PNC Partners with Neighbors to Help Overcome Talent Shortfalls

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer May 8, 2019
PNC Partners with Neighbors to Help Overcome Talent Shortfalls

​Caitlin McLaughlin didn't need The Wall Street Journal to tell her that her city was one of the "coldest" labor markets in the nation.

"We're a small city with real talent challenges," said McLaughlin, executive vice president and director of talent and total rewards at PNC Bank in Pittsburgh. "We have an 80,000-person shortfall of workers forecast by 2025 if we do nothing to solve this challenge. We also have the second-oldest population of any county in the country, after Dade County, Fla."

Speaking at IAMPHENOM 2019, a conference held in April by talent experience management technology company Phenom People, McLaughlin said that when her recruiters talk to potential candidates about working in the former Steel City, all job seekers think of is grimy smokestacks and harsh winters.

"Those memories are ingrained in people's minds, but the city's beautiful today," she said. Recruiters talk about Pittsburgh's popular sports teams and its investment in the arts, the burgeoning food scene, hiking and biking trails, and environmental honors. It also has a relatively low cost of living compared to major markets in the Northeast.

Perception is "something we've been struggling with for a number of years," McLaughlin said. When the steel mills shut down in the 1970s and 1980s, the city invested in health care and technology. "It's a tech hub today. We have Google, Facebook, Amazon and Uber's autonomous vehicles being tested here," she said.

So major stakeholders from the city and Allegheny County, in which Pittsburgh sits, decided to do something unique: work together to attract, develop and retain talent.

"Recruiting is no longer a competition between the city's big employers; it's a shared goal," McLaughlin said. "We are all in this together, working as a coalition on talent. I feel like I'm the head of talent for Pittsburgh, and my colleague from Dick's Sporting Goods is the head of talent for Pittsburgh, and my colleague from Uber Technologies is the head of talent for Pittsburgh. Our job is to share talent."

The coalition, which includes organizations like PNC, Allegheny Health Network, Comcast and Peoples Natural Gas, began:

  • Investing in K-12 career education so local students can understand the job opportunities available to them.
  • Retaining area college students after graduation.
  • Getting more creative at recruiting for technology roles.
  • Helping employees understand career pathways so they can move into in-demand jobs.

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Reaching Out to Youth

About 70 percent of high-school graduates in the Pittsburgh area go on to postsecondary education, McLaughlin said. "Most employers don't even think about accessing the high-school market. This is new territory."

PNC created a program called PartnerUp with employers from the coalition to offer career-readiness programming and a pipeline to jobs for 11th- and 12th-grade students. To take part in the coalition, employers must have jobs with full benefits for high-school graduates and offer tuition reimbursement for those who wish to continue their education.

The program began as a pilot in February 2018. Of the 93 students who participated in 2018, 21 candidates submitted applications to PNC, 11 interviewed, and 10 were offered and accepted jobs. Other graduates of the program landed at partner companies.

All in for Interns

The coalition realized that to lure college students, employers had to provide quality internships and jobs, and do a better job of selling students on the Pittsburgh region to convince them to stay after graduating. It designed the Pittsburgh Passport Summer Intern Series, which is open to any college intern who will be in Pittsburgh this summer, McLaughlin said.

"We created an unbelievable calendar of events, completely free of charge to the interns as a way of immersing them in all the fun things to do here, and introducing them to other employers outside their internship."

Some of those activities include:

  • A kickoff at Pittsburgh Steelers stadium Heinz Field, where the NFL team's players, city officials and CEOs will welcome interns to the city.
  • A Pittsburgh Pirates major league baseball game.
  • Multiple events with participating employers, such as a kickball tournament and barbecue, a CEO/leadership breakfast and employer open houses.
  • College night at the Andy Warhol Museum.
  • Rooftop movie nights.
  • Volunteer opportunities.
  • A chance to interview for full-time jobs.

Who's Heard of Thrival?

Pittsburgh desperately needs to hire more technologists. When someone told McLaughlin she should recruit at Thrival, she said, "That sounds awesome—what's that?"

Thrival is a technology and innovation music conference and festival, similar to Austin, Texas' South by Southwest. The coalition used the fest to let attendees know that there's cutting-edge technology work being done in Pittsburgh.

"One thing we did was reach out to the incredible speakers who were coming to Thrival and invite them on a homes tour of some of our technologists from Google and other tech companies," she said.

McLaughlin wanted to show interested engineering and information technology professionals how beautiful the homes of local tech workers can be, for a fraction of what they would pay in places like San Francisco or New York City.

Skills Development

PNC is also interested in upskilling and reskilling to retain talent and fill new roles. To that end, McLaughlin led an effort to rewrite all the company's job descriptions into skills and competencies profiles. "We told employees we were doing this because we needed them to understand career paths in the company and more easily find new internal opportunities. We have career counselors who will sit down with employees and show them those opportunities and what skills and learning options we have that can help them to get there." 

Since she finished the project in 2016, internal promotion rates increased from 12 percent to 17 percent. Internal hires rose from 41 percent to 50 percent at the end of the first quarter of 2019. Voluntary terminations have dropped from 19 percent to 9 percent in 2019 so far.

"That's HR making a difference for our people," she said.



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