Now is time to reexamine hiring practices, Gazette business panel says

Many businesses shut their doors during the coronavirus pandemic. Above, a sign in a Mt. Pleasant shop window in April.
Many businesses shut their doors during the coronavirus pandemic. Above, a sign in a Mt. Pleasant shop window in April. (Southeast Iowa Union)

By Brooklyn Draisey, The Gazette

Biodiversity is required for ecosystems to survive and thrive and — in the world of business — changing practices to hire and keep employees from all walks of life is the key to growth.

That was the view of business experts discussing the changing landscape of recruitment and retention, during The Gazette’s virtual Business Breakfast Series discussion Thursday.

Tom Banta, strategic growth director with the Iowa City Area Development Group; Samantha Rogers, Skywalk Group senior manager of human resources in Cedar Rapids, and Iowa State University economist Dave Swenson spoke with Gazette business editor Michael Chevy Castranova about how the COVID-19 pandemic and the Aug. 10 derecho storm — along with the economic downturn — have provided challenges as well as opportunities for businesses, and how their hiring processes need to change.

The panelists contended opportunities lie within each of the current challenges, from having to furlough workers to showing Iowa as an enticing location in which to work.

Rogers said the process of just posting a job listing and waiting for candidates find it — “the post and pray method,” she called it — isn’t a proactive enough approach, and that businesses should work with other organizations to seek out potential employees with the skills and experiences that would be a good fit for the job.

Banta noted Iowa City Area Development has partnered with Skillful, a not-for-profit, to promote skills-based hiring practices.

“Now more than ever, we can take a look at our entire recruiting process to say, ‘What’s working and what’s not working,’” Rogers said.


The panel also suggested hiring managers consider the number of potential job candidates now seeking employment after their former jobs were eliminated or hours cut back during the months-long pandemic.

These changing practices also can break businesses out of the pattern of hiring from the same group of people. Traditional hiring processes tend to result in employers hiring people very much like themselves, Banta said, which can keep organizations from creating a more diverse workforce.

If employers are only hiring people with similar traits and experiences, the marketplace of ideas within the business will be sorely lacking, Rogers said.

“You can have all the best intentions you want, but if we use the same methodologies that we’ve continued to use, we’re going to get the same results, despite our intentions,” Banta said.

External factors also have an effect on recruitment and retention practices, location being an important one.

But Swenson said while Iowa has no problem with educating young residents, the state does have an issue in keeping them.

While nothing is certain with the future economy, diversifying industries in Iowa and offering residents enticing job opportunities will go toward keeping them here, he added.

Areas such as Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Ames and Des Moines have more diverse markets, and will have a somewhat easier time attracting more skilled workers, he said.


“Metropolitan areas have advantages that much of the rest of the state doesn’t have,” Swenson said.

When trying to attract non-residents to work in Iowa, Rogers said offering assistance with relocation and promoting the corporate culture of the organization will be nothing but helpful. As an Iowa transplant from Indianapolis, she said the culture is what has kept her here.

“I do see an opportunity with COVID now, where people can work from anywhere,” Banta said. “So maybe it’s less about attracting someone here to work for a local company and more about selling the opportunity to relocate out of an area that you’re tethered to for work, and highlighting the quality of life for the right individual at the time of their of their life is very attractive for them.”

The Gazette’s Business Breakfast video can be viewed on The Gazette’s website at

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