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From Workforce 2023 Guide


From talent gap to remote work and childcare, employers have their hands full.

No industry sector was hit harder during COVID-19 than hospitality and restaurants. Many of these establishments are still not adequately staffed more than two years later.
Courtesy of Rob Lawrence and Little Rock CVB


uiet quitting. Asynchronous working. Third spaces. The list of new business buzzwords goes on and on. You can thank COVID-19 for that, but the global pandemic is not the only reason the world of work changed.

A generational shift at multiple levels of the workforce caused companies to reevaluate how they structure the workplace and has left bosses wondering: When will things ever settle down long enough for me to do something about this?

Time, unfortunately, is one luxury employers don’t have, as new workforce challenges mount daily and force companies to adapt or die. A recent report on the State of Site Selection, conducted by Development Counsellors International for the Site Selectors Guild, revealed just how much has changed about the workforce and where it’s heading.

“Access to talent remains the most important global factor in location decisions as employers face turbulent labor markets, evolving workplace models, immigration policy constraints, insufficient worker training programs and an increased focus on locations’ population diversity,” the report concluded.

The State of Site Selection cited these rising issues:

  • “Once seen as a potential solution to the shortage of skilled workers, advanced forms of automation, robotics and other technologies have suffered from vulnerabilities in the supply chain and can also result in the need for more workers rather than less.”
  • “Remote and hybrid work models are not going away, which is impacting workplace models and location strategies.”
  • “Companies are requesting more population diversity information during the location evaluation process.”

WorkforceChallenges-NM-mel-thomasChildcare has not come back post-COVID-19, and its absence is problematic for parents wishing to return to the workplace. This only stresses an already insufficient worker base.”

— Mel Thomas, Manager of Economic Development, City of North Port, Florida

Inflation, Affordable Housing Are Hurting Workers

Worker shortages were also the consensus No. 1 issue among the economic development leaders we interviewed for this article. Rod Crider, president and CEO of the Rowan Economic Development Council in Salisbury, North Carolina, cited this paramount concern: “the challenge for employers to provide and workers to embrace upskilling and reskilling to remain employable. This will be driven in part by more technology and automation. Employers will need to nurture agility and adaptability to retain employees. I also believe that with remote work and the gig economy, we could see strong competition between individuals to land work.”

J.P. DuBuque, president and CEO of the Greater St. Petersburg Area Economic Development Corp., cited “the impact of inflation and housing affordability on wages, skill alignment and mismatch, and the impact of remote working on efficiency, effectiveness and culture.”

Mel Thomas, economic development manager for North Port in Sarasota County, Florida, listed these as the biggest workforce challenges:

  • Affordable housing.
  • Competitive wages.
  • Childcare: “Childcare has not come back post-COVID-19, and its absence is problematic for parents wishing to return to the workplace. This stresses an already insufficient worker base.”
  • Economic slowdown: “The distinct possibility of recession and how that will translate for the average worker or certain industries.”

What Students Didn’t Learn Will Come to Light

Mark Litten, vice president of economic development for the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce in Palatka, Florida, cited two issues: remote workers and educational loss due to COVID-19. “Those who went remote during COVID-19 do not want to go back to the office,” he said. “They love the freedoms that come with working at home. That is the upside. The downside is that without being in an office, creativity and ideas (brainstorming) are curtailed, and that will hurt business and industry.”

By 2034, it is projected that older adults will outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history.

Source: State of Site Selection, DCI report for Site Selectors Guild

On the educational front, Litten noted that we won’t really know how much education was lost due to kids staying home to learn until they matriculate into the workforce. “My wife was a teacher during COVID-19,” he said. “She had a hard time connecting with kids remotely (via Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Classroom) and felt she wasn’t able to teach the students intellectually.”

The Site Selectors Guild added another concern: the coming wave of Baby Boomer retirements. “By 2030, all baby boomers will be older than age 65,” the report stated. “By 2034, it is projected that older adults will outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history.”

Guild members say employers must get creative to overcome worsening worker shortages: “Office clients are addressing workforce shortages in a variety of ways, including the pursuit of offshore/international talent recruitment to fill high-demand occupations (specifically technology skills) and are also considering choosing locations outside of their home countries. Given that the talent shortage is a global one, these tactics may not be sufficient.”

Ron Starner
Executive Vice President of Conway, Inc.

Ron Starner

Ron Starner is Executive Vice President of Conway Data, Inc. He has been with Conway Data for 22 years and serves as a writer and editor for both Site Selection and the company's Custom Content publishing division. His Twitter handle is @RonStarner.


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