Blog: John Gongos

John Gongos is the President and CEO of Auburn Hills-based Gongos Research. Moving from neighboring Ohio to Birmingham in 1987, John has seen his company flourish in the struggling economy. He'll be writing about why diversification is important, how to leverage emerging technologies and how to keep and nurture young talent.

Post No. 1

Attracting Young Talent 

One of the common themes discussed in recent Metromode blogs is a concern about the number of talented young people leaving our state for better jobs. I want to reflect on my experience and observations in our company by addressing two myths that I have found, in fact, not to be true. 

Myth #1:  Young people do not want to stay in Michigan 

Based on my observation, most of the young people we interview for new positions would prefer to stay in Michigan, all else equal. 

The challenge is that for some students (graduating with average or below average qualifications), all else is not equal and it is tough to find good opportunities in many fields in Michigan. For the top students in our industry, however, all else is equal in that they have multiple opportunities here, as well as in other states if they so choose.   

Young people in Michigan are no different than young people in other states.  Many have grown up here, have a network of family and friends, and have learned to enjoy the many great things our state has to offer. Of the 12 offers that we have made in the past two years for entry-level positions, only one person has declined in order to take a position in another market

We have interviewed several of our new employees and I will share one opinion from a bright, young new employee who had many other options.

    "I was born and raised a Michigander and left for 2 years to pursue my Masters from Georgetown in Washington, D.C., but nothing could keep me away.  Although I had multiple opportunities outside of Michigan (Chicago being one), I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.  My outlook on life and attitude were defined by Michigan and the Midwest, and I am very proud of that."

A previous blogger here on Metromode made a very insightful comment, in that our best strategy to retain our young talent is keeping them "one by one." To accomplish this, we must provide career choices that are better than what they see from other companies in other states. We have found that many of the young graduates are looking for companies that are innovative, technology leaders, provide a fun culture, and have a respect for their work/life balance.    

Myth #2:  Top talent will not want to relocate to Michigan  

We have been in the fortunate position to have been growing rapidly the past two years, but with that came the difficulty in finding talent fast enough to support that growth. Historically, we only recruited in-state because we had this false notion that most people would not want to relocate to Michigan. Out of necessity, we have tested this theory and found that it is not the case, especially for young people who are beginning their careers. 

In many cases, we have been successful in hiring people who want to return to their roots and are looking for an opportunity in Michigan. In the past two years we hired a Marketing & PR Director and a Sr. Programmer from California, a Project Coordinator from the University of Georgia Masters program and a Sr. Project Coordinator from Georgetown. All of these people hoped to return to Michigan and we provided them with that opportunity. We have also hired a bright young woman from Germany, whose husband was transferred to Michigan by an automotive company. 

The most common situations where we find people who are not willing to relocate to Michigan is when they have strong roots elsewhere in terms of family, friends and their community, which is fully understandable. It is not a case of them avoiding Michigan, as much as not wanting to uproot their family. I believe this is another example of the inferiority complex that we have developed as Michiganders based on the negativity that currently surrounds us.