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RapidChat: Shana Welch

Recently, Shana Welch was one of five women honored at the 2015 GRAM Women Connect - an event that highlights female business and nonprofit leaders. As both a woman and a Regional Director of Talent Acquisition for Mercy Health, Shana knows the significance of this special acknowledgement, and she hopes to use her knowledge and leadership to further enhance our community. 

Recently, Shana Welch was one of five women honored at the 2015 GRAM Women Connect - an event that highlights female business and nonprofit leaders. Get her take on the value of mentorship, talent attraction in the healthcare field, and why West Michigan should be bragging a bit more in this week's RapidChat.
Rapid Growth: First and foremost, I would like to congratulate you on being an honoree for the 2015 Women Connect event at the GRAM. What an honor! Can you briefly explain to me what it is all about?
 
Shana Welch: Women Connect is a partnership between GRAM, Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW), and Varnum. The partnership has turned into an “intentional event” to support professional retention and “opportunities for inclusion and access to the leadership table.”
 
RG: What do you see as common barriers for women business leaders?
 
SW: Life, work and family responsibilities often clash for both men and women. One way women can overcome barriers is by seeking out strong women mentors. Companies will find their women leaders better postured for success, if they have intentional mentorship programs.
 
RG: What are some of the challenges in seeking talent to come to our region?
 
SW: The challenges are West Michigan is just starting to be recognized as one of the jewels of the Midwest.  We have been too much of a well-kept secret. Often times the attraction of large cities such as Chicago, New York, etc., lure talent given the vast cultural and entertainment opportunities. Once people discover West Michigan, they find similar attractions, but with a community feel right here in West Michigan.  
 
RG: What do you think local business owners do to help retain that local talent?
 
SW: Retention of talent starts with a good hiring process that includes effective on-boarding which lasts through the first year of employment. It is important to begin engaging the employee from day one. Leaders who take the time to meet with new employees and set expectations and develop a highly effective relationship will find that retention follows. It is important to hire the best talent, as great talent wants to be part of a high performing team. Investing in development, career-pathing and purposeful learning and development will ensure retention. When businesses pay careful attention to identifying, recruiting, hiring, developing and engaging their employees the retention will naturally follow.
 
RG: Since you are the Regional Director of Talent Acquisition for Mercy Health, give us some perspective on Grand Rapids' medical industry. Where are we winning or losing folks in the medical talent wars?
 
SW: Speaking for Mercy Health, we win talent because of our culture. When candidates begin to learn about our culture they want to work at Mercy Health. We are discovering that our culture of excellence, respect and development appeals to all generations of employees. We lose talent when graduates decide to go to larger cities where they view the opportunities to be greater.
 
Once people learn about West Michigan, they see that there aren't many missing pieces. We are a region on the move, we are a region of collaboration, and we are a region of growth.
 
RG: What are some specific assets you think employers should be advertising to these potential employees, in order to increase the awareness of this growth and collaboration?
 
SW: Since the Grand Rapids area has recently been named #3 in the nation -- even when measured against powerhouses like Chicago, Boston, and Seattle -- in economic growth, I think it's time for us to brag about our statistics in that area.  A specific example is the recently announced Michigan State University Research Center project: a Big 10 research facility only comes into being with cooperation and collaboration among businesses, healthcare organizations, and community leaders.  We have many projects that we can point to that illustrate our spirit of collaboration and our growth.
 
RG: You also developed the first Diversity Chair position for the Human Resources Managers Association of Mid-Michigan board (now Greater Lansing SHRM), which you are actually the president of. Can you tell me more about your experience with that? 
 
SW: I developed the position when I was president in 2005/2006 for Great Lansing SHRM (formally HRMAMM), for two reasons; one, to ensure the chapter offered programs that focused on diversity and inclusion for our members. The second was to make the association attractive to a broader membership. I intentionally created a Chair rather than a committee to emphasize the importance of the position; I feel it strengthens our association. It was very validating when our national associate (SHRM) recognized the addition of Diversity Chair.
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