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Why Chronic Workforce Issues Are Nebraska's 'Type-2 Diabetes'

Updated: Mar 26, 2022

By Misunderstanding the Reasons Behind Brain Drain, Nebraska's 'Limbs' Face 'Amputation'

Pretend that the entire state is condensed into one, 30-ish male with a few subtle symptoms of diabetes. Always thirsty. Frequent urination.

He would shrug off these symptoms.

Pretend, also, that no medically approved medication existed to lower blood sugar.

As our symbolic male ages, his symptoms worsen. He loses weight for no obvious reason. His vision deteriorates. He gets tired easily.

When he's out in the sun, he's particularly vulnerable to heat-stroke.

Eventually, the nerves in his lower extremities deteriorate.

By the time he's fifty, he has to have his right foot amputated. As a result, his career declines and his financial situation worsens.

In a very real way, this metaphorical situation describes Nebraska's chronic problem with brain drain and the state's inability to attract and retain knowledge workers (defined as 'people who can identify and solve a problem without having to confer with a supervisor). However, the symbolic 'no medication' problem has been solved. The 'diabetes pill' - a metaphor for insights derived from research with young grads who grew up in Nebraska but were determined to leave - has been manufactured and transformed into a multifaceted, readily-available solution for the insidious brain drain 'disease.'

It's easy to be naive and irresponsible about preventing brain drain because it is a slow and subtle form of community decline. Unless a large employer closes its doors, there's nobody to blame when yet another young grad gets a job out of state and says, "Sayanara." That's why acting on the feedback, below, is critical, despite its common-sense complexity.

Question: "So why are you guys determined to leave this state where you grew up?"

Answer: "The owners of businesses in this state are traditional, conservative and stuck in their operating model. We must have heard 50 lectures at UNL about the importance of innovation, but business owners here are not at all interested in innovation. They're making money, so why mess with the formula? That's how they think. But we want something new. Recruiters call us with opportunities to lead digital innovation projects and the money's about the same, so why wouldn't we just go? They're not going to change anything because of us."

Question: "What else motivates you to leave?"

Answer: "Businesses here are into hierarchy and politics. Newbies have to start in the back and on the bottom. It's all about control and blame. It's who you know. That's just the way it is. But that's not how business is these days, right? People use the web to meet people all over the place and collaborate on things. People are supposed to be open, trade ideas...the culture is really important. I gotta want to go to work where people are into it and they help the community, somehow. This is like the most important thing to me...fitting in while doing my thing in my way, being respected, not just known."

The other thing is Nebraska's business owners are not open to meeting new people or people who look different or come from somewhere else. Outsiders. Sometimes, these people have good ideas or special skills, but.. they're not given a chance. That can hurt a community.

Question: "What else is important to you as you ramp up your career?"

Answer: "I want to live in a stylish place, maybe downtown where other people like me hang out, relax, eat, chat over coffee, have a drink...etc. Activity. Energy. There's got to be a place where i can meet other people and be proud of my lifestyle. I'd also like to walk to work and just drop the whole car responsibility. Someplace sustainable. Work is not everything, no way. So I need a place to socialize and chill."

Question: "Anything else you want to tell me about career issues?"

Answer: "This is probably basic, but I want to work with a company that is successful. If it comes down to two companies that I like, I will choose the one that's succeeding, obviously."

Three tactical actions emerge from this research:

1 Redesign downtown into a genuine destination or vortex using cutting-edge architecture and streetscaping that showcases sustainable practices and encourages resident interaction (including occasional events). Upgrade one block at a time.

2. Make the local business community more successful by helping business owners across the state think like a start up (see Eric Ries' The Lean Start Up). Provide affordable coaching and training services that push the every organization towards new product development, new distribution and new partnerships with like-minded, Nebraska operations. Provide certification after 10 weeks of retraining and publish stories about the emerging 'newness' inside their firm.

3. Provide 'new era' leadership training to existing business owners across the state who need help understanding how to work with Gen Y and Gen Z employees. Help owners redesign their internal values and culture so that they can be branded and used in recruiting top-tier employees. Provide certification that differentiates companies whose management has invested in this specialized HR training.

4. This feedback inspired the creation of 'NEWbraska™' and the NEWbraska Network ( - an online business community or ecosystem that is focused on making Nebraska's 45,000 companies (with employees) 'remarkable' and 'strategically sexy' so that young professionals won't be tempted to leave the state. NEWbraska blends performance-improvement, leadership development and innovation support with intrastate partnerships, events, training, media publicity and B-to-B marketing leadership.

NEWbraska membership will enable members to attract revenue and attract workers. The backdrop for all this energetic activity is a new approach to public-private community partnerships. For instance, employers may be asked to purchase or upgrade a home in the community that would be attractive to a worker who has expressed interest in taking a position in a company in the community, but may struggle with the cost of moving and redecorating an existing home. A third-party financing operation focused on workforce development in Nebraska may get involved in this critical step.

As NEWbraska began to come together, a researcher at Metropolitan Community College suggested we attack another, final problem: how to make it possible for business owners to retire while keeping their company operating for the next generation of customers and workers. Finding the right successor requires skills that are not available through a business broker, commercial real estate salesperson or an equity partner. Without a new type of assistance, hundreds of businesses will be forced to turn off the lights and walk away, creating yet another unemployment problem in Nebraska.

Through a series of discussions with professional recruiters, a new type of succession format and process has been created as part of the civic-talent attraction system discussed above. The 'FuturePro Succession System' features a confidential vetting process, a year-long orientation and ramp-up process and specialized training that helps the existing owner and the new owner get 'on the same page' about the company's current and future situation. When both parties are confident there is a good fit, the ownership transaction takes place. The company moves forward with new ways to innovate and recruit while the former owner receives a steady stream of income from the business that ensures a secure retirement.

With the addition of this FuturePro Succession System, the NEWbraska+ Talent Attraction and Civic Revitalization Formula is complete. NEWbraska+ is a 'four-dimensional' process that helps municipal leaders heal Nebraska's brain drain 'disease': 1) downtown neighborhood design 2) NEWbraska innovation consulting 3) NEW-Era management training and 4) FuturePro business succession.

Nebraska's struggle with brain drain requires a fusion of common sense, interdependence, new attention to design and psychological salesmanship. The four, interrelated tactics, above, work like taking four 'pills' everyday in order to stave off type-2 diabetes. A commitment must be made to a vision of what the community must and can become to reinvent itself. However, most community leaders aren't aware the four 'pills' even exist. Since they're not aware a solution exists, they won't invest in a healthy future. They've pushed the brain-drain problem to the back of their consciousness.

Civic leaders and business owners must acknowledge the existence of four powerful pills that can, over time, make the insidious brain drain disease an obsolete and irrelevant economic condition.

Author Lynn Hinderaker is an innovation consultant who has changed the rules of the game in five industries. His on-camera interviews with Nebraska's entrepreneurs became more popular on iTunes than comparable videos from Harvard, Wharton, MIT and Stanford - in only two months of uploading! Lynn hosts the only economic development TV show in Nebraska and can be found training and interviewing all over YouTube. He has spearheaded 'miraculous' projects for Taco Bell, Cox, Mercedes-Benz, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, The Science of Psychotherapy magazine and many more. Contact Lynn for your business event, trade show, management warm up, recruiting event or annual keynote. or 402-208-5519.

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