As communities across the country adapt to the changing realities of growth and regional development in an uncertain world, attracting and retaining skilled workers and professionals is the foundation of economic success.
The challenges and opportunities in building a talent pool in Volusia County and beyond was the topic of a roundtable discussion hosted by John Guthrie, editor of EVOLVE Magazine’s Greater Daytona Region edition.
Guthrie spoke with urban redeveloper Jack White, co-owner of Jack White Land Co.; Kim Grey, a human resources professional is Head of Talent and Inclusion at TopBuild; Kate Sark, marketing and communications manager at the Ocean Center; and Robin King, president and CEO of CareerSource Flagler/Volusia.
“Recruitment is so important,” Guthrie said. “Trying to recruit businesses is one thing; trying to recruit talent is more of a discussion because that is what makes everything go.”
Guthrie began the roundtable discussion by referencing the work of Richard Florida, an urban studies theorist and author of the book “The Rise of the Creative Class,” where he argues regional economic advantages are no longer based on raw materials or on competition to attract companies. Instead, Florida says, creativity is the “raw material,” and the creative class of innovators and entrepreneurs will drive future economic growth.
White said the creative class is “definitely out there,” and attracting them to the area “is more important today than it was 10 or 15 years ago.”
White said the next generation of workers is looking for more than a paycheck and is also focused on issues beyond work, and those are what communities and employers should highlight to build a skilled workforce.
“Look at place, look at quality of life and identify those things,” he said. “That is what attracts those creative professionals. People want more out of life than just employment. They want to do more than just the job.”
King said the trend is already affecting how potential workers make career decisions.
Tying it to the “Great Resignation” of workers in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, King said it has also engendered a “Great Reflection,” where many people are thinking about careers differently.
“We’ve had a lot of time on our hands to think about what is important,” she said. “All those things that make a city a home are so critical and it’s been ignored for too long.”
From her perspective, Grey said it is important for employers to be aware of what potential hires are looking for beyond a job and of how the rise of the virtual office has changed employment.
“How we make decisions about who needs to be here and who needs to be anywhere they want to be are important for us to think about as a county and a state,” she said.
Grey said the kind of employees TopBuild is looking for, including professional roles in accounting, finance, supply chain and human resources, presents new challenges for hiring managers.
“The pandemic really accelerated how people think about work now and they have more choices,” she said. And that has broadened the perspective of potential employees and forced companies to look beyond local amenities.
“When we talk to candidates [who we want to entice to relocate] here, I look at what the state has to offer, not just the county,” she said. That requires companies to adopt a multi-pronged approach to talent recruiting so they can “figure out what that work/life balance is for them.”
Making the region attractive to potential workers also means employers need to stress the positives of the area as well as the particular jobs they are offering, Sark said.
“We have so many great assets to offer,” she said. “We’re also in a great location where there are large cities that aren’t a far distance. I really think we need to harness and push out the message of all the opportunities that are available here.”
Sark said that is something residents have a role to play in highlighting the quality of life and opportunities in the region.
“I would challenge people to be better brand ambassadors for our area,” she said. “I would challenge people to talk about all (the) positives.”
Listen to the entire roundtable discussion at evolve-success.com.