Yvonne van Hest is responsible for the PEOPLE domain as Program Director at Brainport Development. In her columns for IO Eindhoven, she focuses on regional developments, backgrounds and trends in education and the labour market.
I am a specialist. Actually, this is against my natural being. I am a specialist in Talent Attraction. Yes, that’s a profession nowadays. The work I started more than 8 years ago as one of the pioneers in Europe has now become a real profession: attracting international talent.
Last week I was at a conference in Sweden together with two colleagues. There were no less than thirty Talent Attraction specialists there. People from Helsinki, Gothenburg, Oslo, Aarhus, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Malmö, Lund, Brno, Gdansk, Cork and even Montreal. All with the same core question: “how do I bring international knowledge workers to my city or region?” Because all these regions face the same challenge: a shortage of people with certain skills. Growing regions in prosperous countries with (very) low unemployment rates (yes, also Poland and the Czech Republic).
The aim of the conference was to help all participants find their way into the profession of ‘Talent Attraction’. And you might say: “it can’t be that difficult”. But believe me, it is. As a city or region, how do you find the (extra) talent that is needed? And for whom do you actually do that? “Of course, for the employers in the region”, you would say. But wouldn’t it be better to do that together with them? And what is your role? Where do you get your money from? Is your employer public (usually a municipality, region or province) or private (often a Chamber of Commerce, or employers’ organisation)? And thus: what is your mission and assignment; who are the other stakeholders and what interests do they have?
And if you then have the answers to these questions, it’s only just beginning. You’ll end up in the next round of questions.
Do I have to start with talent attraction or first focus on talent retention (for example with an expat centre)? Where do branding and marketing end and where does recruitment start? What kind of talents do we really need? Where in the world – and especially how – can I find them, or better still: how do they find me? What should I do if my country’s policy is too restrictive?
So, last week I found out that we – pioneers from Brainport Eindhoven – as one of the few smaller regions in the world have an answer to all these questions. Together with other frontrunners such as Copenhagen.
What’s more, we now offer a wide range of services from attraction to retention, from student to the international knowledge worker, from Expat Centre to ‘spouse program’ and from cultural offerings to international education.
So are we ready now? No, never! Because stagnation is decline. If all these regions (and certainly not all of them were present at the conference; think also of Austin, Dublin, Berlin, Munich, Bilbao, Estonia, etc.) pay more and more attention to the subject of Talent Attraction, we should certainly continue to do so. To stay ahead. Because although we like to work together with our colleagues in Europe, we are also competing with each other.
That’s why I like to be and stay, together with my team, a specialist and a pioneer.
Photo: Bart van Overbeeke