President and CEO Letter: A Commitment to Listen

Last month, Ascend Indiana’s President and CEO, Brad Rhorer, described the organization’s plans to grow its footprint and statewide impact with a commitment to moving forward with three tenets: Listen, Lean-In and Leverage.

This month, he delves into how Ascend is Listening, and what that means for the organization and its stakeholders.

When I first joined Ascend in January, I thought immediately of what I learned from Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People®. I had the privilege of participating in Covey’s leadership classes while I was a Production Associate at Subaru of Indiana Automotive. Truth be told, I didn’t feel very fortunate at the time to be spending 80 hours in a classroom when I had cars to build. But, as I sit here 30 years later, nearly every aspect of my leadership style and thinking is driven by the Seven Habits. My favorite of all time is Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood®. A well-positioned intermediary, such as Ascend, must understand the hurdles and challenges of its partners before offering support or even a solution.

So, the first thing I did as I assumed the role of President and CEO was to listen – really listen – to our stakeholders. I have known for years, from personal experience as a 20-year human resources professional and later as Chief Talent Officer with Conexus Indiana, that Indiana – and the entire nation – continues to wrestle with a widening skills gap. This persistent misalignment between available talent and open jobs impacts Indiana businesses and Hoosiers, alike, and has the attention of incredibly passionate people and organizations working to define and implement solutions.

But I left my experience and opinions at the door when I embarked on a listening tour during my first three months at Ascend. This is what I heard from our stakeholders and those impacted by the talent misalignment:

1). Not enough school-aged Hoosiers are encouraged to explore fields and engage in experiences that could help them define a career path. Career exploration could open doors for so many children, helping them imagine and follow their passions, leading to life-long, rewarding careers.

2). Educators and employers have unique approaches to their roles in the ecosystem. There are opportunities to build bridges, so educators and employers align for maximum impact.

3). Amazing programs are in place to help strengthen our talent development ecosystem, yet much of that work is happening independently and is not coordinated.

4). College graduates are leaving Indiana. Many young adults simply aren’t aware of the exciting career opportunities available in the state. They also may not know about the momentum the state has created in new industry sectors, such as the semiconductor and electric vehicle industries.

We will take these learnings – and the many more collected throughout the last few months – to understand where we can help.

I look forward to hearing from more of you…I am here to listen.