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Episode 19 – Workforce Trends, Talent Migration and the Rise of Nomadic Workers

Site Selectors Guild
Episode 19 - Workforce Trends, Talent Migration and the Rise of Nomadic Workers
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Rick Weddle: Welcome to “Site Selection Matters” where we take a close look at the art and science of site selection decision-making. I’m your host, Rick Weddle, president of the Site Selectors Guild. In each episode, we introduce you to leaders in the world of corporate site selection and economic development. We speak with members of the Site Selectors Guild, our economic development partners, and corporate decision-makers to provide you with deep insight into the best and next practices in our profession. In this episode, we have as our guest Andrew Phillips, senior account executive for economic development, international trade, and investment for LinkedIn Marketing Solutions. Today, Andrew will talk with us about how workforce dynamics are impacting business locations. Join me as we welcome Andrew Phillips to “Site Selection Matters.”

Andrew, with over 165 million workers, 20,000 companies using LinkedIn to recruit, and over 3 million jobs posted on LinkedIn every month, it seems like you’re in an absolutely unique position to provide valuable insight into U.S. workforce trends. Could you take a minute and maybe give our listeners a brief overview of your LinkedIn workforce report and what it really shows about employment trends?

Andrew Phillips: Absolutely. Thanks for the chance to join. So, our workforce reports are really a moment in time snapshot of LinkedIn data as it relates to the economy. So, our data captures a number of different things. It captures crew mobility of the 165 million or so Americans on a global basis. There’s 645 million people who are on LinkedIn, so it’s a really powerful look into what’s happening every month in a number of different ways. But the way I try to explain it to people is if you think for a second about what’s on your individual profile, there is a lot of information on there. It’s everything from where you work now, where you went to school, what skills you have, who you’re connected with. Some things about your behavior indicate whether you’re actively looking for a job, what industry you’re in, what sorts of content you’re interested in, have you moved recently? I just moved to the suburbs of Minnesota from the D.C. area, so LinkedIn knows that and knows that I’m now doing my same job from Minnesota.

So, you think about that scale and you think about the opportunity to analyze that kind of data across almost 170 million U.S. professionals, 645 million people globally, and what our team of economists and analysts do every month is they look at three primary things. They look at net hiring, so what are the hiring trends that are going on both at the industry basis level and just as an overall number for growth? So, net hiring number. Skill gaps, so where are skills represented either in surplus or where is there a great demand for skills and where is there a shortage? Oftentimes, those can be in the same cities because they’re different skills that are either in great demand or where there’s a surplus of skills. And migration as the last leg of the stool, so where physically are people moving to? Where are people leaving? Where are they going? So, it’s a really great rich data set. And if you’re lucky enough to live in a metro with one of our regional reports, it’s the top 18 or 20 or so metros that get an individualized report, so it’s places like Minneapolis, Atlanta, Detroit, D.C. area, Denver, Austin, etc. If you get a regional report, it’s a great barometer to gauge how your region is doing as it relates to LinkedIn data.

Rick: Let me probe a little bit on that just real quickly if you don’t mind. You talk about net hiring skill gaps, migration, those are all big datasets coming out of the flow of activity there, but doesn’t it all start with the profile of the 165 million workers? Isn’t that the sweet spot of the whole thing? Really, it’s about who is in there. That’s where the…on the demand side of it, from a workforce point of view.

Andrew: Oh, of course. Yeah. And without our members updating their profiles and without our members doing the things that they do on LinkedIn in order to advance their careers, none of this is possible. And I believe one of the areas that differentiates our data from other data sources that have similar leads on what’s going on with the economy is that there’s a vested interest and there’s a vested understanding that keeping your profile up to date is something that benefits you. And even if you’re not actively looking for a job, keeping your profile up to date as you’re going through your career is something that is genuinely helpful to you because you can be exposed to content and things that are more relevant to what you’re doing in your current job versus if you don’t keep it up to date, maybe it’s not as relevant, and it just lets your network know what you’re up to and make sure that you’re appearing well on the platform, which is really important to do in the economic development space, in particular. But you’re absolutely right. Without that basis of 165 million people continually updating their profiles, then we don’t have any of this.

Rick: I guess, Andrew, you know, the old days of working for a company for 25, 30 years and never updating your resume to the very end, those are gone, I guess, in this…

Andrew: Yes.

Rick: …current real-time world. Yeah. Interesting. Let’s follow up on all that a little bit. I’d like to probe a bit on what all this means to site selection professionals as well as economic developers. As you know, the Site Selectors Guild business is of site location, and in many ways, it’s the business of figuring out where the best labor markets are both now and in the future. From your data, what cities are gaining the most in jobs and what industry sectors do you see driving this growth?

