Why Workforce Attraction Efforts Fail

By Jim Walton, CEO, Brand Acceleration, Inc.

With unemployment rates in the two or three percent range in many areas, economic developers are often turning their attention to workforce development and attraction. It’s a challenging situation, causing a career shift for economic developers who have had to learn to be people recruiters.

Of course, this has caused a significant shift for us, as well. Increasingly, communities and regions are asking us to provide workforce attraction marketing services. The good news is that our team has significant experience in traditional marketing and media services. Many of us have deep experience in the areas of print media, broadcast, email marketing, event marketing, digital marketing, and other tools to attract huge and highly-targeted audiences.

Occasionally, we are called after an organization has attempted other approaches, without much to show for the investment of time and money. Here are just a few of the common approaches that don’t yield the desired results:

Fishing in too small of a pond
When a community already has a very low unemployment rate, or too few prospective workers, advertising exclusively in the home town or county may be an exercise in futility. Even localized job fairs are struggling to attract attendees. In an area with a population of 20,000, and a labor force of roughly 10,000, a 3% unemployment rate means there are only 300 unemployed people, and many of them may not want to work. Spending money to chase these folks may be a complete waste.

If the desire is to convince people to drive to local jobs from outside the area, or even move there to work and live, then the marketing campaign must be to a larger geographic area. Consider a seventy-five, one hundred, or even two-hundred-mile radius around your area. Although the enlarged area is probably also experiencing a low unemployment rate, by fishing in a larger pond, you have a much higher likelihood of success because the pool of people is much larger.

Failure to support a jobs board
We’ve seen countless communities add jobs boards to their websites and then fail to promote them. If employers and prospective workers are not aware of the jobs board, it is doomed from the very beginning. Employers must be endlessly and actively encouraged to post jobs, and prospective workers need to be told about the jobs board.

Using the wrong promotional tools
It’s very important to know your target audience and how they use media. Running a big ad in the newspaper and featuring a huge phone number in the ad, for example, is a doomed strategy, especially if you want to reach anyone under the age of sixty. Fewer and fewer people are reading newspapers, and no one will pick up a phone and call your office about area jobs availability.

Today, it is crucial to have a multimedia strategy that reaches exactly the right audiences. This might include traditional media, social media, email, digital media, and other modern tools. It might also include strategies to reach geographic hot spots where layoffs have opened doors to employee hunters offering opportunities for laid off workers to move.

A word about veterans and prisoners
I know that many communities are implementing strategies to recruit military veterans and former prisoners. While I applaud the effort to help these people, it’s important to remember that in areas with many job openings, the numbers of veterans and prisoners are likely not large enough to fill the jobs.

So, what is the best strategy for attracting workers and residents? The answer is simple. Do something! If you’re going to have any chance at recruiting people to the jobs in your area, you’re going to have to initiate a promotional effort. Our most successful workforce attraction efforts have included ongoing strategies and multiple tactics to larger geographic areas.

The winners in the battle for workers will be those who promote.