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Two Engineers Walk into a Bar and Solve Workforce Challenges

On this week’s Fiber for Breakfast episode, Kjirsten Mickesh, Chief People Officer at Finley Engineering, explained that the best way to conquer workforce challenges is to get creative and that sometimes you might find the talent you’re searching for within existing talent and partners.

Mickesh told a story about an employee that met a new acquaintance at a restaurant while waiting for drinks. “Our employee asked her, ‘what do you do for work?’ She said, ‘I’m a grant writer, but I just lost my job.’ They exchanged contact information. A week later, we hired her. We are all recruiters and talent is everywhere,” Mickesh said.

With an unprecedented influx of broadband funding sweeping across the U.S., the industry finds itself amid a wealth of opportunities. The flip side of this reveals challenges in sourcing, recruiting, and retaining the right workforce. Of course, a well-developed talent strategy is the best way to overcome workforce challenges.

Mickesh stated that, “In order for us all to take advantage of funding, we need to be sure that we’re prepared. We have to get more creative and more proactive, and really engage people in different ways to get different results.”

At the foundation, Mickesh suggests that a talent strategy should not only align with your business strategy and objectives, but it needs to play an integral role in the overall strategy. She underscored that while recruitment is a big part of any talent strategy, there are other elements that are crucial to successfully building and retaining a workforce, including equity, employee engagement, career growth and development, and organizational culture.

For the fiber broadband industry specifically, Mickesh offered that talent acquisition could be boosted by both internal and external incentives. She explained, “People know good people. We incentivize our employees to help us find great talent.” Externally, being creative in how a business structures its hiring offers can be helpful. “First and foremost, get good market data and make sure that you’re paying in a way that is attractive, but there are lots of ways to structure offers by understanding what is most important to candidates,” she added. This could include PTO packages or bonuses attached to hiring and/or performance.

It is also important to consider key partners, Mickesh added. “It might be industry or professional organizations, academic institutions, or other types of organizations that might be great resources of talent or great sources to provide deployment to your employees.”

The Fiber Broadband Association is a key partner in fiber technician workforce development, helping train technicians with its Optical Telecom Installer Certification (OpTIC Path™) program and working with partners to fill open positions. FBA is currently engaged with 39 U.S. states, 40 service providers, and 67 community colleges and training institutions to deliver OpTIC Path.

To learn more about these workforce development tips, tune into the latest Fiber for Breakfast podcast.