Andrew: Yeah. It’s a great question. It’s one that we think about a lot just in trying to analyze our data and help not only our customers, people who are using the LinkedIn platform to recruit, customers are also using LinkedIn to market to different places, but how do we help policymakers? How do we help people make sense of our data in a way that’s going to be genuinely helpful to them as they’re trying to plan for the future? And one of the corners that we help people look around is this idea of economic growth and where are the different sectors that are on the rise? Particularly as it relates to things like the growth of AI and automation, which during the democratic debates that have been going on, a number of the candidates have brought up the idea of displacement of labor that’s going to take place as a result of these technologies. So, what can LinkedIn do and what are the signals LinkedIn can look into to help peak around those corners and help position regions in the best way they can for the future? So, it’s something we think about a lot.

And the interesting thing that we’ve seen over the last really two months or so is that our data is pointing to what have been traditional…and this is just a broadly kind of used term, second and third-tier cities. And what do I mean by that? Traditionally, the growth has come from the areas you would expect, technology growth has come from Silicon Valley, San Francisco Bay Area, you know, media and entertainment has come from Los Angeles, manufacturing has come from parts of the Midwest, etc. And what we’re starting to see is that there is a really interesting growth in the type of industries that are growing in what are considered non-traditional markets. So, the top locations that we saw grow two months ago in the October report in terms of net new migration, and this relates to housing prices as far as we can tell, and I’ll get into that in a second, but it’s the places like Minneapolis, Phoenix, Philadelphia concurrently growing a lot of really surprising industries, things like transportation logistics.

Now, what’s going on here? So, it’s not that the cities, the big cities, the New Yorks, the Seattles, and San Franciscos, the D.C. area, it’s not that they’re no longer growing because they are growing, but what is interesting and what is happening is that a lot of people are moving to these areas and then they’re moving out much quicker than they have until current years. So, what we figured out and what many of our analysts and one of our editors…We actually have a staff of journalistic editors at LinkedIn that look at and interpret and write on our data. There’s a former “Wall Street Journal” analyst, reporter by the name of George Anders. And George just wrote about this correlation that they found when housing exceeds 30% of income. So, the cost of your overall housing exceeds 30% of income, then you start to see a net migration away from these areas in areas specifically like engineers, manufacturing, traditionally high-skilled labor sets.

So, what does this mean? It means that a lot of people are starting to leave areas like San Francisco, New York who might not have otherwise in the past because they could afford to live there, but the housing costs continue to rise as those places get more and more expensive and the talent war is starting to tip a little bit toward the advantage of places like Minneapolis, Phoenix, and Philadelphia. And those three areas are interesting because there’s been a lot of talk of the growth of places like Austin, and Denver, and Nashville, Vegas. They’re growing, and they’re still growing in terms of net people. But the new interesting trend of these cities that are just below that tier in terms of their overall size and growth trajectory, we saw two months ago, starting in October, that there’s a lot of growth headed toward those areas. So, it’s not that there’s a housing crunch coming to Minneapolis or Phoenix yet, but I just found it really interesting that, for the first time, these areas are featured among the sets that have been traditionally the power growers, the Austins, the Denvers, the Nashvilles, etc.

So, you know, coupled with interesting industry growth, I mentioned transportation and logistics, I mentioned software growing in places like Minneapolis, which hasn’t always been the case, there’s a lot of shifting power away from the traditional hubs as they get more expensive to places that have been considered for a long-time secondary markets. And frankly, as somebody who is interested in helping regions grow, it’s a huge opportunity. It’s a huge opportunity for these regions to capitalize on the idea that there are people who are feeling priced out of these areas that might not have considered living in, say, Minneapolis. They would have stayed in a place like Chicago, but now they’re starting to consider, hey, where could I get better affordability and get better bang for my buck living somewhere else?

Rick: You know, Andrew, I guess also what plays into this is in some of these professions, software, some of these things like that, the vocation itself is becoming more mobile, more portable. And so, talent…

Andrew: Absolutely.

Rick: …has more flexible choices, I guess, into where they want to go or where they could go.

Andrew: Certainly. There’s this rise of the idea of digital nomadism, and there are different tiers of somebody either being truly a nomad as in they, sort of, roam around the country and live in one place for a little bit and live in one place for a little bit. That’s growing, but the more interesting trend is what you just hit on, which is the idea that somebody that used to have a job, say, in the San Francisco Bay Area can now really work from anywhere. And my own job, I’m in basically what is a sales job, I’m tied to an office in D.C., but I can live in the suburbs of Lakeville, Minnesota, and be just as effective because I’ve got VC technology. I’ve got a major international airport where I can get to any of our offices with a direct flight and be there in a couple of hours. So, the demand for me to be in a hub where we have an office just doesn’t exist in the same way. And there’s a huge growth, and “The Wall Street Journal” and others have reported on this rise in remote work and how it’s adding to the development of places like Boise, Idaho, or Reno, Nevada, whereas Californians are feeling priced out of these bigger cities, they can still keep their jobs but be in other places.

