January 13, 2015

Three Steps for Building an Effective Talent Recruitment and Development Strategy

Ernest Andrade  /  Andrade Economics

Surprisingly, the questionable practice of economic development groups pouring large amounts of public and private funds into chasing companies from outside the state or region to satisfy their business recruitment goals is still common practice around the United States. A quick analysis of the data over a period of time demonstrates that this approach to economic development is less than ideal and nearly always statistically ineffective in the long-term for communities looking to diversify, grow and strengthen their economies.

As communities struggle to optimize their economic assets to bring high-wage jobs, reduce brain drain and expand into new sectors, a smarter approach is paring back an external business recruitment model as the sole tactic and allocating a meaningful share of resources to nurture and develop an environment ideally suited for the types of businesses and jobs the community is seeking. The result is often a healthy and dynamic business climate and leads to increased engagement from the existing business community whose insights and advice are far more valuable than external consultants.

Deploying an effective talent acquisition and development strategy has been proven to be one of the best ways a community can create an attractive business climate. At the Charleston Digital Corridor, we adopted a straightforward three-tier strategy:

1. CharlestonWorks™ - This portal showcases companies operating in the region and highlights those that are hiring.

2. Talent Portal - A resource where companies can post available positions and view talent.

3. CODEcamp - A community-sourced training program that provides instruction in open source Web and mobile technologies.

We know from multiple sources that at least 80% of individuals and companies seeking information for possible relocation review relevant websites in target communities to improve their decision. CharlestonWorks™ plays an important role in this search by showcasing the depth of tech and tech- related companies in the region. The CharlestonWorks portal epitomizes a "Show me - don't tell me" value proposition, and benefits both business leaders and job seekers.

One of the many comments we've received regarding the Tier 1 of CharlestonWorks demonstrates its effectiveness:

"I am just emailing to compliment you on the GREAT redesign of CharlestonWorks. I stumbled upon and used this site in 2010 when I moved here and found the job that I now have. Well done!" Tim V.

Going a step deeper, although there are vast numbers of national and global job sites, the offerings on the local/regional level are either entirely absent or typically don't meet the real needs of the community. For those businesses and career seekers on your doorstep, the ones with whom you have a relationship, a quality local talent portal of both job openings and job seekers is a critical resource for the community.

The Charleston Digital Corridor's talent portal is not just about eyeballs on jobs. It was built on the simple but powerful realization: Non-local career seekers who come to the portal have their hearts set on relocating to Charleston. This can reduce or eliminate employee relocation costs. Employer feedback has been tremendously positive. Companies have rated the quality of job applicants and talent acquisition rate consistently higher than they experience with national portals.

While tools like CharlestonWorks and the Digital Corridor's talent portal are effective in connecting talent with job opportunities, a community seeking to sustain a pool of talent in a targeted industry MUST develop or support education initiatives consisting of the most in-demand curricula to grow talent from within the community.

Historically, educational training has been the domain of local technical colleges and universities. However, largely due to the breakneck pace at which technologies of all kinds are evolving, the education credentials now required, outdated regulatory environment and the cost of hiring qualified web instructors, these traditional institutions are not able to meet the need of communities seeking to grow tech jobs. Communities are left to fend for themselves.

The Charleston Digital Corridor's deep relationship with our tech companies allows us to source instructor talent from the industry and solicit their input in developing the curriculum for CODEcamp. This perfect alignment between the tech industry and the Digital Corridor as the entity charged with supporting their employment needs is why CODEcamp has experienced such high near-term success. In just over two years since its launch, CODEcamp has trained almost 800 students. Meanwhile, the program, which went from concept to classroom in under three months, continues to be refined to meet the dynamic needs of the students and local tech industry.

Regardless of the type of industry a community seeks to attract, it can succeed by following the Charleston Digital Corridor's three steps. We did not commission studies, form numerous committees or have philosophical "chicken or egg" conversations. We just adopted a simple strategic plan informed by our terrific membership and followed through with execution. And it's working.

About the Author

Ernest Andrade is the Executive Director of the Charleston Digital Corridor Foundation and Principal of Andrade Economics, an economic develop practice focused on positioning communities for sustainable economic prosperity by providing them a comprehensive set of tools and professional services to help them succeed.