Shrinking the Rural Leadership Gap

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Shrinking the Rural Leadership Gap

From Kayla Schnuelle, Leadership Engagement Director & Network Weaver

 

What happens when the leaders in your community retire, move or step down? Is there a leadership succession plan happening in your community? Is the next generation of leaders being mentored?

Leadership is important and even critical for long-term success and vitality of rural communities. In my experience, leadership tends to be the major factor that distinguishes thriving rural places from those that are lagging behind.

Kayla-graph

As we look deeper, it becomes apparent that the transfer of leadership from one generation to the next may be another important factor and could serve as a powerful tool for communities.

The rural leadership gap is real and is amplified because of outmigration of the millennials. According to a research published in the Cornhusker Economics, some young adults, especially young families, are looking to relocate from metro areas to nonmetro areas. They want to live in family-friendly communities to raise their children. They also need a way to support themselves, so employment opportunities are critical.

In most rural communities, the majority of leadership positions — elected service and volunteer — are held by the oldest two generations in the communities. The 2012 Nebraska Rural Poll showed that of young Nebraskans (under the age of 36) that took the poll, only 8 percent held elected offices and less than one-third held formal leadership roles. This is not a new phenomenon. It has happened for decades, but the unique part of this trend is that the lack of leadership transfer is now coupled with the huge transfer of wealth occurrence.

The Nebraska Community Foundation researched the transfer of wealth in Nebraska, predicting that during the next 50 years, more than $602 billion will be transferred from one generation to the next. This will be the largest intergenerational transfer of wealth in our state’s history.

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The World War II and Baby Boomer generation own more private wealth than any other generations, with more than $600 billion in wealth. This wealth may be held in real estate, securities, retirement accounts and other assets. Some will go to taxes while most will go to heirs. Due to outmigration, many of those heirs no longer live where the wealth was built and may no longer feel connected to those places. Once wealth leaves these communities, the opportunity for give-back becomes more and more unlikely. (The Nebraska Community Foundation, 2011 Transfer of Wealth Study Summary Report, 2012.)

So, what happens when the transfer of wealth is accompanied by a gap in the transfer of leadership? People will retire and pass on their wealth and leadership positions, but what happens when the next wave of leaders are unprepared and/or nonexistent?

According to the 2015 American Community Survey, in Nebraska’s 86 most rural counties, there is a population dip between ages 20-49 (Figure 1). It is significant in most instances. Many people are not surprised by this. However, when you think about the dip in population, the transfer of wealth and the transfer of leadership brings a significant challenge.

What is the solution? There are no specific answers, but I believe that rural leadership needs to start and continue a culture of ‘giving back to the community.’ This happens with service, financial gifting and becoming a community leader. Current rural leadership also needs to mentor, teach and ask the next generations to participate and lead efforts in rural places.

 

“A true rural leader invites other people of diversity to the table and steps back, guides and supports in an act of service to their community.” – Kayla Schnuelle

 

If you do empower others to serve and guide with a gentle hand, then the opportunities for your community are generative and endless. The young leaders that you mentor are the best attraction and retention for the next wave of rural leaders.

Support your community by supporting a culture of giving, and make intentional plans to transfer leadership by extending personal invites and embracing new thoughts, ideas and people. Slowly but surely, we will see the rural leadership gap diminish.

 


 

Kayla Schnuelle

Kayla Schnuelle

Leadership Engagement Director & Network Weaver | Rural Futures Institute
@kschnuelle

Kayla Schnuelle directs the RFI Student Serviceship program, coordinates the state-wide network of young professionals, Connecting Young Nebraskans, and offers her expertise in facilitation and leadership throughout many of RFI’s initiatives.

She has developed a deep understanding of the opportunities and trials that young professionals are finding in rural places. With an immense support network in place, Kayla has coordinated three statewide summits and has assisted in planning two national Rural Futures Institute Conferences.

 


 

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Growing Our State Through People Attraction, Retention & Development

“…business development in Nebraska is directly tied to the development
and growth of available ‘talent.’”

 

As the “talent attraction coordinator” for Nebraska’s Department of Economic Development (DED), my business is growing Nebraska. My team is dedicated to attracting, retaining and developing the people of Nebraska to match the growing job opportunities here.

  • Attract — Coordinate an extensive communications and outreach effort that promotes Nebraska as welcoming and attracts a diverse group of talented individuals to the state to live and work.
  • Retain — Develop programs and foster an environment that results in individuals remaining in the state.
  • Develop — Serve as a catalyst for advancing ideas, partnerships and actions that create and enhance pathways to career opportunities for Nebraska residents.

