Future of Work: ‘Talent Management Is Front and Center’

Photo: Jason E. Kaplan

The CEO of Umpqua Bank predicts attracting and retaining employees will become more competitive.

Share this article!

OB spoke to executives at firms in a variety of sectors to see how the pandemic has transformed their businesses and how they see the future of the workplace evolving in a post-pandemic world.

In the next in our series of interviews with business leaders, Cort O’Haver, CEO of Umpqua Bank, envisions a sea change in recruitment practices.

For Umpqua Bank, COVID-19 accelerated workplace customs the company had adopted before the pandemic’s onset. In 2019 an employee survey showed that, at any given time, 25% of its non-branch office space was unoccupied because of staff working from home. With around 85% of its employees working remotely during the pandemic, it has decided to reduce its operational, non-branch space by at least 50%.

This will have a dramatic impact on the bank’s office space. It has already redesigned two of its offices into collaborative spaces for teams who want to work virtually but come to the office for team meetings. It has done early buyouts of buildings it leases and will consider subleasing space too.

Pre-pandemic, the bank had thought about building satellite offices closer to employees, but Cort O’Haver, CEO, is not sure about going ahead with the strategy given that he expects office rents in suburban markets could increase.

It could take between three and five years before there is a rebalancing between the costs of urban and suburban office rents, says O’Haver.

“There will be ebbs and flows as people work out their space. It could drive up costs in other areas, which would drive us back into old areas.”

An exodus of business out of Portland is a concern for the CEO. “I worry that if businesses do not want to relocate to Portland, city tax revenue is going to go through the floor.”

The CEO has not seen a loss of productivity from having most non-branch staff working virtually and sees that continuing after the pandemic is over. But he does feel there has been a loss of creative problem-solving that comes from having executive teams close by. “I operate better when I have those people sitting close to me,” says O’Haver.

A big impact of the shift to remote working is how it has elevated employee retention and recruitment. Business leaders will have to get their heads around the idea that they can increasingly recruit talented people from anywhere in the world, says O’Haver.

They will also have to make sure that they make extra effort to retain employees who can now work for companies all over the country and even internationally.

“Your people now have a huge number of opportunities that they may not have had nor contemplated. Our board is making sure talent management is front and center,” says O’Haver.

To subscribe to Oregon Business, click here.