And what I think you’ll start to see, and I’m seeing some people do this really well as it relates to site selection and economic development, is having an office in a major hub, but then using that as the spoke-out to different areas. And one good example that I just heard of is actually John Deere. So, John Deere has what they call John Deere Labs, which is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, and they do what a lot of other companies do with similar initiatives. They cultivate engineering talent. They recruit from the major engineering hubs that are in the Bay Area, and they start people working in the Bay Area in what is a traditional tech job. But as they report back into places like Des Moines and Iowa City where John Deere has its more traditional workforce hubs, what they’ll start to do is start to incentivize people to move into Iowa City or into Des Moines and away from Silicon Valley.

Now, this is advantageous in a couple of ways. It’s advantageous obviously to Iowa City and State of Iowa, in general, and John Deere because they can get people closer to their hub of operations. It’s also really advantageous to Iowa, in general, just because you get a high paying job with a good growing tax base that’s coming in and moving into some of these areas that are struggling with population density. But it’s also an interesting play on the relationship between places like these big, larger hubs and the outlying areas. It’s not that people should just outright move away from San Francisco, and our editor, Dan Roth, has spoken to this idea where it’s not that people should not be moving to these areas, but rather than choosing to move to a place like San Francisco and staying there, you can go there, acquire skills, acquire a network, get your start, and then move to a place like Iowa City where you can take everything that you’ve gotten acquired, everything that you’ve built up there, and then provide value to a company but still maintaining that relationship.

So, I think you’ll start to see a lot of companies do similar things where you have maybe a hub in a place like San Francisco, Seattle, New York, etc, but you start building out these broader networks in places that are not as expensive to live and where there…just giving the demands of what talent is looking for and why they’re leaving these more expensive places, things that can be met in these less expensive areas. I think it’s a really interesting trend to follow.

Rick: Yeah. You know, it’s interesting. So, you may not live there anymore, but you’re going to stay connected to those markets in this world that’s connected. Hey, Andrew, LinkedIn is well-positioned, it seems, to address all these issues at scale. Could you maybe explain, for our listeners, why you think it’s so important to show up well on LinkedIn? And maybe even share some tips on how or how not to use the important platform that it is.

Andrew: Certainly. Yeah. So, I was giving a presentation recently, and when I finished up, somebody approached me and he said something along the lines of, “Hey, I love LinkedIn.” And he was an economic developer in a Southeast state. “I love LinkedIn. I really believe in it as an economic developer. And in fact, it’s my opinion that if you are not on LinkedIn and you’re a site selector or an economic development professional, you don’t take your job seriously enough.” And I kind of chuckled at him and said, “Oh, yeah, I love LinkedIn too,” but he pressed me on it, and he said, “Well, no, really think about it. Think about the kind of things that you can do on LinkedIn, and I think about the value that I get from it every day as somebody who’s out actively selling my state, and if somebody is not willing to capitalize on that, then I just don’t think they take their job seriously.” Now, I don’t think I’d be as on the nose as this gentleman was, but I really do think that there’s such tremendous opportunity that I don’t know if people always realize.

So, why is it important? Well, there are a couple of factors to it. The first is just the quality of the peer group that you’re in by default when you come onto LinkedIn. DCI, the great firm based out of Denver that helps with location advisory practices from the marketing side, they found that 87% of executives and 72% of site selectors use LinkedIn for their day-to-day job. So, it’s not to say that they’re just on there, but they’re doing it specifically. They’re on the platform, specifically doing things that tie to their job. Just last month, I saw a group of site selectors that were having some great conversation that was going back and forth on the debate about incentives in consultant compensation, and there was somebody who was arguing very strongly that, you know, “No, we shouldn’t accept percentages of overall incentive packages as a compensation piece,” and somebody else was chiming in and saying, “Well, I understand what you’re saying, but it’s a little more complicated than that because of the way real estate deals often work out.” So, there’s incredible things and great conversations that are happening just within the context of this peer group. So, by default, you create a platform, or you create a profile, and you get all of these conversations that you can have access to. So, that’s the first thing.

And then the second thing that’s related is the context. Just think about this stuff that you see on the platform every day, and overwhelmingly, it’s a lot of people that are looking for things that are trying to help make themselves more productive in their job. And for site selectors, this means that really, it’s a chance to get in front of people and showcase your expertise. So, it’s this unique opportunity where you’ve got, on one half of the equation, people that are looking for things to help make them smarter, more productive, and better at their jobs, and you can come in as somebody who’s got something to help make that person more productive, smarter, and better at their job. So, there’s a really unique opportunity that takes place with that information, and I’ve seen some people do a really good job at showcasing their expertise.