 

The Context

For many years, DED heard from businesses looking for help finding more people, or “talent.” In 2016, my team and I at DED surveyed 263 primary sector businesses (i.e. businesses that import capital into the community from outside the region) during company conversations and visits. Results showed that nearly 50% of these businesses experienced increasing employment needs and 80% reported experiencing recruitment problems.

Nebraska has the fourth lowest unemployment rate (2.8% in May 2017) and the fourth highest labor participation rate (69.5% in May 2017) in the nation. With few unemployed people seeking work and a limited pool of residents to add to the labor force, it is critical that Nebraska be proactive in both retaining the current workforce and attracting new people to the state to fill the growing opportunities here.

According to the US Census Bureau, Nebraska’s migration trends show that there was a net loss of 2,551 persons in state-to-state migration in 2014. Nebraskan’s aged 25 years and older with a Bachelor’s Degree or more education—key population from which high-skilled workers are often hired—left the state at an average rate of 11,861 per year over the 5-year period between 2011 and 2015, resulting in an outmigration of -6.5 per 1,000 people and ranking Nebraska 9th worst nationally. Migration trends coupled with Nebraska’s aging population has made this outmigration even more pronounced in rural areas. In 71 of Nebraska’s 93 counties, particularly in less densely populated Western Nebraska, there is a median age of 40 or older according to the US Census Bureau. People exiting the workforce for retirement in the coming years will exacerbate this already pressing issue.

Median Age 40 or Older in 71 of 93 counties
MedianAgeByCounty

Additionally, according to the Nebraska Department of Labor, there were 64,128 job openings advertised on its NEworks website in May 2017. This amounts to more than two job ads for every unemployed person in Nebraska. Conversely, industry projections predict growth in employment in 18 of the 20 industry sectors through 2022, with a total statewide growth of 9.54% between 2012 and 2022. Industry growth is undoubtedly already hindered by Nebraska’s tight labor market.

 

What This Means

All of this points to the fact that business development in Nebraska is directly tied to the development and growth of available “talent.” We have worked closely with the business community to identify the skills gaps and developed partnerships with the Department of Labor, Department of Education and other training providers to build talent pipelines. We strive to ensure our youth have experiences that will help them make thoughtful and well-informed career and education decisions. Over the last couple of years, DED has adjusted its strategy to intentionally include the attraction and retention of people as well.

I was hired about 18 months ago to research talent trends, develop a talent attraction and retention strategy and implement talent-focused initiatives. This research and many conversations with people and businesses across Nebraska has led me to believe that we will be most successful in recruiting young people (e.g. millennials) who have previously lived in Nebraska back to Nebraska. Some of us in this field like to call these individuals “boomerangs.”

Results from a 2010 Gallup survey of individuals who had previously lived in Nebraska revealed that people under 30 years old are more likely to return to Nebraska. Specifically, 45% of survey participants under 30 years old said there was at least a 50% chance they would someday return to Nebraska, in comparison to only 23% of overall participants who reported at least a 50% chance of returning to Nebraska.

DED recently collaborated with the University of Nebraska–Lincoln to update some of Gallup’s previous findings through a survey of University of Nebraska–Lincoln alumni who currently live outside of the state. In this survey, 87.9% of millennials (respondents born after 1980) responded “Yes” or “Maybe” when asked if they would return to Nebraska if the opportunity presented itself, compared to a slightly lower percentage, 83.9%, of overall participants. If they responded “Yes” or “Maybe” we followed up by asking how likely they were to return to Nebraska; 37.2% of millennials responded they were either “Very likely” or “Somewhat likely” to return compared to 34.6% of all participants.

Millennials:
Would you Return
to Nebraska?

 

Millennials:
How likely are you
to return to Nebraska?

AllisonHatch_PieCharts AllisonHatch_PieCharts2

 
 

DED Talent-Focused Initiatives

DED is in the process of implementing several talent-focused initiatives. According to the Development counselors international 10 Top Tips in Talent Attraction publication, one of the primary elements of any successful talent attraction and development strategy is to have a well-organized, visually compelling, informative web presence. My team is currently working closely with a website developer to create a one-stop-shop website that will promote Nebraska as a great place to live, work and play. The website is expected to launch this November and will feature job opportunities, culture and quality of life aspects, training opportunities and community engagement opportunities. Potential new residents will be drawn in by personal stories of people who love living in Nebraska and have the opportunity to connect directly with passionate Nebraskans eager to help them learn more about the state.

