In a recent report on national talent trends, flexibility, nicer offices and high quality look talent stood out as factors in growing the local workforce.
This morning, the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance hosted its Regional Economic Development Partners Breakfast Forum — a gathering of real estate, economic development and talent experts in the area for discussion on the latest trends in those fields. Formerly known as the PRA Real Estate Breakfast, this new iteration of the meeting expanded beyond real estate to conversations around other domains that involve it. And, in an even stronger sign of the ties real estate and talent networking have in fostering innovation, the PRA hosted the forum at the new OneValley Roundhouse at Hazelwood Green.
The short event featured a program of experts in both talent and workforce trends over the past year, as well as the industrial market. The first, in particular, has significance in today’s labor shortage and the Great Resignation. Robyn Domber, the VP of research for Development Counsellors International, shared insights from the company’s latest Talent Wars report, and how those findings apply to Pittsburgh’s growing tech and tech-adjacent workforces.
In a phone conversation following her talk at the event, Domber said that the Talent Wars report focused on “five overarching trends that are really going to be impacting the talent attraction landscape moving forward” — scarcity of talent, flexibility of work policies, inclusivity in office space and culture, purpose of work and environment. Many of these trends have been amplified by the pandemic, Domber said, and will likely become more significant as employees weigh options around remote work, salary, benefits and more.
Given all of that, Domber thinks the findings of the national report suggest Pittsburgh could be well positioned for talent growth in the coming years. With higher education institutes like Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, there isn’t a scarcity of talent here, and the persistent affordability of home and office space here is likely attractive to those considering a move here, she said.
“Talent prioritizes a lot of very practical factors, like, overall cost of living and housing availability,” Domber continued, adding that the unique layout of Pittsburgh also gives citizens access to a variety of lifestyles with urban, suburban and even rural areas in close proximity.
Pittsburgh has a solid environment for the labor force too, with several new offices in the works like Rockwell Park, Liberty East and Hazelwood Green itself. Many of these newer offices are also more plush than their predecessors, with increased creature comforts and amenities to make it easier for some employees to choose them over working from home.
“But [employees] also don’t want to just come in and sit at their desk — they’re there to foster those relationships, and have those interpersonal connections,” Domber said. “So having design to address that aspect as well is going to be increasingly important moving forward.”
The tech industry, in particular, seems to be itching for that kind of return, the Talent Wars report found. 51% of respondents in computer and mathematical operations said they would prefer to be in the office full time, as opposed to 17% who said they’d prefer a hybrid model and 32% who would prefer to work from home full time.
“What we are presuming is that they really value that opportunity to have that collaborative environment and the networking, and the opportunity to have those relationships of an in-person experience,” Domber said.
As for figuring out how to leverage the talent that’s already here in addition to attracting new employees, Domber sees it as a two-pronged approach. While Pittsburgh is checking the boxes on building proper environments and maintaining a highly skilled technical workforce out of its universities, the city and its corporate and nonprofit partners also need to ensure training and education programs are in place for everyone to benefit from this growth. Though prospective employees are the ones that will have to go through the programs themselves, cities can always make those options easier and more accessible.
“There’s room for everybody — the internal talent and external talent,” Domber said. “But you want to take that heavy lift off of employees to make sure that you are providing them with the information they need to do that upskilling.”
Combining that with efforts to market the city to external talent will solidify Pittsburgh’s reputation as a fast-growing international tech hub.
Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.