The Importance of Understanding Local Talent and Community in Workforce Planning
Madhu Chamarty, CEO and Co-Founder
Silicon Valley, the 47 square miles (well, 46.89 square miles to be precise!) located between San Francisco and San Jose, was not always the center of global technology innovation that it has been for the past several decades. Did you know that it was once covered in orchards? The journey to tech dominance was birthed decades ago in the 1950s out of Stanford University and several federal grants. And it was in the 1960s and 1970s, its decades-long journey to a leadership role in innovation and entrepreneurship began with the founding of companies such as Varian, Intel, Apple, and Hewlett-Packard.
Today Silicon Valley remains a geographic center of innovation, with its thousands of companies representing the greatest density of technology companies in the world. But it has evolved to much more than a place on a map. As LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman said: “Silicon Valley is a mindset, not a location.” And that mindset and the economic opportunity that it brings is now growing in other parts of the US and around the world — and not just on the tech coasts.
How Silicon Valley Became an Innovation Leader
The factors that enabled Silicon Valley to become an innovation leader are mainly the people and the culture — founders who went to school together, an attitude of risk-taking, strong networks and a predisposition to collaboration, the existence of cultural diversity, and shared goals. It’s a community that constantly knows how to reshape and reform itself in the service of ‘disruption’ of the economic and industrial status quo in many ways.
Other geographies have personalized the Silicon Valley metaphor to their purposes — New York’s Silicon Alley, Los Angeles’ Silicon Beach, and London’s Silicon Roundabout. But the goal should not be about attempting to replicate what is in Northern California. Every community is distinctive. Every place has its own set of factors that can birth its own local innovation and opportunity revolution if properly aligned.
Success will only come if an area and its leaders discover and focus on what is unique to them. Instead of cities billing themselves as the “next Silicon Valley,” they need to nurture their community, local talent, and entrepreneurship.
How Covid-19 Accelerated the Distributed Workforce
The Covid-19 pandemic has also changed the way and pace at which new geographies can attract tech-enabled companies. Over the past twelve months or so, most knowledge workers have shifted to a remote work culture. Companies have searched with increasing urgency for lower-cost markets for themselves and their employees. The year-long trial of using collaborative communications tools like Zoom and Slack has shown that companies can maintain business continuity with a distributed workforce.
The temporary migration of many workers out of major urban areas and traditional tech hubs is under increasing pressure to be a permanent personal and lifestyle decision for many individuals. Employees of Silicon Valley tech companies now can live in a more affordable area while also continuing to work for their employers.
There is an acceleration of talent and startups moving to secondary markets like Austin, Atlanta, and Columbus, Ohio, which happens to be the new hotbed for FinTech talent. This growth in secondary markets means a more equitable future for innovation — and a chance to attack opportunity inequality — as startups and established technology companies build remote and distributed teams in these regions.
So, what does all this have to do with workforce planning?
For those looking to grow and nurture their distributed workforce, success will only come if they discover and focus on what is unique in each geographical area — and what is important to them as a company both economically and culturally. Hiring someone in Des Moines is quite different from engaging a workforce in Denver.
Today, Tech Innovation is Possible Anywhere
Employees and employers who are serious about new hybrid models of work — such as Hub-Spoke-Node — know that being in Silicon Valley is no longer a requirement. This means that centers of innovation and excellence can spring up around the country and often be inter-connected. The movement is essential for towns and regions around the US to understand when developing campaigns and policies to attract companies and their knowledge workers demanding greater choice about where and how they work.
The “old way” of finding a new location and attracting talent no longer works. Everyone — companies, cities, and states — need to rethink their approach, build new relationships, and know that they are making a long-term investment.
Want to learn more about making talent and location decisions as you consider new distributed Hub-Spoke-Node models of work? VContact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.