DED and a group of talent-focused economic development and chambers of commerce professionals are working collaboratively to create this network of passionate Nebraskans who will connect with potential new residents. When someone from outside of Nebraska shares that they are interested in learning more about living and working here, a volunteer from the network we are building will reach out to them directly to address their questions. The network, which will undoubtedly include many young professionals across the state, will also be asked to share the good news about Nebraska with their family and friends. I know that Nebraska’s current residents and employees are one of our most valuable resources as well as our state’s best recruiters. I hope that engaging Nebraskans in this effort to promote our state will also help strengthen their own desire to stay here.

My team and I will continue to work diligently on these projects, and many others still in the formation stages, to grow the state through attracting, retaining and developing great people. I know that I will reach out to you all for support and inspiration as well. Connecting Young Nebraskans was established to connect, empower and retain young leaders in the rural areas of Nebraska, making you an essential partner in DED’s mission to grow the state. I am thrilled about the possibilities of how we can achieve these goals together.

 


 

Allison Hatch

Allison Hatch

Talent Attraction Coordinator | Nebraska Department of Economic Development
Join Allison on LinkedIn

Allison Hatch oversees a state strategy for attracting qualified talent for growing job opportunities. She is involved with coordinating an extensive communications and outreach effort that promotes Nebraska as welcoming and attracts a diverse group of talented individuals to the state to live and work; developing programs and fostering an environment that results in individuals remaining in the state; and serving as a catalyst for advancing ideas, partnerships and actions that create greater pathways to career opportunities for Nebraska’s current and future workforce.

 


 

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Culture & Entertainment for Young Nebraskans

Don't do things for image — Do things to make a difference.

 

Culture & Entertainment for Young Nebraskans

Q&A with Selena Aguilar, Nebraska State Fair Entertainment Assistant and CYN Steering Team Member

 

Why are culture and entertainment important for young Nebraskans?

It is so important for young people in general to feel like they have a purpose and that they are a part of something. I think this becomes especially important as we look to recruit and retain young Nebraskans to our rural communities—we need these people to feel connected to their community and entertainment and culture are a great way to do that. They bridge gaps and prevent people from feeling like they are missing out on something out there. Entertainment brings people together in a positive way.

 

Why are you passionate about each one (culture and entertainment)?

I come from a mixed background and have seen a lot of cultures blended together. I think that all unique cultures should be celebrated, because it is part of what gives a person fulfillment. We, as people, pull influence for all different cultures in our daily lives.

Entertainment has always held a special place in my life. I’ve had a passion for music and theater since I was in grade school. There are so many embarrassing videos of me “performing.”

The sole purpose of my job is to make people happy—to make sure attendees enjoy their time. No matter how crazy it gets, it is pretty amazing to think about bringing people of all different backgrounds together, and everyone enjoying themselves.

 

How do you think culture and entertainment can be created and sustained for young Nebraskans?

I’d like to think I’m part of that effort at the state level with my role at the fair, but it really only does take one person in a community to make a difference. Through CYN we are working hard to build the types of leaders who will step up in their community. No matter what your goal is, there are plenty of people out there who are just as passionate as you but need the right connector. It may be as easy as stepping out of your comfort zone and stepping up to make it happen.

Hear Nebraska is a great example of this. Speaking close to home, Hear Grand Island (a branch of Hear Nebraska) is a weekly local concert series in our downtown area during the summer. It has provided a way to bring not only community but businesses together as well.

Festivals are a great way to create an environment of culture and entertainment as well, but I’d suggest more long-term plans for sustainability—something people can get involved with regularly, not one weekend or even day a year. A good rule of thumb is to keep intentions true—don’t do things for image, do them to make a difference.

 

How does diversity tie into culture and entertainment?

To summarize, diversity is an influencer of culture, and culture is an influencer of entertainment. Without different belief systems, rituals and traditions, there would be no culture. Entertainment of all kinds is a powerful form of expression. It pulls influence from our beliefs, traditions and feelings.

 

Why are you passionate about diversity?

Diversity should be celebrated! I would love to never stop learning. Diversity is the perfect opportunity to learn. Accept when others differ from you, learn about them and celebrate what makes you an individual. Life would be pretty boring if we just did the same old thing all time. I believe in immersing yourself in other people’s worlds, not to make them your own, but to celebrate individuality.

 

How can Nebraska celebrate diversity?

In order to celebrate diversity anywhere, not just Nebraska, there needs be a true, honest focus on a long-term sustainability. There’s too much focus on celebration by separation—celebrating a culture within a day for example. While some do not see it as a problem, here is my perspective: It can feel like you’re being told: “Here is your day. You get this day, and this day only, and then the rest of the year you sit back and be quiet about it.” Celebrations of diversity shouldn’t be confined or restrained.

 

How have your passions for culture, entertainment and diversity impacted your professional career?

