By RDG Principal Clint Nessmith
I hope all our readers are doing well! With mass-vaccinations occurring (my arm was incredibly sore!) I think we are finally seeing the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. But is it just the end of the first “tunnel”? Speculation about the long-term impact of the pandemic has become a popular subject of late. Certainly, we won’t know for years what the full impact might be, but experts at McKinsey and Brookings, among many others, are already making projections for the remainder of this decade. By the way, both of those links in the previous sentence will send you to two very interesting articles about the future of employment post-pandemic, but before you check those out, please read on, especially if you want to see a cute baby picture.
One thing that is already clear is that many companies have no intention of returning to pre-pandemic “normal” in-office operations. The latest evidence of this can be found in a recent New York Times article that speculates on the impact of remote-work decisions on the Manhattan economic ecosystem. As many of you work in large cities, I am sure you are already thinking about both the opportunities and challenges corporate decisions like this will have on your own markets.
We at RDG are also considering the potential ramifications these changes might have on revenue for chambers of commerce and economic development organizations. As you might expect, we prioritize calling on headquartered companies in the funding campaigns we manage because we can be confident the ultimate decision maker is in-market. Discussions at that level lead to the largest financial investments. What happens when the need for presidents and CEOs to be physically located at their headquarters is neutralized? After all, engagement is a key driver of investment. If the corporate leadership team can be anywhere, the engagement challenge, which is already more difficult in the digital age, is even more arduous.
Even if the C-suite remains in market, how does it change their decisions about investment in your organization if 80% of their employees are suddenly able to live and work outside of the region? Community improvement and economic growth may suddenly not be as high of a priority. We can tell you from experience, employee location can come into play when these companies are making a decision about funding.
What can you do about this potential challenge in the near-term? Work on strengthening these relationships now! As noted previously, engagement in the work of your organization is often a key determinant of funding levels. You should be meeting and communicating regularly with the corporate decision makers in your region. Offer opportunities for meaningful engagement. For example, if you are currently, or soon to be, orchestrating a strategic plan, ask them to be involved in the process. This sort of engagement builds ownership in your organization and strategy.
Also, be attuned to a key warning sign that your organization is becoming less relevant to the C-suite. If top executives on your board are stepping away and replacing themselves with lower ranking people in their companies, that is a sign they may be seeing less value in your work and mission. Yes, they are busy people, but even the C-suite will make time for those things they deem important. If you believe this is occurring, proactively meet with these executives to find out what you can do to keep them in your inner circle.
If this blog spurs an idea or you would like to delve into the subject matter further with me, I’d welcome the conversation. I can’t promise I won’t take the opportunity to also brag about the latest addition to our family, Baby Flynn. Warning; gratuitous cute baby picture below!
Authored by Clint Nessmith.