There’s a site selection firm in Austin called AngelouEconomics, and they do these video series called “Trend Tuesdays.” And it’s maybe a 90-second video, very simple production. Somebody just opens up their laptop and they say, “Hey, today, I’m going to talk about the economics of sports and how it relates to this area of Dallas and what we were able to do about helping building out a soccer metroplex.” And they talk about the different things that come in when building that project. And it’s just a genuinely interesting, really helpful bit into the economics of building out a sportsplex. And there are countless examples, I can go on, but that ability to showcase your expertise is something that’s really valuable. And if you’re still not convinced, I think it’s helpful to do a quick thought experiment.

So, if you or your listeners think about the last big meeting you attended and there was something of critical importance, so it was the big, big, critical either client or stakeholder meeting that you have coming up. How many of those people that you’re going into that meeting wit did you look up on LinkedIn beforehand? Probably a lot. If not everybody, at least everyone that you attended with. And if you’re doing that, don’t you think it’s important that people find you and you show up well on the platform? And if they’re looking you up, you can bet that they’re looking up the people that you work with, they’re looking after your company. So, there’s this really unique context and quality of the conversations that can happen that’s very unique to LinkedIn that has happened fairly rapidly.

It’s really only been over the past four years or so that this has even been a thing because while LinkedIn has been around since 2003, 2004, you could only build a profile and connect with people and look for jobs. Those were the only three things you could do. But now with the content that we’ve introduced, with the ability to write content and produce content firsthand, you can create a video and put that on LinkedIn. Soon, you’ will be able to do live videos on LinkedIn. There’s just this very unique confluence of people looking for information, people who can offer up information, and then just the ability to build your brand professionally that you really can’t do in other places.

Rick: Interesting, Andrew. In the time we have left, any quick hits maybe on what to do, what not to do on LinkedIn to take advantage of the platform more effectively?

Andrew: Yeah, certainly. So, first thing is to build a strong profile, and what I mean by building a strong profile means have a headshot, have a complete summary, so if you think about your profile, just under your headshot and under your position and description, there’s a quick summary that you can offer. I would write something that’s warm, inviting, and first-person. First-person just because there’s something subtle about the grammar of I, and my work, my career versus, you know, “Rick is an established professional.” It’s just that first-person invitation is warmer and more inviting.

The second thing I would do is just think about the practices that you would take into a professional realm and try to utilize the best of those on LinkedIn. So, what do I mean? If you’re going to reach out to somebody cold, first of all, I think the worst thing that people do is just send blind connection requests with no context. It’s fine to send connection requests to people if you believe that you can offer something of value but do it with some context. Take some time, look at their profile, find some bit of common ground, and do it that way. I think there are a lot of memes that go around the internet about the worst of LinkedIn, or, you know, oh, this is typical LinkedIn. I think the platform is getting better and there’s a little bit of self-awareness that’s happening there. But what I really get frustrated at seeing is that sometimes people will reach out without context or there are these bad sales behaviors that can take place on LinkedIn, you know, just spamming people once you accept a connection request, that kind of thing.

So, when in all doubt, just try to build value, build your expertise. And something I heard recently that I’d like to share with folks now is that it’s called thought leadership. It’s not called thought sharing or thought repeating. So, what does that mean? It means that you should share your opinion. You should share things that you know within your own expertise. You should share things that you’ve come across from your own analysis. And all the listeners of this podcast, and really anybody, has unique expertise on something, so share that. Don’t just repeat what others are saying. Don’t just repeat or share pieces of content with no context. Try to add your individual analysis to that. So, don’t spam people and try to be insightful are really my two best quarters.

Rick: Andrew, you know, you hit the nail on the head right there because you’ve really shared a lot with us today. What a great conversation. I think you could go on and on and on all afternoon, but that’s really all the time we have today. So, let me say thank you, Andrew, for talking with us today on this episode of “Site Selection Matters.”

Andrew: Thank you, Rick. Had a lot of fun. Really appreciate it.

Rick: Thanks for listening to this episode of “Site Selection Matters,” and a special thanks today to Andrew Phillips with LinkedIn Marketing Solutions for helping us get inside and better understand workforce trends across the U.S. What an informative discussion and one that leaves us with a lot to think about. Again, I’m Rick Weddle, president of Site Selectors Guild. We hope you will subscribe to the “Site Selection Matters” podcast on Apple Podcasts, on Stitcher, on Spotify, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. We look forward to bringing you some great discussions in the year ahead. Until next time, good day.