Workforce Excellence with Alaant

Workforce trends and the hybrid model; labor shortages and streamlining hiring – all part of the deep dive into the hot topic of workforce in this episode of NYS Manufacturing Now. FuzeHub’s Steve Melito chats with Miriam Dushane, managing partner of Alaant Workforce Solutions on these topics as well as a number of workforce development resources available to businesses and organizations in New York State.


Steve Melito: Hey everybody, welcome to New York State Manufacturing Now, the podcast that’s powered by FuzeHub. I’m your host, Steve Melito. Today we’re talking to Miriam Dushane, managing partner of Alaant Workforce Solutions in Albany, New York. Alaant helps employers find and retain premier talent, and they do a great job at it. The company has been named one of the nation’s top ten employer consulting services and Alaant has placed more than 4,000 top professionals with over 400 companies. Miriam Dushane, welcome to New York State Manufacturing Now.

Miriam Dushane: Thanks so much, Steve.

Steve Melito: So, Miriam, recently you moderated a workforce panel at a FuzeHub event called “Vitality in the Valley”. What did the panelists talk about and what did you learn?

Miriam Dushane: That was actually a really, really good event. I’d never been to it before, so I was really excited that I was able to be a part of it. So my panel was on workforce, but it was workforce and how we can develop talent, and so we had a variety of panelists that talked about the available programs and funding that employers can tap into to build up, train, retrain or go out into the community to bring in people that they can train through various programs. So one of the programs was the apprenticeship programs through the state. Another woman she talked a lot about micro certifications or micro credentials, which I was actually very surprised I didn’t know more about the micro credentialing program that was through SUNY and the state of New York And they have like over 650, 700-ish different types of credentials that people can get or employers can help their employees to get. And the apprenticeship programs were very interesting because they have apprenticeship programs in place but they also will build out apprenticeship programs specific to those employers to help them skill up or re-skill their workforce as labor markets change, demand change, products change, etc, and Dan Collin from WDI was also there talking about how he can help employers with funding and also tap into various programs. So it was a really good discussion about what employers can do to get people into their organizations or invest in the people that they have with new skills.

Steve Melito: Excellent. Sounds like a great panel And for our listeners. if you’re not familiar with WDI, that’s the Workforce Development Institute, and FuzeHub can certainly put you in touch with them. Miriam, during the pandemic, a lot of people worked from home. Today, many of these workers have returned to their offices full-time And there are some other folks who still get to work from home some days. What are you seeing in terms of trends? For example, is the hybrid model here to stay?

Miriam Dushane: Yes. The long and short answer is, I believe, that the hybrid model is here to stay. Interestingly enough, more recently, a lot published their hiring index, and part of our hiring index is polling employers in the Capital Region 518, but also we got some statewide participation for our data this year. One of the questions we specifically asked was about hybrid and remote work environments, and were companies still doing it? Did they have a significant amount of their workforce that was using that type of model? And over 50% of employers who responded to the survey said that they were doing it in some way. Interestingly enough, though, if you look at all of the participants that responded to the survey, it was only a split 50-50 of those that were going to stay hybrid or remote in some fashion and those who were not. So I think you’re going to see probably a trend for it being more 50-50 divide. The biggest thing that I think employers need to understand is hybrid work is an element of flexibility, and so when you offer flexibility to your employees, the hybrid model is essentially a way of offering that, but I’m sharing with people that I feel that it’s more of a hybrid work when an employee can work from home a couple of days a week is more of a and I don’t wanna put this negatively like a disguise for flexibility okay. So employees need flexibility. Employees need to be able to come and go a little bit more than they may feel comfortable doing when they are reporting to an office every day. And so if employers can offer flexibility and it doesn’t necessarily mean flexibility from I work from home one day a week, two days a week, whatever it might be I think you may find a trend where there would be more people coming to offices knowing that their organization had a culture of flexibility, not necessarily that work from home thing. I really like working from home myself, but I find for me, professionally and personally, I like to have a nice balance. So my preference is I like to go in the office the good chunk of the week. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday’s. Those are my days in the office most days, but there’ll be days where Wednesday doesn’t make sense for me to drive across town go to my office for whatever meetings and other things that I have planned for my day that are closer to my home office. So if an employer can recognize those types of things, they’re actually probably gonna see higher loyalty and higher productivity out of their employees because they’re going to be grateful for that, and I know employers are more worried about people taking advantage, and I just wish the mindset would be we trust people, we hold them accountable to results. This is what we need the work to be done, and if it’s in a situation where it doesn’t necessarily need to be done between the hours of eight and five Monday through Friday, allowing for that flexibility to get the end result out there to your customers, or a product or whatever it might be.

Steve Melito: Right, it’s about results. So Miriam, requiring employees to return to the office full-time can create some resistance, our employers who can’t or won’t offer remote work at a disadvantage regarding employee recruitment.

