Bold Moves: How Three Companies Recruit In A Tight Labor Market

Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems engineer in company’s workroom;

With the national unemployment rate hovering around 3.8 percent, there is no question the advantage belongs to job-seekers. Attracting and retaining the best and brightest means going well beyond attractive salary and benefits. To gain an edge in one of the most contentious wars for talent we’ve seen in decades, employers must showcase a culture that encourages constant innovation.

And it’s not just the Googles, Facebooks and Amazons that are differentiating themselves through exciting new tech development; all companies are having to transform themselves in the digital age, lest they be disrupted by savvier competitors. Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS) has been able to stand out in an industry that has struggled with an archaic, industrial-era image. “We have the type of manufacturing that interests people,” says CEO Paul Browning. “Maybe I’m a bit biased, but our product is so advanced. It’s basically a jet engine that, instead of flying on a wing of an airplane, is on the ground and being used to produce electricity.” Currently, MHPS engineers are working on perfecting an autonomous power plant, which, with the help of artificial intelligence (AI), will allow machines to monitor themselves, detect potential problems, fix those problems and even plan their own inventory. “It’s very exciting,” says Browning.

It helps that MHPS is headquartered in Orlando, which is home to more than 2,000 technology companies, including heavy-hitters such as Siemens Energy, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and SAIC. Over the past decade, Orlando’s tech corridor has seen a growth surge, thanks to a combination of factors including advanced infrastructure investments, a lower cost, business-friendly climate, and proximity to numerous universities with engineering and technology programs. The area’s pace is a good match for MHPS, which had just five employees in 1999 and two decades later boasts more than 2,000, says Browning. “When you’re in a high-growth mode like we are, living in a part of the country where the population is increasing and people are sort of flocking to this area, that’s a great dynamic for us.”

Rich in Tech Talent

By promoting a culture of innovation, Universal Orlando Resort President and COO Bill Davis hopes to attract some of the talent flocking to Orlando to the theme park and entertainment resort complex. The Universal Creative team adapts technologies, such as augmented reality and AI, from other industries to enhance the immersive experience at the company’s theme parks. Its latest attraction, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, will open this June at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, introducing a new level of storytelling and innovative coaster technology with rich environments and sets, designed to give riders the thrilling experience of flight. The ride was created by the Universal Creative team. “They’re the ones who come up with the ‘next big thing,’” says Davis.

To usher in the next generation of talent, Universal Orlando works with the University of Central Florida (UCF), Valencia College and other local schools, offering a variety of internships in all fields, from sales and marketing to data analytics to human resources. But the company doesn’t limit exposure to the university level. The “Art of Tomorrow,” for example, is a ground-breaking program that allows eighth graders to explore media and entertainment industry careers in hands-on learning labs at the Universal Orlando campus.

“That gets us into the middle schools, and the kids can stay all the way through high school,” says Davis. Another onsite program called the Universal Education Center offers young people who might benefit from an alternative approach to high school the opportunity to simultaneously attend classes and work at Universal.

Being able to show off exciting innovation can also help attract top candidates, particularly in industries not known for bleeding-edge development, such as healthcare. “When you look at technology adoption across industries, healthcare is just ahead of hunting and agriculture,” jokes Daryl Tol, president and CEO of AdventHealth, which recently changed its name from Florida Hospital. The company made headlines with plans to unveil a new AI command center at its Orlando campus that will function like NASA’s mission control and, using algorithms, help staff prioritize patient-care activities and discharges, make short-term staffing decisions and generally increase the efficiency of care.

AdventHealth also uses technology to hire and retain talent, says Tol, who estimates that he spends at least a quarter of his time as CEO focused on talent strategy, including acquisition, retention and especially leadership development. For positions such as first-year nurses, for which turnover can be as high as 40-50 percent, AdventHealth uses interviewing technology with predictive AI. “That gives us the percentage chance of an individual nurse staying with us for two years vs. another that has a lower percentage chance, based on facial responses and answers to questions,” Tol explains, adding that Advent Health does “significant recruiting” from UCF, one of the country’s largest schools.

Partnering to Nurture Next-Gen Talent

MPHS has also kept its talent pipeline full by partnering with UCF, offering a robust internship program that produces a new roster of outstanding engineering candidates every year while, at the same time, offering the next generation of engineers a sense of what the day-to-day will be like. Unlike the more typical “gofer” style internships, MHPS interns are “designing the piping for a power plant or the control system for a customer’s application,” says Browning. “This is real hands-on engineering work.” The company typically hires more than 50 percent of the interns who have worked with them. “They tend to like us and we tend to like them,” Browning adds.

Given that companies like MHPS, AdventHealth and Universal need to recruit not only from local schools and competitors across the street but from around the globe, Orlando’s world-renowned weather, large international airport and advanced infrastructure are solid selling points, says Browning. “It’s not difficult to convince people that a move to Orlando is a good thing.”

By fostering a culture that prizes innovation, companies can both attract and retain the kind of talent that will give them a competitive advantage in any business climate.

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