Cities are in a global battle for talent. To thrive in today’s tech and knowledge-driven economy, cities must attract cutting-edge businesses and support startups, yet neither is possible without educated workers, innovators, and entrepreneurs. Such people are the engines of dynamic economies, and a handful of cities around the world—notably London, San Francisco, and Singapore—are dominating the global contest for the best. The success of these high performing cities, moreover, is magnifying the pressure on the others.
Attracting and retaining a top tier pool of human capital is a different challenge today than even a decade ago. The supply of skilled labor is finite and increasingly mobile, but more than that, the preferences of young professionals don’t conform to traditional patterns. Recent surveys reveal that 91 percent of Millennials expect to stay in their job less than 3 years; 77 percent would consider relocating to a new city; and 42 percent of all self-employed individuals in the US are likely to be millennials by 2020. The creation of a vibrant innovation ecosystem—the goal of every city in this era of globalization, digitization, and automation—demands an understanding, and acceptance, of these changing outlooks.
Strategies to attract and retain talent must involve a complex mix of policies that often lie beyond the control of city governments: education, tax, immigration, and other national-level policies, as well as evolving business practices, to name a few.
Yet, there is much that individual cities can do to get ahead of the competition.