The Detroit Regional Chamber released its ninth annual State of the Region report on Wednesday, Feb. 8, showcasing both promising and discouraging news and insights that fell somewhere in between.
Following the report’s presentation by Chamber President and Chief Executive Officer Sandy K. Baruah, WDIV-TV’s Devin Scillian further discussed how the report’s data would impact business with:
- Anna Paulson, Executive Vice President, Director of Research, and Executive Committee Member, The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago
- Peter Quigley, President and Chief Executive Officer, Kelly Services, Inc.
- Michael Robinet, Executive Director, S&P Global
Encouraged by Resilience, Curious about ‘Dichotomy,’ Concerned About Labor Force
Kicking off the conversation, Scillian said he was most encouraged by the Detroit Region’s economic resilience and asked what else immediately stood out to the panelists. Paulson revealed her curiosity in the “dichotomy” between the data and the sentiments of “I’m doing fine but everyone else is in trouble.”
Further, everyone agreed that workplace evolution, lagging labor force participation, and education gaps are long-term issues. Quigley suggested that more businesses and organizations must work together to solve these issues.
Employers Should Focus on Employee Purpose and Educational Opportunities
Employers must begin the long-haul work to reduce educational attainment and labor force participation rates. While Robinet suggested creating more incentives to increase automotive inventory, Paulson and Quigley focused on opportunities for every industry’s talent pool, especially in education and giving employees purpose.
“If anything, we’re above what economists [have predicted],” she said, stricken by the educational gap data. However, she is also encouraged by the rise of teenage labor force participation and considers that the “only bright spot” in the 2023 report.
Quigley also noted his analysis of employees seeking larger and better purposes, encouraging employers to focus on their own value propositions. “They want to know if they’re going somewhere [within your company],” he said.
The Future of Work Requires Attention to Flexibility and Balance
The conversation led to a discussion on the future of work and the panel’s five-year predictions for the Detroit Region. After joking that “we will all be 100% wrong,” Paulson is confident that flexible work is here to stay, saying we can’t put remote and flexible work “back into the genie bottle.”
Robinet believes that as we move towards battery and electric, the skills to build these new mechanics will be different than today’s, noting that high turnover will “kill” the products’ quality. Additionally, he is not worried about a “robot takeover” within the next decade.
“If you wanted to automate completely, you need a lot of capital,” Robinet said. “But we’ll definitely not be there over the next decade. We need to find ways to get people engaged and enthused.”
An optimistic Quigley echoed Paulson, adding that business leaders need to ensure they don’t accidentally create another equity gap between remote-capable workers and those who cannot be. Similarly, Quigley encouraged more advertisement of Michigan’s benefits, saying, “Michigan and our Region have a lot of the things people are looking for. It’s looking for ways to promote, ways to…make that connection and get them here.”