to share trends they are seeing and tools DDAs can share with their businesses.

Love began with the advice to “manage expectations in this tight labor market.” Unemployment rates have fallen from double digits in 2013 down to only about 4% currently. Trends are showing a decline in job fair attendees, but other options exist to tap into the job seeker market.

Two of the top job seeker sources include and Michigan Works! requires all job seekers to have their profile on and most include their resume as well. There is no cost to use the MItalent site to list your jobs. According to Love, “employers need to write an engaging job description that demonstrates the workplace culture and peaks the interest of a potential candidate.” A well written job description can set your company apart from hundreds of others no matter where you are posting them.

Another good place to look can be LinkedIn, which is now featuring a tool for currently employed people to seek other options without alerting their employers. Education trends are going toward short term commitment, competency based specific credentials and tech savvy workers are using Digital Badges that show up next to their name in digital signatures to show their specific credentials to continually market themselves.

Michigan Works! is working to start the worker pipeline sooner by connecting the business community with schools. By engaging kids as early as 8th and 9th grade interest can be built in training programs and more career paths. In the October 2016 Real-Time Labor Demand Snapshot for Region 2 of 4,320 jobs advertised only 15% required a Bachelor’s Degree or higher education. Employers can look into working with high school counselors to find interns and summer help to teach kids basic employability skills as well as introducing them to various career opportunities.

Michigan Works! has also partnered with Traverse Magazine’s MyNorth website ( to feature “hot jobs” to attract people to the area by showcasing the live, work, and play opportunities in the area. The jobs are posted on the website as well as featured in the MyNorth eblasts, spreading out to people who are interested in all aspects of the Northern Michigan lifestyle. Michigan Works! is also utilizing the NLEA Hot Jobs link ( to show real life examples of area options along with salary ranges and required education.

Businesses should keep in contact with the Business Liaison for their area for assistance with addressing these challenges and needs. Working with their Career Advisor counterparts, the liaisons share leads of job seekers to make matches with potential employers. Liaisons can also help facilitate hiring events and provide knowledge of on-the-job (OJT) training dollars for new or existing employees. Area liaisons include Jessie Mitchell for Antrim County, George Peet for Charlevoix County and Emmet County, and Dave Droste in Cheboygan County.

With the tight supply of workers RETENTION becomes the key word; employers must focus on keeping employees. Three major issues (other than a potential lack of decent wage) affecting our area are housing, child care, and transportation. Twenty-seven percent of workers in our area are driving 50+ miles to work. If employers can address any of these issues they will gain a reputation of caring about their employees and people will want to work for them.

Current employees are also the best recruiters. Tap them as a resource for new employees by keeping them in the loop and asking who they know that would be a good fit. Engaged and satisfied employees will sell your business in ways a job posting never can.

Networks Northwest is currently working on an employee retention handbook which is slated to be complete in January 2017. Visit for more information and ideas.

Best Practices for Retention Round Table Discussion included: How do you keep your help? Examples of successful strategies to keep employees.

  • Health Insurance/ HSAs
  • Aggressive 401K
  • Team Building Days
  • Equal Treatment for All Employees
  • Flexibility in work schedule
  • Great (positive) Environment/Attitudes
  • Set Clear Expectations and Accountability
  • Encourage Employee Investment in the Future of the Business (Ownership of Ideas and Planning, Goal Setting, etc.)
  • Building a Shared Vision
  • As a DDA encourage establishing a local core of workers (employee sharing, area open houses)
  • Child Care
  • Incentive Goals
  • Health and Wellness Perks
  • Performance Bonuses
  • Employee Awareness of the Business Standing

If you have any questions or comments on this past month’s DDA Forum, please let Amanda Baker or Sara Christensen at Northern Lakes Economic Alliance know, 231-582-6482. If you’re interested in the next DDA Forum and have a topic you’d like to discuss please let us know, announcements will be made soon on a date and location.

Core Partners

Get the NLEA E-Newsletter
Be in the know about programs and events to benefit your communities and businesses.