The world of recruiting is not like it was in 2019. Covid has changed so many facets of our experience and caused us all to reevaluate what really matters in life – which we’re noticing is a very good thing for companies hiring in St. Louis. Here are 6 reasons why.
1) St. Louis-born ex-pats, re-plants and boomerangs are far more open to moving back
These last few decades, one could argue that St. Louis' single greatest export has not been beer or baseball, but rather, its remarkably talented, homegrown kids. And for far too long has it been all too cool for natives born, raised and educated here to make their home elsewhere around the world. Well, newsflash: Those same kiddos aren't kiddos anymore, and for the last 18 months, many have been trying to come home or they're already here – looking for a way to stay. Be it to get out of a cramped mega-city (suddenly not so cool), be near parents, grandparents, or high-quality schools – whatever the reason – a whole new flock of graduates, professionals and families young and old are looking for some Midwestern reprieve now more than ever.
2) Smaller cities (and smaller crowds) are actually seen as a good thing.
Apart from the more commonly known challenges facing the region, there was, prior to the pandemic, another far less discussed yet major impediment to recruiting new talent on the ground to St. Louis: It wasn’t crowded enough. Before 2020, for so many visiting prospects, there were just too few pedestrians on the streets – leaving many from large or coastal markets feeling a little uneasy walking the roomy sidewalks. While it may sound silly to those of us who love our low traffic, short lines and wide-open spaces, going anywhere less than "packed" was a big worry for visitors accustomed to congested subways, bustling city blocks and booming nightlife every night of the week. But in the post-Covid world, such concerns have utterly flipped. Suddenly, the not-so-cramped elevator, easy parking or quiet happy hour doesn't seem so scary. In fact, it feels more like being a VIP.
3) People want single-family homes now more than ever.
Ask any realtor or homebuyer, and you'll quickly learn that listings and inventory are at an all-time low. Cash deals, tens of thousands over asking, are getting turned down left and right. But this cut-throat home buying experience is the only one many from coastal markets have known for years – if they could even afford to own in those cities. Painful as increased competition and pricing might be for house-hunting locals, this change raises the St. Louis brand considerably for newcomers put more at ease in spite of the hassle – comforted by the feel of joining a burgeoning market. And while St. Louis certainly has its share of "open concept" designs that took over homebuilding for the better part of a decade, it's also chock-full of texture, history, character, pathos, spectacular architecture and soul – among the last few places in the country with more than the cookie-cutter boxes quickly falling out of fashion. In the “work and learn from home” world, buyers who once turned up their noses at the old-school inventory found all over the city are looking for just that: a house from back in the day with a basement, attic, office, separate dining area, little garden and outdoor space for the pup to roam.
4) Remote work options will yield more high-quality candidates moving to St. Louis, not fewer.
Birds of a feather so often flock together, and top-tier talent often comes in the form of a "power couple." For these relocating families, it meant that the St. Louis region needed to offer not only one major career opportunity in town but two. Put another way, job offers in our area were often declined because someone in the equation would have had to give up his or her career back home. But there was a scenario where dual-income prospects could say "yes" to a job and relocate together: One of the two could work remotely. Before the pandemic, this phenomenon came along once in a blue moon. Now, many say that nearly half the U.S. workforce will have some form of remote work option in perpetuity. Thus, with so many following spouses no longer locked into the offices from whence they came, their partners can take open positions at home offices, headquarters, or hospitals here – giving employers a better chance of landing sought-after talent and even those they lost out on pre-Covid due to "family reasons."
5) Early retirement makes room.
As a legacy city with a population on the older side, St. Louis has a wealth of many multi-generational, family-owned businesses, giant, large, and small. More likely than not, Grandma and Grandpa or Mom and Dad still occupied an office, literally, at the office. But over the course of 2020, this fact began to change – and fast. Family-owned business or not, even the biggest of bosses had a boss at home – many of whom said it was high time to pack it up, stop going in, or just retire period. These roles need to be filled by a new generation – opening the door for diverse new faces, in high-level positions.
6) Neighbors are meeting.
Culturally and socially, St. Louis has always been on the private side. In many neighborhoods, subdivisions, cul-de-sacs and apartment buildings, neighbors didn't really know one another. In others, they knew each other a little too well, making it hard for many new arrivals to break in. But throughout Covid, something happened: Neighbors put movies on in the backyard, took happy hour to the porch, lawn chair or driveway – or even hosted a birthday party right there on the street. Thus, natives, newcomers and everyone in between started to meet one another – for real this time. Human connection is human connection, and “where you went to high school" began to factor in less and less – providing just the kind of relationship (and sense of belonging) that not only binds talented professionals to the region but attracts them in the first place.
Anthony P. Bartlett is Founder of Acclimate. Acclimate helps companies attract, hire and retain top talent within the St. Louis region by connecting prospective candidates and new hires with the lifestyle, communities, preferences and affinity groups that maximize their quality of life.