10 Talent Takeaways from SXSW 2019

In a whirlwind five days in Austin, we took in over 40 sessions, shows, events and meetings at South by Southwest (SXSW) this year. In the Future Workplace track of the Interactive Conference, industry leaders, academics, government officials and entrepreneurs shared their insights on our ever-changing talent landscape. We’ve compiled a list of themes, trends and recommendations based on topics that consistently popped up in the Future Workplace track this year. For more data on these topics, connections to presenters or to hear more about our trip to SXSW this year, reach Rachel Placzek at rplaczek@selectlincoln.org.


One: Peer city partnerships

We often remind local employers that in the battle for talent, other cities are a greater threat than other companies in Lincoln. Even then, partnerships with other cities will prove vital and mutually beneficial. We can learn from growing ties between San Antonio and Austin and the Urban Consulate, a partnership between Philadelphia, New Orleans, Chicago and Detroit. We’ll continue to identify and form relationships with peer cities in hopes of sharing and learning talent attraction best practices.


Two: Remote work

If you don’t yet have a formalized remote work policy, you need one. Employer brand representatives from Dell and Remote Year explained how remote work transformed Dell’s talent pool and employee satisfaction. When businesses remove colocation as a success metric and instead narrow in on performance, employees are de-incentivized from wasting time at work. McGraw Hill had an emergency-only remote work policy during Hurricane Sandy and found that their overall productivity increased during remote work time. To prepare for the future: study your organization, which roles might function as remote work, which employees might be interested and how your culture and values will adapt.  


Three: Recruiting at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)

New to the conference this year was the HBCU@SXSW caucus. A conglomerate of educators, industry leaders and government representatives showcased the talent coming out of HBCUs and how to help more people develop relationships with HBCUs. HBCUs produce 47% of the country’s black women engineers. Recruiting at HBCUs is a vital component in diversifying our tech talent pool. We are staying in touch with the representatives we met and relaying information to local recruiters.


Four: Intrapreneurship

Empower your employees to bring change to your organization and have systems in place to encourage it--you’re leaving good ideas on the table if you don’t. It’s important to have a written policy that is in the employee handbook and widely-distributed, not just lip service. Representatives from Airbnb, Salesforce, Dropbox shared their tips on encouraging and implementing employee feedback to advance your talent attraction and retention efforts.


Five: Gig economy workers

Right now, there are 77 million formally identified freelancers across the US, Europe and India. There are projected to be 9.2 million online, on-demand workers in 2021. By all accounts, the gig economy will continue to expand. As with remote workers, begin identifying teams and projects that could be completed by gig economy workers. Companies who are quick to figure out how to reach gig economy workers and how to offer them in-demand services, such as benefits, will be ahead of the curve.  


Six: Yes, AI is coming

The evolution and impact of artificial intelligence continues to be a major talking point at SXSW, especially in the future workforce track. Deloitte conducted a survey of business executives approximating the impact of AI at their organizations. 42% of leaders think AI will be largely deployed at their companies within the next three to five years, but the majority of them think that AI will be augmenting, not replacing current workers. Still, job seekers and organizations alike will need to be nimble in preparation for the impact of AI, preparing for jobs that don’t yet exist.


Seven: Under-tapped talent

At a historically low 4 percent national unemployment rate, it’s more important than ever to get creative with our local talent pool. A panel of employers including Hilton Enterprises, Dave’s Killer Bread and AARP represented the untapped talent of military spouses, ex-offenders, opportunity youth and workers 65 and older. LPED has been working on an inclusive hiring workshop series that covers these same topics, set to launch later this spring. Stay tuned for more information.


Eight: Lifelong reinvention  

Gone are the days of obtaining a four-year degree and working 40 years in one industry.  As career pivots become the norm, companies and recruiters need to re-evaluate job descriptions and qualifications to avoid excluding talent that might fit the role. As AI and technology continue to transform jobs, companies that offer or support continuous education, especially beyond the job’s direct requirements, will be most attractive to candidates.


Nine: Data interpretation and organization  

Major changes on the work horizon, like those mentioned above, mean that self-study is more important than ever. And with more data available than ever before, self-study is more achievable than ever. However, data availability also creates more need for data management, organization and interpretation. Organizations that lead with their goals and values and can intuit what to tune out will be best poised to succeed.


Ten: Change is the norm

Like our technology and workforce, SXSW itself is changing. But we’re changing with it. In 2017 and 2018, we exhibited at the SXSW Job Market. Last year, we perceived that SXSW’s emphasis on the Job Market was growing more limited, so we held back on exhibiting this year. In 2019, the Job Market and Trade Show was only open to SXSW badge holders, not the general public, which cut back significantly on actual job seeker’s attendance. Cities are continuing to show up and promote themselves at SXSW in creative ways, like with pop-up houses around downtown Austin. That’s an option we’ll consider for our presence in 2020, but one thing’s for sure: we’ll be back.  

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