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Opinion: How employee retention starts in a classroom

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When I worked for Missouri State University, we told students the best way to address being homesick was to enhance their college experience by becoming involved on and off campus. This holds true when employers hire new leaders.

Employers have been attracting local and global leaders to Springfield for quite some time. Retention rates are enhanced when new leaders engage with and network in the community.

Springfield has been enhancing the quality of life for those familiar with the Ozarks and the beauty it offers, as well as for those of us with global backgrounds. In the short 10 years the city has been my home, I have watched Springfield grow with programs such as 1 Million Cups, Minorities in Business, Broadway plays, such as “The Lion King” and “Phantom of the Opera,” and the Springfield Jazz Festival with Gillioz Theatre. These are key enhancements that helps newcomers want to stay.

For businesspeople new to the area, connecting with other leaders and professionals can be a challenge. Fortunately, I learned about Leadership Springfield while employed at Isabel’s House. I graduated from Class 27 after living in Springfield for a few years. I remember thinking it would have been great to have participated in Leadership Springfield within my first year in town. Through the class, I developed friendships, expanded my network of professional contacts and worked on several community projects.

Leadership Springfield has evolved. It now uses a community framework to help leaders to engage and better understand the needs of our community.

The framework model is threefold: framing ideas, building social capital and mobilizing resources. Building social capital refers to how we develop and maintain relationships to help people work together for common goals. It includes “bridging capital” initiatives that are intentionally inclusive of those we may not regularly work with in our community.

The latest addition to Leadership Springfield is a two-day Access Class that allows employers to send new leaders to a shorter class to learn about highlights of the community. Part of the aim is long-term retention. The class was a response to local employers who requested a shorter course for leaders new to town to help quickly orient them at a high level.

The yearlong Signature Class is still an option, providing more detailed engagement with the Framework for Community Leadership.

The Access Class launched in February, and registration is open for May and August through LeadershipSpringfield.org. It’s a great way for employers to connect their company or organization’s new leaders with an immersive community experience, while also enhancing relocation efforts and employee retention. The class is best suited for mid- to high-level employees and licensed professionals new to the area or those seeking expanded professional connections.

The retention of new leaders to our community brings outside experiences and ideas to continue to make Springfield prosperous for all who call it home.

Francine Pratt is director of Prosper Springfield, a poverty reduction initiative led by Community Partnership of the Ozarks and United Way of the Ozarks. She can be reached at fpratt@cpozarks.org.

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