State of Talent focuses on expanding talent by building inclusive communities

Posted on 08/29/2017 by Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce

On August 17, the Greater Austin Chamber held its second annual State of Talent at the Sheraton Austin. The event, in partnership with the Chamber’s Talent Council, focused on how companies can deepen the talent pool by upskilling their workforce, creating a company culture that intrigues millennials and learning about high-skilled immigration. Attendees were able to explore these three topics through a series of panel discussions. Below are key takeaways from the event:


Will Coombes, Vice-Chair of the Austin Chamber’s Talent Council and VP of User Experience Design for VISA, showcased an in-depth labor market report to more than 300 attendees. The report showed that the region benefited from the growth of technology through the addition of 28,000 new jobs which accounted for Austin’s 2.8 percent growth rate over the last 12 months. Due to the growth, Austin ranks 17 amongst the top 50 major metros.

“Austinites compete vigorously to create the best technology, the best and most sustainable start-ups and the most diversified and inclusive job creation,” he said. “However, from the perspective of our people, there are troubling signs that the Austin region needs to address.”

Like many tech markets in the United States, Austin is struggling to keep up with the constant influx in population. This change in population, as well as a sense of complacency, has caused affordability issues in the city, congestion, legislative errors, and digitization.

“The Austin region has been challenged to plan sufficiently for the continued growth in population and for the dramatic changes technology and innovation are disrupting in every industry and every company in the industrialized world,” he said. "Austin needs to start acting like a global economic player," he concluded.


Juan Garcia (pictured above), Global Leader for Career Advancement of Amazon, used his keynote address to encourage companies to engage all employees in a company culture or higher purpose they believe in.

“We think that there is no way you can grow that fast, that exponentially, and successfully unless you maximize engagement,” he said. “Unless everyone buys in; unless you create a culture where everyone feels like they are the owner and is paddling in the same direction.”

Garcia highlighted Amazon’s program, The Offer, a pay-to-quit-program provided to employees in the form of a letter with the headline “Please Don’t Take This Offer.” The purpose of the program is to encourage employees to consider if their career goals are aligned with Amazon. If accepted, employees are offered between $1,000 and $5,000 to quit. But once offers are accepted, employees can’t come back as it is a one-way door.

“For the company, it’s a great pulse check on what we offer in terms of compensation,” he said. “But also what it does is engagement. We know that everyone who is there wants to be there.”

Of Amazon's 300,000 employees, 90 percent are operators in fulfillment centers in San Marcos and other markets around the country. To engage these employees, Amazon created a tuition assistance program, Career Choice. Every two years, Amazon partners with the U.S. Department of Labor and local workforce entities to conduct labor market studies within a certain mile radius of designated fulfillment centers. Amazon pays 95 percent of tuition for its fulfillment and customer service center employees to take courses that will lead to certifications or degrees of in-demand occupations in the community. This includes nursing, medical, or mechanical occupations.

“This generation is more likely to have 6 to 8 stops over the course of their professional journey,” he said. “This program helps ensure that each one of those stops is an upwardly mobile trajectory for them. And we think it is the right thing to do and is good business sense.”


Ellen Wood, Chair of the Austin Chamber, encouraged the more than 300 business attendees to become involved in the community. “If there is one thing I would really like to stress to everyone that is here today is this: your personal engagement makes a difference and our community needs it,” she said. “So thank you all for being here today. We all love Austin. We want to keep what we love working, maintain and improve our quality of life. So I encourage you all to get involved.”

For more ways on how you can join the Chamber’s advocacy efforts, sign up for our advocacy newsletter here.


Photos from the event - click here
State of Talent and keynote presentation - click here
Session 2 presentation: The Importance of Cultivating Culture, Engaging Millennials and Attracting Talent - click here
Session 3 materials: Talent-driven innovation -- the number one competitive advantage. Upskill your workforce for the future.

  1. 2017 Deloitte Human Capital Trends Report
  2. Deloitte and MIT Sloan: Achieving Digital Maturity
  3. Deloitte and Aspen Institute: A Guide to Upskilling America’s Frontline Workers
  4. Deloitte and Facebook: Digital DNA

Related Categories: Education and Talent, Public Policy