By Dean Whittaker

We just wrapped up our talent acquisition pilot project for the Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana (Evansville area). The purpose of the pilot project was to test the use of layoff data, social media marketing, and a recruiter to identify and attract skilled workers from outside the region. Here’s what we learned.

Ten things we learned from the Pilot Project

1.) The talent issue is bigger, broader, and more complex than we first thought. Connecting with potential applicants today requires a new framework.
2.) Many companies in the Evansville region are facing the same talent shortage issue. There are over 6,000 open positions according to
3.) There is a great deal of competition using data from layoff notices.
4.) Most workforce development programs are designed to address mid- to long-term needs rather than filling immediate requirements for talent.
5.) Some type of relocation incentives may be necessary to overcome financial and other barriers.
6.) Social media marketing is stunningly effective when targeting individuals with previous connection to the Evansville area. A large audience can be reached inexpensively with correct targeting, testing, image and message selection.
7.) LinkedIn Recruiter seems to be a better avenue for recruiting candidates that require a higher level of education in more “in-office” jobs, and Facebook ads seem to be a better avenue for recruiting skilled and general workers.
8.) Social media marketing requires a significant learning curve. The use of an outside firm to teach, coach, and review was important. Similarly, having an outside recruiting firm to teach and support the project and Coalition staff was critical to the success of the effort.
9.) The one-on-one conversations we conducted with individual companies and organizations at the end of the project were helpful in sharing specific insights and recommendations.
10.) A weekly virtual team meeting helped keep communications open and the project moving forward.

One of biggest discoveries was that a company’s hiring process is the biggest obstacle to recruiting talented individuals. In some cases, the time-to-hire exceeds six months.

The Pilot Project was a fascinating glimpse into the challenges many companies and communities have relative to quickly meeting the needs of growing companies. The competition for talent is growing rapidly. We were able to identify 185 people that expressed interest. Within the first 30 days of completing the pilot, one person has accepted the employment offer and there are more people in the process.

Most economic development organizations (EDOs) are still being funded to attract companies. I wonder when people will realize the large number of unfilled positions they have in their communities, according to EDOs need to shift their focus to attracting talent before they can attract companies.