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In the Know column: Pandemic brings long-term changes to workforce

As companies are looking to find the right employees for their open positions, the need to offer a flexible work schedule is a key recruitment tool.

By Nicole Fernholz

As the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, there are several things that will not look the same. The traditional form of working from the office is one of them.

As companies are looking to find the right employees for their open positions, the need to offer a flexible work schedule is a key recruitment tool. Companies see they can hire from anywhere in the world and make that remote employee fit into their culture. The shift in the American office, towards online and remote work signifies an opportunity for our area to attract more diversified talent to our community.

A recent report from Upwork found that “The change to fully remote workforces has led to changes across organizations, far beyond where their workforce is located. In fact, 67% of businesses reported that there were more changes to long-term management practices than a normal year, excluding temporary pandemic-led changes. These changes are broad and impact everything from how work gets done, to who is doing the work.”

Even more so, as real estate prices grow more expensive in the metro, there’s even more pressure to exit and find somewhere else to grow their careers. Another report from Bloomberg found that there is an “urban shuffle” and areas adjacent to urban centers saw more people moving in than moving out, compared to pre-pandemic levels. This report shows that the Alexandria area saw an 8.2% gain in inflow compared to the year prior. Brainerd saw about the same, while the Minneapolis/St. Paul area saw a -0.3% change.

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The pandemic changed the mindset of many, and the value of time has been even more emphasized in our lives. Employees desire less time in a commute, less time getting children to and from childcare, and just more time with their family. Our area and local businesses can offer that. We are set up to be a community that offers amenities and high paying careers that allow individuals a rewarding career and the ability to focus on what they love.

The Alexandria Area Economic Development’s purpose statement is to promote prosperity and optimize opportunity in the Alexandria region. We do this to support our vision of making the Alexandria area the premier place to call home, build a career and grow a business. It is a place with leading-edge technology, infrastructure and unparalleled workforce talent – and this focuses on people.

Douglas County’s current unemployment rate of 3% is below the state average of 3.8%. We are projected to see even more need for talent, as the labor market improves post COVID-19. Moving forward, the challenge for our community is to leverage our assets and continue to build the place that is attractive for individuals to move to.

The race is on for communities to capture workers to help their local companies meet their employment needs. The AAEDC continues to develop marketing pieces to showcase why our region is a great place to work and raise a family in an attempt to recruit more talent to our area. We work with other public and private parties with one simple goal: help our Douglas County cities attract and retain residents and businesses for controlled economic growth.

Nicole Fernholz is the director of the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission. In the Know is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.

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