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How Targeted Web Portals Can Attract Talent

Have you seen the new economic development trend on the web?  Communities are designing and publishing portals solely to attract one thing – not startups or branch plants or property purchases, but talent.

The Talent Attraction Portal

These specialized talent attraction portals are often spearheaded by business groups, but economic development departments are also taking active and prominent roles in them.  As well they should, because there’s a need to maintain a connection between such portals and the community’s economic development strategy.

In February of this year, the Bloomington Technology Partnership in Indiana announced the launch of a social media and talent attraction portal designed to promote Bloomington’s emerging technology community and assist employers to fill open jobs.  The portal,, was created by the Bloomington Technology Partnership with the assistance of local consulting and web design firms.

Bloomington Technology Partnership (BTP) is a non-profit group that has identified a need to attract more talent for companies in sectors including defense, eLearning, IT, software development and web-based applications, among others.

“Learn how Bloomington’s thriving culture and the BTP can help you!” proclaims the talent portal, which offers a dedicated job board for Bloomington area technology companies, current online conversations between tech firms, profiles of Bloomington technology employers, news posts and videos highlighting the community.

The portal development was partially funded by the City of Bloomington and clearly has been designed in keeping with the city’s economic development strategy.

Danise Alano-Martin, director of economic and sustainable development for Bloomington, said in a news release, “Strengthening our local tech sector is the reason the Bloomington Technology Partnership was formed, and the new BTP website does double duty toward meeting that goal.

“Not only is it an interactive utility for local tech businesses, but it also helps convey the message to the world that Bloomington, Indiana, is an exciting place to start and grow technology companies and to have a fulfilling career in technology.”

The Bloomington site is a prime example of a strategy-based approach to talent attraction (please see “Talent Attraction – A Strategic Approach,” published July 11).  It also illustrates another principle: the target audience and messaging goals should determine a site’s creative design, interactivity requirements and content direction.  The BTP portal has focused on interactivity, and its Twitter account saw a 50-per-cent increase in followers in its first five months.

Job Boards on Talent Attraction Portals

A central element of a talent attraction site is the job board.  A well-designed job board serves multiple purposes, assisting both job seekers and employers, and providing data for the continual guidance of economic development strategies.

There’s a good example at Hello West Michigan, which was launched in January 2010 by a consortium of large employers in collaboration with the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.

Among this site’s many admirable features, its job board is well designed to attract participation by tech-savvy young people.  With one or two clicks they can post resumes, learn about companies that are seeking workers, search for available jobs by individual postings and according to various categories, and even create job alerts so that when a designated type of job is listed on the site, the seeker will automatically receive an email to flag the listing.  All of the data created by these interactions must be very useful to the numerous economic development agencies that have become partners in this busy site.

Supporting the Talent Attraction Portal

A talent attraction portal should not be a standalone initiative.  Vigorous steps should be taken to generate traffic and encourage participation by the target audiences.  We will return to this topic in a future article, but there are a couple of communities worthy of note here because they have strategically combined their portals with related initiatives.

Greenville, South Carolina, offers more than just a talent attraction portal – it has built an entire program to go with it.  The Greenville Talent Attraction and Retention Program offers participating companies a variety of online and other tools for attracting talent, as well as opportunities to get new recruits engaged in the community.  The talent attraction site of the Greenville Chamber of Commerce also provides a link to its informative business development strategy, called ACCELERATE!

One of the most recent talent attraction portals was launched May 8 by Wake County Economic Development, a recruitment program of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce.  The portal is called “Work in the Triangle” and is designed to recruit professionals for key sectors in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Region, which encompasses the cities of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.  As in Greenville, the portal serves as the centerpiece and key enabler for a larger program – in this case a $1-million recruitment campaign emphasizing involvement by community members as regional brand ambassadors.

Here’s a quote to remember.  It’s from Jennifer Bosser, assistant executive director with Wake County Economic Development.

“In the global economy, smart people can choose to live and work wherever they want to live,” Bosser said in a release. “We are designing a campaign to recruit smart people from all over the world to move their intellectual capital to the Triangle.  We have designed the campaign around the human interest story here, showcasing local talent and their different perspectives or ‘angles’ on why they love the Triangle.”

Look for this type of strategy to become more prevalent as young people continue to choose where to live first, then where to work.  To help your community remain competitive, consider establishing a web portal for talent attraction – not as an isolated initiative, but as an enabler for a community-wide strategy.


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