When leaders in state government talk about Connecticut and its assets, the narrative has consistently focused on our proximity to major metro centers like Boston and New York, our quality of life, and our highly educated populace. Those qualities remain in place, and, thankfully, a core part of our foundation as a state today.
Before COVID (the new B.C.), Connecticut, and specifically businesses based in the state, balanced those attributes with a wide range of tough-to-solve issues. One of the most problematic is traffic. Getting from some of our sought-after and affordable towns to the major metro markets where the most jobs existed is time consuming and costly. Our focus as a state has been to explore all sorts of solutions, including adding a second deck to 95 and even widening the pristine Merritt Parkway, none of which (thankfully) ever came to fruition.
In the recent past, we have looked at ways to significantly enhance and even speed up the trains in an effort to make commuting shorter and more palatable and to make living in our most affordable markets not a trade-off that includes hours each week in a car or on a train.
COVID-19 has changed all of that, and now Connecticut must capitalize.
Consider that the post-COVID (P.C.) world has made proximity to metro markets and even our towns, where most workplaces exist, a reduced or non-factor, as the working world shifts to norms that will see perhaps 50%+ of workers conduct their daily roles from home offices. Further, the opportunity for those in the state to become employed by firms all over the U.S. is now wide open, with companies recruiting their talent based on where the skilled workers are located, ignoring whether that talent is within a commutable distance to a headquarters or even satellite office. This “new normal” means that our residents no longer need to overwhelmingly rely on their employment coming via employers based in the state, or even close by.
We now need to take full advantage of the changed landscape. Understanding the talent, and the skills they possess, that exists here in the state is a good starting point. Part of the state’s strategy must also include ensuring that employers throughout the U.S. are well aware of the talent they could find if they look here. Plans need to be made to ensure that state taxation approaches are designed to collect taxes from out-of-state employers in a way that does not deter them from engaging our workforce, yet brings the state needed and appropriate revenue.
And plans for the post-COVID workplace should come via groups like the Governor’s Workforce Council. With that said, you wouldn’t start a finance-focused group without finance professionals on that type of council; yet the CT Workforce Council has limited to no HR professionals. Let’s fix that now so that strategies about ensuring our workforce are optimally engaged are developed with insight from the professionals that have the greatest understanding of how to get that done.
The post-COVID workplace represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Connecticut to solve its historic inability to create sustained job growth, without the expense of new highways or expensive rail modifications. We must act now to capitalize, creating a new successful path for the state and its workforce.
David Lewis is CEO of OperationsInc , the largest HR Consulting Practice in Connecticut.