News & Views

What COVID-19 Means for Communities and Talent Attraction

Eight things you can (and should) do to create talent solutions 


Seemingly overnight, the U.S. went from a 113-month streak of job growth and record-low unemployment rates (technically at “full employment”) to an unemployment rate of 13%—the worst since the Great Depression. This change for the worse is leaving many place marketers (economic developers, chambers and even tourism partners) feeling whiplash and wondering: what does it all mean for talent attraction?

While only you can answer that based on your organization’s unique mission and the feedback you hear from local HR executives, here is what we know to be true: people need jobs now more than ever. We also know the talent disconnect remains. In a recent op-ed in The Hill, the president of the Committee for Economic Development (CED), Lori Esposito Murray, urges that now is the time to prioritize training workers: “Before the COVID-19 crisis, business leaders and policymakers were addressing the challenge of better positioning U.S. workers to contribute to and share in growing prosperity in the years ahead. With the setbacks to the economy inflicted by COVID-19, preparing U.S. workers becomes even more important.” Case in point, Wall Street Journal confirmed that big tech is still hiring.

Your organization can play a critical role as the bridge between employers and the hundreds of thousands of Americans who need to find work fast, who are hungry to upskill for a stronger career, and who may be considering relocating for better living and working opportunities post-COVID-19. With stay-at-home orders and mass layoffs and hiring freezes—yes, typical talent attraction goals will need to change—but there is still an urgent need for communities to create “talent solutions.” Here are eight talent solutions place marketers should consider:


  1. Create a jobs board of companies still hiring 

Maybe your talent site already has a jobs board, but it’s time to make it COVID-19 friendly. Remove the frustrating guesswork for talent by highlighting the jobs and companies that are still hiring in your region. That’s what Fairfax County Economic Development Authority did on the COVID-19 resources page for its WorkinNorthernVirginia site. HR executives will appreciate the call from you to check-in on how you can help promote the jobs they need to fill.


  1. Promote upskilling and training courses

Between remote work, layoffs and furloughs, more people are at home now with more time. Now is the time to point their attention to the upskilling and retraining programs offered in your area. Work with local training partners to either promote their programs or offer courses for free or a lower cost. Even the Ivy League colleges are offering free courses.


  1. Show Gen Z some love 

Now is a pretty terrifying time to be a fresh grad looking for an entry-level job. Dedicate a section on your website to internships. Even if they are unpaid and virtual, college students and fresh grads will want to gain experience now more than ever. Host a webinar series for students on best practices when working from home, tips on how to interview well via video, courses they could take remotely to become more hirable, etc.


  1. Host a virtual career fair

Host a virtual career fair to highlight the companies in your community that have job openings while also curating a space for jobseekers (in the region or in other markets) to network and ultimately apply for open positions. This talent initiative could be done to reach people who have recently lost their jobs or it could target retention of Gen Z by hosting the fair for college grads who attended school in the region/or have returned home. Communities could also host a series of fairs by industry. With your organization hosting and promoting the virtual career fair, you are taking the burden off employers and schools to host on their own and are expanding their audience reach. DCI has done a full audit on virtual career fairs, including vetting different platforms available and best practices.


  1. Use digital advertising to connect talent to jobs

Target your digital advertising efforts to get the message out about open job and training opportunities in your region to those laid off in your region and/or target markets. Even if they don’t pursue the opportunity right away, it puts your location top-of-mind for when they’re looking for the next location to job search or train.


  1. Highlight the companies doing good in your community 

When tragedy strikes, it’s the compassionate and authentic brands that survive—and make the news. Often, talent isn’t willing to stay or relocate to a region because they feel the location lacks job opportunities. Make talent aware of the employers located in your region by pitching them to media—like this article DCI placed on companies based in our client communities that are creating solutions for COVID-19.


  1. Matchmake across industries 

A recent trend we’ve been seeing is the idea of talent exchanging between industries. Is there an industry in your community that can’t keep up with demand, while another recently experienced mass layoffs? If their skills could translate well enough to get the job done, you just solved two major problems in your local economy. As an example, Aldi and McDonalds made a staff-sharing deal in Germany.


  1. No more excuses, it is time to update your website 

What do most Americans have in common right now? They’re home and most likely spending a lot of time online. Take a hard look and use this time to invest in your website—perfect the copy, make sure the design is mobile-first, keep the content fresh, fine-tune SEO so you’re not missing out on valuable talent searches. DCI can add interactive tools such as a cost of living calculator, neighborhood quiz, company cluster map and more.

Job and relocation decisions are not made overnight. While people may not be moving now, people are being forced to take a hard look at their careers and locations. For example, those laid off in high-cost markets may be eager to relocate to lower-cost locations with ample job opportunities. The New York Times recently covered this potential trend. People who were on the fence about their current location before may be pushed even further because of the pandemic: “This is the perfect time to move, I have to do it now. Otherwise I’m going to be stuck or evicted,” says one millennial quoted in the piece. The Wall Street Journal also recently covered how the crisis is even accelerating some relocation decisions.

Even before COVID-19, DCI’s research showed that talent craves success, stability and security, and they’d be willing to relocate to the location that can offer those. The communities that can think the long game and maintain and build awareness of their location’s job market now will have a head start on the COVID-19 recovery and rebound phase. If your location was not positively perceived or well-known before and you don’t create talent solutions—you’re at the same position coming out of this.

It’s crucial to remember that the jobseeker is the protagonist of this story, not the place marketer. Our purpose is to help people achieve their best life whether it is connecting them quickly to a much-needed job, or pointing them in the direction of reskilling resources. Landing it in your city, state or region—well that’s the rainbow at the end of this storm.

Have a question about talent’s search for jobs and relocation in the age of COVID-19 that you’d like us to consider for our upcoming Talent Wars 2020 report? Email [email protected].


Written By

Rebecca Gehman

Rebecca Gehman is an Account Manager in DCI’s Economic Development division. Since joining DCI in 2012, Rebecca has played a pivotal role in content creation, media relations and marketing strategy work for clients across the globe.

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Written By

Heather Gantz

Heather Gantz is a Senior Account Executive specializing in talent marketing at DCI. With a background in journalism, Heather is passionate about quality and compelling storytelling. Since joining DCI in 2020, she has enjoyed working with clients including Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, Greater New Orleans, Inc., and the Charleston Regional Development Alliance.

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