Reversing Brain Drain

Greater Omaha Chamber YPs are taking the problem head-on

Published by Victor Cassone, from guest blog Omaha Intercept 

Like it or not, Omaha’s future is in the hands of the younger generations. Our city’s ability to engage and retain young professionals will dictate how the city will grow in years to come.

The Greater Omaha Chamber YPs are trying to help create an environment within Omaha that is more suitable for young professionals. Their mission is to serve as a catalyst organization to retain and attract young professionals in the Greater Omaha area through engagement, opportunity, and advocacy. Their vision is for Omaha to become a dynamic, inclusive, and interconnected community where diverse talent wants to live, work and play.

The Bigger Problem

Nebraska and the greater Omaha area are facing real problems when it comes to attracting and retaining young talent. A 2016 report by the Omaha World-Herald shows that each year between 2011 and 2015, Nebraska lost, without regaining, more than 2,300 highly educated people.

Omaha’s brain drain problem has almost become cliche. Every organization worried about economic development acknowledges the problem and wants to find a solution. It’s an important problem to solve because when highly educated workers leave they take with them their unique perspectives and skills that would have benefited the city as a whole.

One of the main contributing factors to the brain drain problem is a workforce that feels disconnected to their city and/or workplace.

Factionalization and fragmentation of experience and opportunity are the biggest problems with Omaha’s workforce today. It’s that disconnected experience that leads people to believe that they are alone,” said Luke Hoffman, the Talent Manager at the Greater Omaha Chamber. He works with the YP Council, YP Summit, and Council of Companies as the staff support to these groups. Hoffman continues, “If you don’t feel connected to your work, you’re going to leave.

Inside the workplace, there is a need to find ways to connect and engage the younger generations, especially millennials. According to the How Millennials Want to Work and Live report by Gallup, 55% of Millennials are the least engaged generation at work with 71% are either not engaged or actively disengaged at work. This is a real problem considering millennials make up 38% of the workforce, the largest generation. This means 75% of the workforce will be from the Millennial generation by 2025.

Omaha’s workforce is disconnected in many respects. Racially, the city is segregated between north, south and west Omaha. Workers at Fortune 500 companies have a vastly different experience to workers in mid to small size businesses. People living in the suburbs see a different Omaha than the people from downtown Omaha. Often the experience in Omaha is the tale of two cities (or three, or four).

Some of this separation is unavoidable. However, a vibrant and welcoming city should have ways to bring people together from different backgrounds. Citizens shouldn’t feel unwelcome in parts of their own city.

Omaha YPs

The Greater Omaha Chamber YPs want to be the force that helps reconnect Omaha’s young workforce to their city and workplace. The first step is the process is to find a new identity to rally behind.

Millennial is a term that people want to opt out of. We have to build YP as the alternative identity” said Hoffman. “People use Millennials in a derogatory sense. We need to reject that identity and reject the negative stereotype. We should embrace and opt into being a Young Professional because being a millennial is a stereotype and being a professional is a choice. We need to choose to build the value of what it means to buy into that identity. If we collectively embrace that identity and build a unifying experience, it’s something that has immediate positive ramifications.

By opting into being a Young Professional, you create a signal to other Young Professionals that you care and value an engaging work experience.

“If everyone who is of 20-40 age said ‘I’m a young professional and I care’ if they said that one phrase, workforces would suddenly be wildly different,” said Hoffman.

Before a change is possible, you have to unite Omaha’s younger workforce. The Omaha YPs are approaching this on a few fronts. Their three main pillars are the YP Summit, Council of Companies and the YP Council.

The YP Summit is a one-day event put on in early Spring of each year. The focus of the YP Summit is to engage and empower attendees to impact Greater Omaha. The event has a series of talks and workshops that will activate curiosity and cultivate professional and community growth through intentional development, inspiration, and empowerment.

Council of Companies is a program that focuses on development and support of YP & Employee Resource Groups in Greater Omaha. The Council of Companies wants to promote opportunities for companies and organizations to engage.

The YP Council is an advisory group of young professionals who are focused on issues and initiatives that affect the lives of YPs in Greater Omaha. They serve as the young professional voice for Greater Omaha Chamber initiatives. They also advocate for policies that will affect Young Professionals. Their five main focus areas are arts and culture, community development and transit, diversity and inclusion, entrepreneurship and STEM, and public engagement

Through these events and activities, Greater Omaha Chamber Young Professionals are doing what they can to create a more connected and inclusive Omaha. The hope is that if the younger workforce can engage with their city and workplaces in new ways, then they will have more incentive to say rather than leave.

Interconnectivity has been the driving factor in a new class of YP Council members:

Interconnectivity is a catalyst for social capital and talent. Interconnectivity is what happens when people, place, and prosperity intersect. It animates the lives of everyone in your community, especially those typically left out of the essential undertakings that impact your neighborhood and workforce. It is the tangible value added from the inertia of a communities collective capacity to create change by including the excluded, being innovative, and engaging the full potential of our workforce.

If we are going to attract and retain talent in the way we are talking about we have to unite common experience,” Hoffman said. “You have to give people a place to engage. You have to give them a reason to engage. And then you have to have a uniting purpose. Interconnectivity has to be the anthem.

Final Q&A with Luke Hoffman

Asks or request for the readers.

Council of Companies just created an Interconnectivity Task Force and my call to action would be for anyone who wants to be connected to a cause, company, or community group, to reach out to me directly and our Interconnectivity Task Force can find a way to connect them.

Luke Hoffman is the Talent Manager at the Greater Omaha Chamber and can be reached at

Also, ask your company to start an employee resource group, YP group or emerging leaders group.

Best way to stay in touch?

Get on the newsletter or find us on Facebook. Go to the Omaha YP website

Best way to get engaged?

Buy a ticket to YP Summit March 1st. Come to Council of Companies quarterly meeting. Come to a Welcome Brew