5 Takeaways From DCI’s 2021 National Talent Research, Talent Wars

If talent is the currency of economic development, every community is in need of a loan.

As of August 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were upwards of 10 million open jobs in the United States. Some industries are struggling to find talent more than others such as manufacturing, transportation, trades and retail to name a few. In short, the state of talent attraction is constantly evolving, and in many ways, unrecognizable since the onset of the pandemic.

But COVID-19 precautions and mandates are not the sole reason for this mismatch between employers and talent. As the pandemic brought a new era of remote work, a shift in talent’s priorities came with it – potentially permanently changing the talent attraction landscape.

The uncertainty of the current climate begs questions surrounding talent’s priorities, migration patterns, remote work incentives and of course one of the hottest topics: talent’s top motivators to move in the middle of a global pandemic. DCI’s fifth national talent research report, Talent Wars: How COVID-19 Reshaped the Battle, seeks to answer those very questions. To do this, Development Councellors International (DCI) surveyed 1,000+ people across the United States (ages 21-65) who moved to a new location at least 100 miles away from their previous residences since the start of the pandemic.

Below are five of the top takeaways from the report, which can be downloaded here.

1. THE TOP TRIGGERS INSPIRING RELOCATION RELATE TO QUALITY OF LIFE.

While talent still makes decisions on where they will locate based off of the financial impact (whether that pertains to a job position’s salary or a place’s cost of living), the motivators to make a change in the first place increasingly have to do with improving their quality of life. When asked what the primary trigger was to move 100+ miles from their original location, talent said to obtain a better quality of life, to be closer to family and access to a larger living space, respectively. While those are the top motivators to move in the first place, the top location factors for talent are cost of living and housing costs. The top career factors are salary and work-life balance. Communities should paint the picture as to how talent could have an improved quality of life in your location, while still addressing the more practical factors such as cost of living and the housing market.

2. TALENT TURNS TO DIGITAL RESOURCES TO LEARN ABOUT NEW LOCATIONS.

For the first time in Talent Wars history, “first-hand experience” was not the top answer when asking talent how they form impressions of a location. Instead, social media and internet research almost tied for the top response at 52% and 51%, respectively. This change in answer is likely because talent was not as able to travel in-person due to COVID-19 restrictions and precautions, however communities should still take this as a sign to ramp up their presence on social media and increase search engine optimization (SEO) efforts in order to be discovered by talent online. What talent finds online is oftentimes their first impression of a community. Do what you can to control that narrative, offering talent the best (digital) first impression as possible.

3. PEOPLE GENERALLY STICK TO THEIR COMMUNITY TYPE AND SIZE.

Despite the anecdotal stories and media headlines evoking images of city dwellers leaving in the masses for suburban and rural living, it turns out that generally speaking, talent who moved amid the pandemic went to a community of similar type and size. This means that most people who moved from a large urban area went to another large urban area, most people who moved from a suburban community went to another suburban community, and so on. While this isn’t to say that convincing talent to move to a completely different type of city and region is impossible, the data does suggest that it might be easier to motivate talent to move to a similar community type. This also underscores the importance of places marketing the location regionally when it is strategic.

4. THERE IS NO ONE SIZE FITS ALL ON HOW TALENT PREFERS TO WORK MOVING FORWARD.

The rise of remote work is real however not all talent wants to work from home all the time. The appeal of working from home has declined since the peak of the pandemic and some workers are looking to return to a physical office whether it is for improved networking, to minimize distractions or to foster greater collaboration. The bottom line is to make it as easy as possible for talent to find opportunities regardless of the type of work environment they’re looking for.

5. INCENTIVES CAN PLAY A ROLE… BUT MAKE SURE THEY ARE TAILORED TO YOUR LOCATION.

Whether offered by an employer or by a community, talent is being offered a range of different types of promotions to relocate. Communities should think long and hard about whether to incentivize talent as most respondents report they would have relocated without an incentive. However, programs that have emerged during the pandemic – many of which are offered to attract remote workers – are the darling of the media and could result in increased media coverage, public awareness and brand exposure. It will be up to each community to decide whether the return on investment is worth the expense.

Download the entire report, here.

View DCI’s proven results and case studies and learn more about their talent attraction marketing services, here.

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