Q&A with Georgia DOL’s Business Service Unit Director

Shawndra Russell

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

As the Georgia Department of Labor approaches the first anniversary of their Business Service Unit, we chatted with Director Linda Manis about their progress in year one and what lies ahead for the BSU.

Georgia CEO: Why was the Businesses Service Unit created?

Manis: State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler’s vision for creating and implementing the Georgia  Department of Labor’s (GDOL) Business Service Unit (BSU) reflects a new direction and emphasis on employer-driven service delivery with a staff dedicated to fulfilling the needs of Georgia employers. The creation of the BSU has positioned the department to better focus on its commitment to the business community and provides a venue for a more proactive and employer-friendly partnership.

Georgia CEO: How can businesses seeking employees utilize the BSU?

Manis: There are several avenues for businesses. The Regional Coordinator program has proven to be a mutually beneficial partnership with economic developers throughout the state, quickly providing labor market data and customized solutions to workforce issues. Regional Coordinators, located in the twelve service-delivery regions in the state, help economic developers identify data critical to the recruitment and expansion of industry and business.

Our regional Business Service Recruiters, a newly created position within the BSU, focus their efforts on developing and maintaining relationships with employers in their respective regions. They identify various pools of talent/skills for target industries, identify employer personnel requirements, and then match available talent with the hiring needs of the employers. Customized Recruitment is one of Commissioner Butler’s newest initiatives. It grew out of conversations with workforce partners, such as economic developers and chambers of commerce. Knowing that new and potential businesses must be assured that they would have a skilled workforce, there arose the realization that a customized recruiting element would help to give them the confidence to invest in Georgia.

The GDOL Customized Recruitment (CR) team works closely with new companies to help recruit the best-qualified candidates for positions that range from management to skilled employees to entry-level. The CR team incorporates a variety of resources to search for and screen applicants. The team then provides the employer with resumes of those who are qualified. The employers make the hiring decisions. The service we provide streamlines the process and reduces the recruiting costs for them. The CR team is currently working with a number of companies committed to investing over $1.9 billion in Georgia, while eventually creating more than 5,700 jobs.

Georgia CEO: How can those seeking employment utilize BSU?

Manis: Our Special Workforce Assistance Team (SWAT) is a job readiness program that was formed in response to feedback Commissioner Butler received from employers during a visit to an economically distressed area in northwest Georgia. Employers complained that they were having difficulties finding qualified applicants for their job openings. We found that many applicants did not know how to express and sell themselves to the employers.

The SWAT was created to go into economically distressed communities to help unemployed and underemployed people better market themselves to employers. Their resumes are reviewed, and in many cases are rewritten to show the value that the applicant brings to employers. We help veterans and other job seekers overcome barriers to employment, so that they can become productive wage earners. A variety of workshops were designed to help job seekers, including one that has become popular that teaches them how to use social media to promote themselves and find jobs.

Commissioner Butler piloted this program in 2012 in Dalton, where the economy and job market had been hard hit by the recession of 2007 and the unemployment rate was well into double digits. Hundreds of job seekers turned out, landing jobs and filling positions employers had been struggling to fill. The economy is rebounding, unemployment is in single digits and new companies are locating in the region creating hundreds of new jobs.

The SWAT currently has more than 50 staff members who work with chambers of commerce, industrial authorities and economic developers. The BSU manages the Regional Career Expos, sponsored or co-sponsored by the GDOL. These expos may recruit for a large number and variety of companies, or for target industries that require employees with specific skills. Expos are continually being held throughout the state, helping companies recruit thousands of employees qualified to fill their job openings.

Georgia CEO: Why do you feel Georgia is a great place to have a business and great place to work?

Manis: Well, the weather is amazing (most of the time). The cost of living is low compared to other states, and housing is affordable. Georgia has a highly diverse and well-educated demographic profile. It ranks in the top five and top ten nationally in a wide array of business categories. One recent independent nationwide survey of location consultants done for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, which is available on their web site, ranked Georgia:

• #1 for labor climate

• #1 for labor availability

• #1 for workforce development

• #2 for infrastructure

• #2 in the nation for the best place to do business

I think this sums it up!

Georgia CEO: Why do you love helping Georgia businesses?

Manis: That is a very easy question for me. Businesses provide goods, services and jobs that build a vibrant economy and allow Georgians to earn a livelihood for themselves and their families. Being a service provider for businesses in Georgia is very rewarding. We feel like we are a part of the success of not only our agency, but of every business we serve. We can see the difference being made daily by the Georgia Department of Labor and the value we bring to Georgia business. It doesn’t get much better than that—helping to create “A Happy Business!” 

Georgia CEO: What do you feel were your unit’s biggest/best accomplishments from 2013?

Manis: First, letting our business community know we are committed to serving them. Second, being an instrument to help stimulate our economy and job creation opportunities. Third, but probably most important, the opportunity to show our Georgia businesses how committed Commissioner Butler is to putting them back on top of our priority list. He has created this unit to serve our business community, and we are committed to implement and successfully see his vision become a reality.

Georgia CEO: What’s your motto or focus for 2014?

Manis: Our motto is: Creating valuable workforce solutions through strategic alliances & community partnerships. We have made huge strides in the past two years, but we are not even close to where we would like to be. So, our goal remains steadfast: We want to bring VALUE to every business in Georgia.

Georgia CEO: How are you utilizing technology, new marketing tools, etc. to help accomplish your goals?

Manis: We have expanded our social media this year to new heights. We are now posting “Hot Jobs” on Facebook and LinkedIn daily, and we are tweeting “Hot Jobs” hourly. This is a new and exciting process, and we are marketing it heavily in our local career centers, expos and SWAT events. 

Georgia CEO: Anything else you’d like to add?

Manis: As the network of people who follow us continues to grow, many more skilled job seekers will make us their first choice for job search assistance. We will then have a larger and more diverse talent pool from which to pull the ideal candidates to meet the employment needs of Georgia businesses. And as always, we encourage people to bookmark our web site http://www.dol.state.ga.us/ and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and our other social media, which are easily accessed from our home page.