Miriam Dushane: Yes and no. So I think one of the debates right now is there are just simply jobs that cannot work remotely. I often use the example of my husband. He works in a job in which there is no way he could do his job from home. He is working with his hands, he is putting basically large machines together and they really can’t ship those machines to our house and have him do it from the comfort of his garage or the basement. But where the disconnect sometimes comes into place, or the resistance that comes into place, is that same office has office staff And those people are afforded a little bit more opportunity to have that flexibility or that ability to work from home, and so a lot of rub can happen there. So if I was working with an employer, the first thing I would say is look at your workforce as a whole and determine what could be equitably distributed as options for employees. The good news for employers is most people don’t want to be isolated and work remotely five days out of the week, and so if you can offer some type of again flexibility, it helps. Now for those that are working in an not an office but on a manufacturing floor, or they are providing direct care in a hospital setting, whatever it might be. You can’t do that remotely. But what can you do And that’s what employers are, I feel, resisting a little bit is starting to become creative and think outside the box. Instead of us looking at shift work and all of the other things that are required for services and products to be produced and or delivered, you have to look at what really makes sense for your organization. I’ve heard more recently many companies are starting to pay for the commute For those who have to go to the office. Others are giving us somewhat of a stipend, similar thing it’s paying for the commute but you’re incentivizing that worker or saying listen, we recognize that when that employee works from home, they are getting a pay raise. They are not spending money getting in their car and driving, which says on gas, potentially saves on eating out, potentially saves on a variety of things that cost money to commute. And so if an employer can look at that and then say for what our organization can do, we realize that when an employee works from home, that we are giving them pay raise for the day, what can we do for those people on the floor, people in the hospitals that have to provide that work. How can you adjust for that? The other thing I heard more recently is an employer of a manufacturing facility who has that exact dynamic of office and manufacturing. What they’re saying now is on Fridays for the manufacturing floor, we close at noon And so you have an afternoon of being able to, you know, have more freedom for the start of your weekend. Now they’re not changing KPIs, they’re not changing productivity standards. Employees are aware of that And it’s not causing any friction that employees are being asked to do more, but they’re just asked to hold uphold that same standard that they had when they were supposedly working a full eight to five, seven to three, whatever it might be Monday through Friday and so I think what I would encourage employers to do is there are ways that a person who has to work on site can be compensated, rewarded, provided flexibility. You just have to be open enough to say I’m okay with changing the way we’ve always done it before, and that’s where I think there’s more of a rub and more resistance happening. But I was very happy to hear and I’m talking to employers all the time of these shifts and this is becoming set. This is not a topic that’s going away, so we have to start being creative on how can we make these two segments of our workplace now coexist and not feel as if one is more privileged than the other or the equity isn’t there across the board for all workers.

Steve Melito: Right, great points and some nice examples too, if you were to take a survey of business owners across New York’s capital region and you have- I’m sure you’ve heard about it I have great questions.

Miriam Dushane: I’m like well, Steve, I mean, come on, I just released the hiring index this week, so it’s perfect.

Steve Melito: Exactly. So what are some things that you’ve heard when it comes to hiring and workforce?

Miriam Dushane: The two biggest challenges right now in hiring a workforce are labor shortage and salary and wage demands. We are all dealing with it right now. So when it comes to the labor shortage, i would encourage employers to start doing things differently from the recruitment process. You cannot continue to do the way you’ve always done it and expect a different result because, guess what? There’s just less people out there. The statement that I hear sometimes of people don’t wanna work anymore is not correct. People are working. There’s not enough of them to work for you. Now. There’s other reasons possibly why that employer is having struggles. It could be their brand, it could be their reputation, it could be their culture, but the reality is is that everybody’s working? Now there are segments of our workforce that are underrepresented and underutilized And we’re talking about second chance hires. Considering people who have been in the criminal justice system as hires for your organization, their unemployment rates are far higher. The disabled community their unemployment rates is way high, like surprisingly high. They’re either underemployed or not employed, and there’s a lot of great skill sets that employers could use that they’re not tapping into. And that’s just two of the ones that stick out for the top of my head from a labor shortage perspective. So labor shortage is the big one. And then, of course, we have the salary and the wage demands For salary and wage, i’ve seen it too over the last two, three years where the wages have just gone up, up, up, up up. Good news is, though, recently I was reading something, or talking to someone, where moms are getting back into the workforce. So part of our labor shortages is that for a very long time since the pandemic, women especially were impacted. More so because there was the demands of the family, the child care, possibly elder care, whatever it might be, and so what we’ve seen since the pandemic began was women have been more reluctant to re-enter the workforce, not to mention that the cost of child care is extraordinarily impossible for most. We are now seeing a shift in that, and so hopefully, if companies can continue to invest in and look in programs that will help working moms get back into the workforce, that could ease the labor shortage a little bit. It’s not going to cure it because we just frankly, this country isn’t making enough babies like we used to. There’s not enough people If they have children. You’re seeing one and two children households. These days. There’s very few families that are four, five, six kids, like they were many, many years ago, and that’s part of the problem. It has nothing to do with employers. It has nothing to do with workers not wanting to work, it’s just there’s less of us around. The wage demands are shrinking somewhat. They’re not going to go back to the way they were even before the pandemic, but as inflation continues to level out a little bit more, as maybe things get a little bit more consistent on the government side in terms of economics, we could see a softening in that area. It’s not going to be a ton, but I think companies can also look at what benefits they offer, what other cultural, company cultural incentives they may be able to provide to employees. And here’s the best part Employees will take less money to have a hybrid work environment. So, figure it out, people. If you can’t pay more, then what else can you do? that would be a better incentive to that person or that workforce that could even itself out.