My passions for culture, entertainment and diversity have 100 percent influenced my professional career. I’ve always wanted to do something for a living that makes me happy but it also had to be realistic. As happy as singing on stage every day of my life would make me, it isn’t exactly a reliable path to follow. I tried a lot of different things before I found the niche of event planning. In pursuing event planning, my passion for entertainment actually pulled me into my current opportunity. Now I’m able to help create a huge, 11-day experience in culture, diversity and entertainment. I don’t think anything that didn’t offer me the same opportunity to intersect all of these important aspects to me would hold my passion.

 


 

Selena Aguilar

Selena Aguilar

Entertainment Assistant | Nebraska State Fair
Join Selena on LinkedIn

Selena Aguilar is originally from Grand Island, Neb., where she returned after graduating from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications in December 2016. Selena works as an entertainment assistant for the Nebraska State Fair, and serves as a member of the CYN Steering Team. She is passionate about fostering diversity and contributing to her community.

 


 

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Young Nebraskans Week

Young Nebraskans Week

 

Young Nebraskans Week

Originally published by Greater Omaha Young Professionals

Allison Hatch, Nebraska Department of Economic Development
Kayla Schnuelle,
Rural Futures Institute 
Tom Beckius, Keith Peterson, Jaime Henning & Kayla Meyer,
Lincoln’s Young Professionals Group
Luke Hoffman,
Greater Omaha Chamber Young Professionals

 

The face of young American workers, their jobs and where they work is changing.

 

By 2018, employers will see as many as five generations working side by side. More than 60 million baby boomers will exit the workforce, and by 2025, only 40 million new workers will enter to replace them. Advancements in technology will help elevate some labor shortages but not in all sectors. Estimates suggest millennials could make up as much as 75% of the U.S. workforce by 2025.

Young workers today are more likely to be underemployed, earning less, living at home with their parents, delaying marriage and dependent on technology. They are less likely to be affiliated with a political party and connected to religion.

Here is what we also know. Today’s young workers are highly engaged with their work. Additionally, the jobs of today’s young workers are more mobile than they have been for any other generation. Good jobs can be as easy to locate as a good internet connection, whether you are in Albion or Atlanta, McCook or Miami, Lexington or London. As the mobility of jobs continues to increase, communities must ask how they can become more attractive to young workers. Community vibrancy is an ever-increasing factor in today’s job marketplace as workers can often choose from where they work instead of simply locating to where jobs are located.

The attraction, retention and development of young workers is vitally important for communities hoping to remain relevant in the rapidly expanding and diversified economy of the 21st Century. It is with this focus in mind that community leaders across the state of Nebraska have developed strategies to target this talent pool through attraction and retention efforts, including a specific priority to ask young workers what the community can do to make it more attractive as a place to live and work.

 

Yet, no one community knows all the best practices in attraction, retention and development of young talent, and leaders and communities are constantly faced with limited resources.

 

Yet, no one community knows all the best practices in attraction, retention and development of young talent, and leaders and communities are constantly faced with limited resources. As such, a concerted statewide coalition of leaders working together, sharing best practices and resources across the state, to focus the spotlight on young talent and vibrant communities together is the next step in making sure we are at the forefront for young workers.

Young Nebraskans Week will be a carefully curated series of speakers, discussion panels, workshops and networking opportunities hosted by communities across the state that celebrate the talent, insight and energy of young professionals working in Nebraska while also exploring the intersection between cultures and cities. Developed by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development and modeled after Lincoln’s Young Professionals Group’s annual YP Week, Young Nebraskans Week aims to concentrate our state’s focus on growing, retaining and developing our youngest members of the workforce. We know that highlighting the best of what Nebraska offers is how we win the fight for young talent and helps to keep Nebraska prosperous.

 

Collaboration is the new competition.

 

As we launch Young Nebraskans Week in 2018, we will be working throughout the state with local partners to create a dynamic environment focused on young workers. We will call upon industry, labor, chambers of commerce, economic development partners and many others to help make this initiative as strong as possible. We ask every Nebraskan to join our coalition in the fight to attract and retain young workers to our state. Collaboration is the new competition.

 


 

Kayla Schnuelle

Kayla Schnuelle

Leadership Engagement Director & Network Weaver | Rural Futures Institute
@kschnuelle

Kayla Schnuelle directs the RFI Student Serviceship program, coordinates the state-wide network of young professionals, Connecting Young Nebraskans, and offers her expertise in facilitation and leadership throughout many of RFI’s initiatives.

She has developed a deep understanding of the opportunities and trials that young professionals are finding in rural places. With an immense support network in place, Kayla has coordinated three statewide summits and has assisted in planning two national Rural Futures Institute Conferences.

 


 

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