Cooking Up a Talent Attraction Strategy? Here Are the Necessary Tools for IPAs.

Steve Duncan | 13 Jun 2023 | General

OCO Global’s recent Innovation Index revealed that investment promotion agencies are becoming heavily involved in talent attraction efforts almost out of necessity because of the widening skills gap. Of those surveyed, 49% of them report that talent growth is part of their overall objectives.

But many of that 49% are still in the early stages, and what about the other half that have yet to make the pivot? Where can these groups start on their journey to pursuing new pipelines for skilled workers?

A useful framework for getting started is that of a kitchen — there needs to be the right mix of tools to create delicious results over the long term. In this case, developing, retaining and attracting talent is a lot an oven, crockpot and microwave.


The Oven: Workforce Development Programmes

It takes a while to heat up, but once it does, you can make just about anything within it. Workforce development programmes that start during primary education and — depending on the specific skill — continue into secondary levels do have a long lead time. But once up and running, they can produce pipelines of talent for years to come. They can also be built alongside existing employers to ensure graduates are hired and the skills are relevant.

But like an oven, it may need adjustments based on what you’re cooking. It’s not “set it and forget it.” Skills development needs to be monitored, adjusted and improved based on the environment you’re in. Keep that oven light on – as skills adapt more quickly in the future, so must the design of these programmes.


The Crockpot: Upskilling From Within

Upskilling from within existing populations is closer to a crockpot: it requires some time and effort to prepare, but not as much as an oven and the results are incredibly rich. The turn-around time on such efforts might be closer to 2-3 years instead of 5-8.

There are often hidden talent pools within regions, as our close partner agency DCI’s new Talent Wars survey indicates — 76% of recently relocated talents in the U.S. said they’d be willing to receive additional training if it allowed them to upgrade their career or job prospects.

A bonus to upskilling is that, while the skills may be newly acquired, this population’s other life experience is often more extensive and diverse than fresh graduates, bringing new perspectives and flavour to the staffing mix for the companies that employ them.


For further review: Tools like this upskilling feature our DCI colleagues built for Move Upstate SC in the USA can go a long way in selling new careers, as they lay out the path for how long a career change could be, what the potential earnings are and what the growth rate for related occupations are.


The Microwave: Filling Urgent Gaps Through Attraction

Just like with business attraction, talent attraction gets much of the attention over retention (even if the latter produces more overall value). New people coming into the community is flashier and more exciting; it can also be more politically challenging depending on the location.

But there’s no doubt that strong talent attraction efforts are the microwave approach that fills skill-gaps quickly. They are a necessity in today’s economy. The same DCI survey that was referenced earlier suggests that 39% of recently-relocated American talents would consider relocation abroad. C Studios will launch a survey later this year asking the same question, but our suspicion is that the rate is even higher.

To maximize attraction results, close coordination with companies is vital in order to identify specific skill gaps both now and in the future. Additionally, companies know how to sell their culture exceptionally well, but they struggle to sell the location. Investment promotion agencies can fill that void by providing the place marketing assets needed to complete that job placement.


For further review: One of the most successful talent programmes led by economic developers is in the USA out of Northern Virginia, just across the river from Washington, DC where many of the region’s tech companies have their offices. See this talent attraction case study to learn how Northern Virginia officials connected interested tech talents with local jobs in the region.

What does this mean for your region or country? There is certainly no “one-size fits all” approach, so each of these layers will need customization based on the talent you’re seeking as well as the place branding assets you have. After all, any good chef brings imagination to the table. But having the essentials is the first step in cooking up the right strategy.

For more insights on talent attraction or to discuss talent-related marketing strategies, visit C Studios, a digital marketing firm specialized in working with economic development organizations to help them with their investment promotion, trade promotion and talent attraction challenges. You can also follow them on LinkedIn.