Growing Our State Through People Attraction, Retention & Development

“…business development in Nebraska is directly tied to the development
and growth of available ‘talent.’”

 

As the “talent attraction coordinator” for Nebraska’s Department of Economic Development (DED), my business is growing Nebraska. My team is dedicated to attracting, retaining and developing the people of Nebraska to match the growing job opportunities here.

 

The Context

For many years, DED heard from businesses looking for help finding more people, or “talent.” In 2016, my team and I at DED surveyed 263 primary sector businesses (i.e. businesses that import capital into the community from outside the region) during company conversations and visits. Results showed that nearly 50% of these businesses experienced increasing employment needs and 80% reported experiencing recruitment problems.

Nebraska has the fourth lowest unemployment rate (2.8% in May 2017) and the fourth highest labor participation rate (69.5% in May 2017) in the nation. With few unemployed people seeking work and a limited pool of residents to add to the labor force, it is critical that Nebraska be proactive in both retaining the current workforce and attracting new people to the state to fill the growing opportunities here.

According to the US Census Bureau, Nebraska’s migration trends show that there was a net loss of 2,551 persons in state-to-state migration in 2014. Nebraskan’s aged 25 years and older with a Bachelor’s Degree or more education—key population from which high-skilled workers are often hired—left the state at an average rate of 11,861 per year over the 5-year period between 2011 and 2015, resulting in an outmigration of -6.5 per 1,000 people and ranking Nebraska 9th worst nationally. Migration trends coupled with Nebraska’s aging population has made this outmigration even more pronounced in rural areas. In 71 of Nebraska’s 93 counties, particularly in less densely populated Western Nebraska, there is a median age of 40 or older according to the US Census Bureau. People exiting the workforce for retirement in the coming years will exacerbate this already pressing issue.

Median Age 40 or Older in 71 of 93 counties
MedianAgeByCounty

Additionally, according to the Nebraska Department of Labor, there were 64,128 job openings advertised on its NEworks website in May 2017. This amounts to more than two job ads for every unemployed person in Nebraska. Conversely, industry projections predict growth in employment in 18 of the 20 industry sectors through 2022, with a total statewide growth of 9.54% between 2012 and 2022. Industry growth is undoubtedly already hindered by Nebraska’s tight labor market.

 

What This Means

All of this points to the fact that business development in Nebraska is directly tied to the development and growth of available “talent.” We have worked closely with the business community to identify the skills gaps and developed partnerships with the Department of Labor, Department of Education and other training providers to build talent pipelines. We strive to ensure our youth have experiences that will help them make thoughtful and well-informed career and education decisions. Over the last couple of years, DED has adjusted its strategy to intentionally include the attraction and retention of people as well.

I was hired about 18 months ago to research talent trends, develop a talent attraction and retention strategy and implement talent-focused initiatives. This research and many conversations with people and businesses across Nebraska has led me to believe that we will be most successful in recruiting young people (e.g. millennials) who have previously lived in Nebraska back to Nebraska. Some of us in this field like to call these individuals “boomerangs.”

Results from a 2010 Gallup survey of individuals who had previously lived in Nebraska revealed that people under 30 years old are more likely to return to Nebraska. Specifically, 45% of survey participants under 30 years old said there was at least a 50% chance they would someday return to Nebraska, in comparison to only 23% of overall participants who reported at least a 50% chance of returning to Nebraska.

DED recently collaborated with the University of Nebraska–Lincoln to update some of Gallup’s previous findings through a survey of University of Nebraska–Lincoln alumni who currently live outside of the state. In this survey, 87.9% of millennials (respondents born after 1980) responded “Yes” or “Maybe” when asked if they would return to Nebraska if the opportunity presented itself, compared to a slightly lower percentage, 83.9%, of overall participants. If they responded “Yes” or “Maybe” we followed up by asking how likely they were to return to Nebraska; 37.2% of millennials responded they were either “Very likely” or “Somewhat likely” to return compared to 34.6% of all participants.

Millennials:
Would you Return
to Nebraska?

 

Millennials:
How likely are you
to return to Nebraska?

AllisonHatch_PieCharts AllisonHatch_PieCharts2

 
 

DED Talent-Focused Initiatives

DED is in the process of implementing several talent-focused initiatives. According to the Development counselors international 10 Top Tips in Talent Attraction publication, one of the primary elements of any successful talent attraction and development strategy is to have a well-organized, visually compelling, informative web presence. My team is currently working closely with a website developer to create a one-stop-shop website that will promote Nebraska as a great place to live, work and play. The website is expected to launch this November and will feature job opportunities, culture and quality of life aspects, training opportunities and community engagement opportunities. Potential new residents will be drawn in by personal stories of people who love living in Nebraska and have the opportunity to connect directly with passionate Nebraskans eager to help them learn more about the state.

DED and a group of talent-focused economic development and chambers of commerce professionals are working collaboratively to create this network of passionate Nebraskans who will connect with potential new residents. When someone from outside of Nebraska shares that they are interested in learning more about living and working here, a volunteer from the network we are building will reach out to them directly to address their questions. The network, which will undoubtedly include many young professionals across the state, will also be asked to share the good news about Nebraska with their family and friends. I know that Nebraska’s current residents and employees are one of our most valuable resources as well as our state’s best recruiters. I hope that engaging Nebraskans in this effort to promote our state will also help strengthen their own desire to stay here.

My team and I will continue to work diligently on these projects, and many others still in the formation stages, to grow the state through attracting, retaining and developing great people. I know that I will reach out to you all for support and inspiration as well. Connecting Young Nebraskans was established to connect, empower and retain young leaders in the rural areas of Nebraska, making you an essential partner in DED’s mission to grow the state. I am thrilled about the possibilities of how we can achieve these goals together.

 


 

Allison Hatch

Allison Hatch

Talent Attraction Coordinator | Nebraska Department of Economic Development
Join Allison on LinkedIn

Allison Hatch oversees a state strategy for attracting qualified talent for growing job opportunities. She is involved with coordinating an extensive communications and outreach effort that promotes Nebraska as welcoming and attracts a diverse group of talented individuals to the state to live and work; developing programs and fostering an environment that results in individuals remaining in the state; and serving as a catalyst for advancing ideas, partnerships and actions that create greater pathways to career opportunities for Nebraska’s current and future workforce.

 


 

« Back to CYN Blog