Talent Wars: How COVID-19 Reshaped the Battle

While attending this week’s International Economic Development Council’s 2021 Annual Conference, hundreds of industry experts across the globe gathered together to address both future opportunities and ongoing challenges facing the economic development industry.

While not a new topic to our profession, the conversations surrounding talent attraction, skilled labor and workforce availability looked somewhat different in our first in-person meeting since the height of COVID-19. With a current unemployment rate of less than 4%, this is also a topic that the Round Rock Chamber is monitoring very closely as it directly impacts our efforts to attract, grow and retain business.

In the latest report from Development Counselors International – Talent Wars: How COVID-19 Reshaped the Battle – more than 1,000 people were surveyed across the United States (ages 21-65) who moved to a new location at least 100 miles away from their previous residence since the start of the pandemic.

This study set out to better understand the “why” behind talent relocation decisions and identify potential emerging trends. Here are DCI’s five takeaways:

  1. The top triggers inspiring relocation relate to quality of life. While the top motivators for talent to make a move include obtaining a better quality of life, living closer to family or access to larger living space, the top location factors for talent attraction are cost of living and housing costs. The top career factors are salary and work-life balance.
  2. Talent turns to digital resources to learn about new locations. Prior to the pandemic, first-hand experience of a traveling to a place was the most effective way that talent formed impressions of a location. Instead, social media and internet research were number one, so it’s more important than ever to enhance our digital first impression.
  3. People generally stick to their community type and size. While previous trends suggested a mass exodus from urban dwellers moving to the suburbs or rural areas, this new study shows that talent who moved amid the pandemic went to a community of similar size and type.
  4. There is no one size fits all on how talent prefers to work moving forward. As opportunities for remote work continue to trend upward, some workers are starting to look forward to returning to a physical office. While the appeal of working from home has declined since the peak of the pandemic, employers must make work environments flexible to attract the best talent.
  5. Incentives can play a role…but make sure they are tailored to your location. Talent is being offered a range of different types of incentives to relocate, many of which are being offered by communities looking to attract remote workers. However, communities should be very cautious to ensure a real return on investment before launching such programs.

While it is impossible to fully project the lasting outcomes that COVID-19 will have long-term on talent attraction and the future of the workforce, research does tell us that talent is still hungry for opportunity, training and a better quality of life – all of which bode will for the future success of Round Rock and Central Texas.

Download the full report here.