Brain Drain: Sending Off Our Not-So-Hidden Treasures

Brain drain – the loss of educated and skilled people from one region to another in search of more opportunity and a better way of life. We’ve had community forums and panel discussions to talk about it. We’ve read articles discussing the causes and effects of it. Many business leaders and highly educated minds have come together to figure out a solution to stop it.

It is very easy for a region struggling with a shortage of talent to fall into a “woe is me” mindset. However, it is exactly this mindset that prevents business leaders and government officials from seeing the crop of movers and shakers who are right before their very eyes. At a macro level, a simple shift in perspective on a few key items might be an important step towards the realization of a plentiful and skilled workforce. If you are a business leader in a region suffering from brain drain, consider this:

Are you overlooking the obvious?

You have available positions that you’ve struggled to fill because there aren’t any qualified applicants. However, are you setting unrealistic expectations? Are you writing your job postings with such iron-clad qualifications that even God himself wouldn’t have what you’re looking for? For example, are you so insistent on finding someone with a minimum of ten years’ experience, that you’re remaining blind to an up and coming candidate with less, but who just might be your next rock star? Many businesses find themselves blaming the weak candidate pool when in truth; they are seeking perfection which doesn’t exist.

Are you too afraid to try the untried?

Perhaps you are a business owner in a “Cheers”-like region where “everyone knows your name.” As a result, you’ve coasted through your years in business by hiring employees who are friends, relatives or neighbors. When an unfamiliar out-of-town candidate walks through your doors with a different set of ideas and experiences, are you receptive to legitimately considering them? Or, are you too afraid to stray from your safe friends and family hiring plan? Many business leaders who operate like this would prefer to keep their head in the sand with a safe bet candidate, as opposed to brining in a different mindset which could shake things up and push for a different way of doing business.

Are you truly investing in a plan to develop a crop of skilled candidates?

Mentoring is the gift that keeps on giving. By partnering with regional high schools, colleges and technical institutes, you can give real-life work experiences to your future pool of candidates. They build their employable skill set while you show them how much opportunity awaits at your organization. There are many ways to go about this. It all starts with a simple phone call or email to the educational institution of your choice to take that first step.

Our region is full of bright, driven people who are doing great things to contribute to our economy in a variety of ways. Next week, we will meet some who have discovered a return of unimaginable business growth after investing in a new outlook on the way business had “always been done before.”

Elizabeth P. Cipolla is a regional director and senior consultant with JL Nick and Associates Inc. She is a business communications professional specializing in the areas of leadership training, creative recruitment strategies, employment branding, professional development and executive coaching for nearly 15 years. Her leadership experience comes from various industries including marketing, mass media, apparel, education, manufacturing, nonprofit agencies and insurance. To contact Elizabeth, email her at or visit JL Nick and Associates’ website at