I Choose Camden
I received a number of texts, phone calls and emails over the past 24 hours regarding the ROI article https://bit.ly/2N9zyFz “Downside to growth: Camden’s new wave of companies is struggling to find employees” asking for comment.
After reading the statements made by the CEOs of Holtec and European Metal Recycling (EMR), both global organizations; I wondered about the motivation behind highlighting a particularsegment of the population in Camden. Particular, because I do not subscribe to the notion that the majority of Camden residents do not want to work, are on drugs and generational unemployment is a desired state of mind.
I say this as a relatively-new Camden business owner, a Human Resources Leader, and someone who, over these past months, successfully recruited a number of folks to work in the City of Camden (who are still gainfully employed with the same company) for my clients.
I was tempted to immediately respond, however, I know the importance of words and wanted clarity of thought. Should I pen my justifiable outrage at the language and spoken perception? Should I focus on the indictment of an entire City? Or should I make this a teachable moment? While there may be a need for moral outrage, it is also an opportunity to educate and hopefully generate necessary conversations.
As such, I settled on the observations below:
1. Camden, as any City comes with its own set of challenges. Camden challenges were well-known and documented prior to any organization moving into the City (with or without tax-based incentives). Incentives, that are not afforded small/micro businesses like myself (Ok, I digress), and with no documented requirement to hire. Having to put extra effort in the hiring and training programs is a small price to pay (no pun intended).
2. Unemployed and entry level applicants “ARE NOT”, let me say this again “ARE NOT” the sole employment pool of folks living in the City. Camden has a sizable number of college-educated black and brown professional and management level individuals who are ready and available to work within Camden’s’ nine square miles. All too often this population or pool of candidates are not considered and/or made to feel invisible. Why? Different narrative?
3. At what point did the individuals quoted in this article decide it was OK to paint an entire community into an old stereotype? What are the benefits of writing off the Camden employment pool? Is it intentional to tell applicants “through messaging” they are viewed a certain way (negatively); they are not expected have long term employment, or they are “less than”? How does one expect the same group to feel comfortable and accepted when entering the organization? Are they being intentionally set up for failure?
4. As a Human Resources Consultant who has done a fair amount of recruitment (from Janitorial to the “C” Suite), I know if 8 of the 10 folks wash out, said companies may want to review baseline requirements, training structure, training methodologies, etc. If current hiring practices are not yielding results, said companies may want to revisit its skill matching and recruitment practices. I say this not to be critical, but is there an inherent bias?
If everybody at the table making decisions looks the same and operates in the same circle, without the benefit of diverse voices, local voices, how can anyone be surprised when the recruitment or training falters or worse, fails.
Now what? What is needed to turn this around?
My opinion….First and foremost, recognition and real reflection. Simple respect. Break down the “us and them” mentality. Next, employ higher skilled local talent; stop minimizing and ignoring this vast pool of job seekers.
What is needed is an “out-of-the-box “ approach. Realign assessment processes based on targeted population; identify and create a set of viable best practices. It’s not hard, but it takes time, commitment, communication, and a willingness to adjust a way of thinking. Hint: Don’t equate targeted population with unmotivated, unengaged or uneducated. Just different.
Holtec, Subaru, 76ers, American Water, NFI, Conner Strong, Liberty Property Trust, the Michael Organization, European Metal Recycling (EMR) and others all “Chose Camden” knowing both of its blemishes and beauty. All chose Camden because it offers key financial benefits, urban charm and a chance to make real, sustainable impact.
As a small business, I chose Camden for similar reasons; it’s a beautiful City with wonderful, compassionate, caring and proud people; sometimes complicated, sometimes frustrating, but it’s the place we all chose to call home. I Chose Camden and I still do.