Steve Melito: Yes, indeed great insights. So last question We know that employers say they can’t find the workers they need. Something that I’ve heard, and maybe you’ve heard it too, is workers say that employers take way too long to hire Yep. What can employers do to streamline the hiring process so that they don’t lose those good applicants?

Miriam Dushane: If you have not audited your application and hiring process at least once a year, you have to start doing that. The next thing I say is if you are a hiring manager, you are an HR person. Pretend to be an applicant to your organization and apply to one of your jobs. That would be the first thing I would do. See how cumbersome or inefficient that system is. Look at your job boards that you are investing in and seeing how complicated and cumbersome that process is and how there’s a lack of integration between those systems. It starts at the system level. You have to fix your systems. You have to look at what you’re using from a digital perspective to collect applications, to get the word out about your jobs and start there. Most application processes are exorbitantly long because what’s happening is we always hear about this ghosting phenomenon where people schedule to do an interview with a company or even take a job and say they’re going to start and then never show up. You’re actually getting more ghosting in the application process because it takes too long to get through the application process. We’re asking them to put in the same information two, three, four times. You’re not allowing for employees or prospective employees, excuse me to upload resumes or upload LinkedIn profiles. So you have to first start at that system level. Then you need to really look at how many steps of a hit hit interview process do I need to have. Now I’m not saying hire fast and fire slow. That’s not what I’m talking about. What I am saying is there doesn’t need to be six rounds of interviews for an entry-level college grad One, maybe two, I mean. And if you can do them all on the same day, do that. Sometimes. You have to look at who’s involved in the process and when you sit down to hire any person for your organization, you should have a project plan in place. Okay, this is our opening. It’s going to take us this many days to prepare a job posting. We’re going to post the job. This should take us this many days. Then, from that point, how quickly are we going to get back to applicants? Here’s the other interesting thing Once a person applies to that job, your likelihood of getting that qualified person into your office for an interview falls by over 50% if you wait more than 24 hours from the time they show interest and apply to your company. You’ve got to move fast. You have to treat hiring like a project. Who’s the players, who’s accountable for what and how quickly can you get this done? Because time is of the essence. We are the most impatient nation on earth. Right now. There is an employer out there that’s going to move faster. We’re seeing it all the time. I’m talking from an entry-level job to an executive-level job. It doesn’t matter. Treat your hiring like a project. Make sure you have timelines, milestones and that you agree as a company with whoever’s involved in that process. The decisions will be made by certain points. Then stick to that. On top of that, communication is key. There is no longer a you know. Let this person apply, let them have a first interview and then just don’t get back to them for three weeks If you don’t clearly set expectations with those applicants on the day. They interact with your organization and they know what to expect. That is a lengthy process If you just communicate that to them. Keep them engaged. Make sure you’re staying on top of them with personal phone calls and messages about you are still being considered for this job. We apologize for the delay or whatever it might be. So those are some of the things that you know off the top of my head. I would recommend employers do immediately.

Steve Melito: Great insights. Miriam Dushane, thank you so much for being on New York State Manufacturing now.

Miriam Dushane: Thank you so much for having me. It was a great time.

Steve Melito: So we’ve been talking to Miriam Dushane of Alaant Workforce Solutions in Albany, New York, a nationally recognized leader in talent acquisition and retention. You know it’s fitting that Alaant is headquartered in Albany, because New York is truly a leader in workforce development. As Miriam mentioned when she was talking about the panel, New York State has a registered apprenticeship program in lots of different things, including advanced manufacturing, and FuzeHub can connect you to the resources that you need. But the first step is up to you. But it’s an easy one. Just visit and click Speak to an Expert. It’s right there on the home page. Then fill out the short online form and let us know what you need. A member of our Manufacturing Solutions program will be in touch sometime within the next 24 hours, so we hope to hear from you soon. On behalf of FuzeHub in New York State Manufacturing now. This is Steve Melito signing off.

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