Workforce evaluation is significant to the site selection process since labor availability and labor cost are two major factors that contribute to the long-term success of your company. These site selection factors are difficult to assess and are essential to almost all operation types including call centers, distribution centers, manufacturing plants, shared service centers, software development centers and headquarters.

Many companies often depend exclusively on desktop data to evaluate the workforce when, in reality, that data should primarily be used to narrow the field of options to a shortlist of communities for touring. The site selection tours then become a critical way to help you find the right location since you are able to look beyond the raw data and into the real labor conditions. These tours will uncover additional statistical and anecdotal evidence needed to accurately evaluate the workforce and enable you to truly understand the key differences of the finalist communities. 

To better understand overall labor conditions, we have identified five important ways to evaluate the workforce during the site selection tours which will complement the data gathered in the earlier stages of research and help you make the optimal site selection decision.   

1.  Economic development groups can provide market intelligence

The role of economic development groups is to attract and retain business to their respective communities. These groups are a great resource because they know the strengths and weaknesses of their community for factors including labor conditions, economic incentives, regulations and other site selection drivers. Most likely they have courted and, in many cases, won projects with similar skill set needs. Therefore, these groups have historical data that may help with validating the talent in the market and anecdotal insight based on past projects. They can draw on the factors that contributed to the community being selected or, conversely, why the community lost the project. Local resources can provide further context behind some of the key statistical data. For example, unemployment rates may have increased over the last year. The economic development groups can speak to the unemployment increase and detail the company closures or downsizings that contributed to the change. In many instances, the company may have left for internal reasons and not due to labor issues. If this is the case, this may be further validation that there is a skilled talent pool in the market seeking employment due to the company’s exodus.

2.  Employer interviews provide incredible insight into current labor conditions 

One of the leading ways to validate the local workforce is by meeting with local employers. The employers can offer their experience of finding talent locally and any potential challenges they may have found from recruitment and retention. In many cases, the company may have gone through a similar site selection process. This is a great way to understand what led them to choose the community and to learn about exercises they may have initiated to validate the local workforce. Many times these meetings will provide insight into the local workforce that otherwise could not be captured in any data variable.

3. Staffing companies can help to validate workforce conditions

Meeting with staffing companies can help validate the workforce in a similar way as the employer interviews. Staffing companies work daily to recruit talent for their clients and have a strong understanding of the local talent pool. A difference between local employers and staffing groups is the staffing groups may recruit for multiple companies and varying skill sets. This can translate to a more diverse understanding of the local workforce.  Additionally, staffing companies may have quantifiable data generated from their internal proprietary databases that can be used to validate local workforce availability and salary/benefit costs. Staffing companies can also offer anecdotal insight based on what candidates are seeking from company culture and other qualitative factors that are important for overall labor recruitment.  

4.  College and university career service departments are a great resource

A city with a local four-year college, university, community college or technical college will have a career services office that can be a tremendous resource for workforce validation. During the community visit, meet with the career services offices and discuss data around the number of students graduating each semester and their degrees or certifications.  Oftentimes, statistics are available that indicate the number of graduates who remain local after receiving degrees versus those who leave for other cities or states. Salary data for those graduates may be available, which can assist with aligning market compensation and benefits. On a long-term basis, the colleges/universities can be a valued partner to help with developing curriculum to match your skill set needs as well as an ongoing recruitment resource assisting with local on campus job fairs.

5.  Explore the community and talk to the locals  

This exercise may not provide the hard data to support the workforce availability the way the groups mentioned above can, but informally exploring the community is another great way to validate the workforce. This method is more qualitative and may align more to the cultural validation of the workforce, but that is still very important to ensure the local population meets your cultural expectations. From a simple conversation with a waiter to asking the front desk clerk at the hotel questions about the community, talking to locals is a great way to learn if the soft skills are available in the community. These conversations can lead to open and honest dialogue about the community and are good gauges of the type of people living and working there. These could very well be the candidates that apply for your positions or at least be a good representation of the types of candidates that you will find in the market.

Conclusions

Workforce evaluation remains a critical piece of the site selection process and can determine the overall success of your company’s new location. Through quantifiable data that can be captured in earlier phases of the site selection process to ongoing validation conducted during the site selection tours, there are multiple ways to evaluate the overall workforce of a community. To truly trust that a market’s workforce is evaluated properly, let site selection experts engage their proven process to analyze each market effectively. Each phase of analysis will help formulate overall recommendations suited to capturing the required workforce which will allow for a successful operation in a new location. 

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