Last week, I had the honor of presenting a session at the National Rural Economic Development Association’s (NREDA) annual conference. The topic was Talent Strategies, and the room was packed with some of the best and brightest economic developers and utility ED pros from around the country.

For those of you who were not able to attend, I thought I’d share some of the key take-aways and thoughts for how you might address your community’s own talent issues – which, let’s face it – everyone has.

  1. Break it down. “Talent” and “workforce” issues can be huge and overwhelming.  Break them down into bite-size pieces.
  2. Get to root causes. From there, the key to solving your talent issues is understanding what they are and what’s causing them. It’s critical to dig into data to find the root cause of your talent issues.  For example, why are you having trouble recruiting new engineers to your area?  Is it because they can’t find housing?  Because the schools aren’t good enough for their kids?  Because they can’t afford to move due to student loan debt?  Using this example, you can see how the potential solutions you offer would vary greatly once you know what the root cause is.
  3. Be strategic. The item above also speaks to why you shouldn’t just copy a talent program that someone else did: because it might have been developed to solve a different root problem.  To help our clients look both broadly and deeply and potential talent programs, we’ve cataloged more than 300 of them. That gives a more strategic approach to just shooting from the hip.
  4. Diversify. Think in terms of a portfolio of talent strategies versus a single rifle shot approach. Develop a mix of those that will pay off in the short-term and those that will pay off in the long-term; those directed to different audiences, whether it’s high school graduates or workers near retirement; those that engage K-12, higher ed, workforce development, tourism, etc.; those that require money and those that require sweat equity, etc.

During our workshop, we had participants share their most successful talent strategy – what it was, how it worked, and what the results were. Consistent with our research and experience, and contrary to popular stereotypes, rural economic development is alive and well, and there’s a ton of innovation going on to better develop, retain and attract talent to these areas.

At Ady Advantage, we use our talent strategy database to help tailor talent programs to economic development groups based on their unique mix of assets, challenges, stakeholders and talent initiatives already in place. If you need help identifying the root cause of the talent issue in your region or developing customized strategies and solutions, contact us today.