Chamber Connections: Session offered insight on shifts in workplace

The Otsego County Chamber Commerce Chamber Board of Directors recently held its annual strategic planning session. Given the dramatic pace at which our society evolves, I requested a theme of future thinking: “New Horizons.”

We opened with Peter Aust, CEO of the Chamber Alliance of New York, as he shared the results of the research publication, “Horizons Initiative: Chambers 2025, Eight Influences Shaping the Next Decade for Chambers of Commerce.” He shared insights into what is ahead for chambers, businesses and communities.

The takeaways were so compelling that I wanted to share a few of the high-level concepts with our community, as we too must adapt to the shift happening nationally and globally.

THE NATURE OF BELONGING AND GATHERING

Group involvement is hardwired; we have an innate need to belong. Psychologist Abraham Maslow insists in his hierarchy of needs that humans crave a sense of belonging and acceptance among their social groups, including organizations related to their work lives.

Yet, generational angst leads some to believe the future holds less interpersonal connection.

Millennials are often perceived as being too connected to technology, unable to put their phone away for some old-fashioned human contact. Nearly every study on preferences and future behaviors of millennials concludes that they will be more — not less — likely to reach out, find connection in their communities, and become involved in causes.

However, businesses and organizations won’t be able to engage millennials using their old tactics. The Otsego County Chamber has had success in involving millennials and helping them build relationships in the community through our Leadership Otsego and our Young Professional Network programs.

We’ve invited young professionals to serve on community boards and committees and value their input as intellectual equals. Engaging this generation will be of vital importance to business and community sustainability.

SCARCITY AND ABUNDANCE

One way to illustrate the impacts of scarcity on future local economies is to identify those of the present. In our 2018 Membership Survey, the No. 1 challenge business owners identified were labor force issues. The chamber is working in collaboration with our school districts, BOCES and colleges on connecting our businesses to these institutions, apprenticeship programs, hosting leadership and skilled training workshops with CDO Workforce, and hosting industry job expos.

In May, I will be hosting a business roundtable at Hartwick College with area business owners and CEOs to collect real-time data to inform the strategies that have been deployed. Such strategies will require us to speak from the perspective of abundance related to our region as we seek to attract, retain and train tomorrow’s workforce. A question I open for your consideration and feedback:

Since people and talent are the new inventory for economic development and investment decisions, what aspects of your workforce and talent pool are abundant, but largely unidentified, misunderstood, or exported?

These influences will undoubtedly change how we connect you to resources and how you run your business, and how we’ll be involved in our community in the decade ahead. The future can be shaped with your involvement at the chamber as we see value in understanding the challenges we might face and positioning ourselves to tackle them on behalf of our local businesses for the prosperity of our community.

If you are interested in reading the full Horizons document or want information on chamber programs and initiatives or have a business idea to enhance our community please don’t hesitate to contact me at baheegan@otsegocc.com.

Barbara Ann Heegan is president and chief executive officer of the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce.

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