4 Valuable Pieces of Talent Attraction Data — And How to Act on Them

August 16, 2022 by Drew Repp

Data is a critical piece of economic development and talent attraction. It can inform, inspire, and amplify our efforts. But with so much data available at our fingertips, it can be difficult for economic developers and city leaders to know which data insights are most relevant to their talent attraction goals, and how to act on those insights once they have them. 

To help bridge the gap, Lightcast partnered up with Winona Dimeo-Ediger, creative director at talent attraction agency RoleCall, to highlight a few of the most valuable pieces of Lightcast’s economic development data, how they apply to talent attraction, and how to put them to work for your community.

The Data: Profile data to retain and attract alumni

Online profiles and resumes, which we call documents, are chock-full of information. Lightcast leverages the documents of over a hundred million workers in the US that include information on location of residence (city/state), job history, education history, skills, and more. That education history and location are particularly valuable. With them, communities can learn which institutions alumni graduated from, the degree level they achieved, when they graduated, their program of study, and their current MSA region. That is, what type of alumni are staying, going, or returning.

Top programs completed among Ann Arbor, MI workers.

How to Use It: Deliver tailored relocation messaging to alumni who already love your city.

Graduates of colleges and universities in your area are an ideal target audience for talent attraction. Why? Because attracting people to a place is about creating affinity, and people who went to college in a place already have built-in affinity from the time they spent there. Instead of starting from scratch with your, “Why you should relocate to my city” message, you can draw on their existing nostalgia and positive connection: “Hey, remember how much you loved living here? We want you back.” Having profile data to target alumni allows you to deliver this message directly to the people with whom it will resonate most, and that puts you miles ahead of the competition.

The Data: Job postings to identify the skills most in demand by local employers

Lightcast job postings data is gathered by scraping over 45,000 websites, including company career sites, national and local job boards, and job posting aggregators. Those postings are deduplicated (the process of identifying and removing postings for the same vacancy) and then enriched. The enrichment process assigns to each posting a company, job title, job type, experience level, advertised salary, location, and more. 

 The “and more” includes skills data. Skills are competencies at specific tasks or familiarity with specific subjects and tools acquired through education or experience. Put another way, skills are what people have and employers want. We distinguish between specialized skills, common skills, and certifications. Specialized skills are specific, learnable, measurable, and often industry-specific or occupation-specific abilities related to a position (e.g. JavaScript, accounting). Common skills are necessary in many industries and occupations (e.g. problem-solving, project management). Certifications are recognized qualifications by a third-party entity (school, government, industry, etc.) that acknowledges a body of skills and abilities (e.g. MBA, Certified Registered Nurse).

Most common speciliazed skills requested in Oklahoma County, OK (Oklahoma City) job postings.

How to Use It: Align your talent attraction marketing strategy with the skills your employers need most.

Every conversation RoleCall has with a chamber of commerce, city, economic development organization, or state leadership begins with the same problem: 

“Our employers need talent now and are asking us to help them, but we don’t know how.” 

Often, the solution looks like generalized place marketing: a slick website highlighting quality of life, with universal messaging (“We’ve got something for everyone!”) and an appeal to the general population to come “live, work, and play” here. 

Talent attraction branding and quality-of-life messaging is important, of course, but it doesn’t address the original issue: your employers are looking for specific types of talent with specific skill sets. THAT is the talent that you need to target and market to. Knowing which skills and job types are most in-demand by your local employers allows you to cater your messaging and your targeting to the workers your employers need.

The Data: Labor market information (LMI) to identify target occupations

LMI is industry, occupation, education, and demographics data from government sources such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Census Bureau, Bureau of Economic Analysis, and others. Traditional LMI is great for understanding the structure of an economy and getting a full picture of the major trends in jobs and wages.  

The comprehensive nature of LMI gears it toward answering long-term, strategic questions with a region’s complete workforce in view. Which jobs are projected to grow the fastest in the next five years? Where are there the largest occupation gaps? Which industries have seen the largest wage gains in the last five years? These are the types of questions LMI is great at answering.

Kootenai County, ID past and projected employment growth.

How to Use It: Pinpoint the industry and occupation gaps in your community, and build specific talent pipelines just for those workers.

When RoleCall is helping a community with talent attraction strategy, we look at the current talent ecosystem like a venn diagram: one side is the industries and occupations the community needs, and the other side is the amenities and assets the community has. The middle section of the diagram? That’s where your talent attraction needs meet your talent attraction opportunity. 

 When a community has a clear understanding of the occupations and industries with the greatest needs, it makes this work a lot easier. It allows you to specifically target the industries you need, and imbue your messaging with specific calls to action and direct appeals to those people.

The Data: Demographic data to understand the current population/situation

Understanding a region’s demographic makeup can help workforce and business leaders in creating and maintaining healthy work environments. Lightcast uses a combination of historical Census Bureau data coupled with American Community Survey (ACS) data to capture historical, current, and projected demographic data. This demographic information is broken down by cohorts: age, race/ethnicity, and gender. 

ACS is a nationwide survey designed to provide communities a fresh look at how they are changing. In addition to demographic information, it also captures social, housing, and economic data points such as income, commute time to work, home value, veteran status, and other important data. ACS is published every year and is a critical element in the Census Bureau’s decennial census program. Collecting data every year provides more up-to-date information throughout the decade about the population at the local community level.

Baton Rouge, LA demographic snapshot.

How to Use It: Seeing your current community clearly allows you to be honest about who you are — and what you’re missing.

Having a deep understanding of who currently lives in — and loves — your region is incredibly valuable. It tells you what kind of people you’re currently attracting, and who is missing out (or being excluded). The patterns and themes you see in your demographic data provide a reflection of your current state and a roadmap to thoughtful growth. 

At RoleCall, we preach effusive honesty in place marketing. Being authentic about your demographics, diversity, strengths, and shortfalls is key to establishing trust with prospective residents. It also allows you to issue an invitation to newcomers: “Here’s where we’re at. Here’s where we want to be. We’d love your help to get there.”

The bottom line: Talent attraction needs the right ingredients.

Developing a talent attraction strategy without data is kinda like baking bread without yeast — you can do it, it just might not turn out that great. So before you start on the new website or run the radio spot during the LA commute, make sure to include data as part of your decision-making process.  

Need data for your talent attraction strategy?

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