Employee Attraction and Retention Lessons from Columbus, IN

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Employee Retention

Matching contemporary with traditional architecture in Columbus, IN

If you wanted to attract and retain employees in your organization, you would design a plan for that, right?  J. Irwin Miller, former chairman of Cummins Engine, took the concept of designing employee retention strategies much more seriously than the rest of us.

In the 1940’s, Miller faced a human capital dilemma that many of us still face today—how to attract top performing employees to a small town, in this case, Columbus, Indiana—and then implement employee retention strategies to keep them.  You see, back in the 40’s, Columbus, IN was a very small town on the US map.

J. Irwin Miller’s dream was based upon the guiding principle, “If you build it, they will come,” long before the movie Field of Dreams was filmed.  Envisioning Columbus as a forward-thinking city, with churches, schools, recreation, and gathering centers, Miller sought world renowned architects to showcase their bold ideas and build his dream.

It took Miller’s skill of persuasion to attract Eliel Saarinen to build the first of over 60 post-modern and contemporary buildings designed by the most notorious architects from around the world.  Creating a foundation to fund architectural fees for new buildings, Miller’s dreams began to take form.  And, as the city’s infrastructure emerged, so did the attraction and retention strategies—business leaders were coming to live and staying in Columbus, IN.

Presently, Columbus, IN now has six national historic landmarks; ranks 6th in the nation behind Boston, New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco for having the most buildings designed by prominent architects; has 18 city parks; three higher education institutions; and Cummins Engine’s headquarters.  It’s a small town (44,000 people—4,000 work for Cummins), with a big city attitude and a common goal among its residents of being a city of excellence.  The city’s slogan, most appropriately is, “Unexpected…Unforgettable.”

What did Columbus, IN teach me about employee attraction and retention strategies?  Surprisingly, the importance of “thinking outside the box;” find bold and creative ways to attract and retain employees.

If you’re looking for a unique plan related to employee attraction and retention strategies, please review my Dream Manager Program offerings and/or contact me for further information.

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