6 ways to attract talent outside dominant metro areas

Grainne Shaughnessy
Last updated on 25th June 2020
4 min read

A staggering three million people a week are moving to greater metropolitan areas to find work, estimate the United Nations and the International Organization for Migration.  

Attracting top talent has never been difficult for organizations based in big cities. Industry hubs such as Silicon Valley—which houses numerous prominent tech companies—have proven time and time again their ability to attract top talent.

This may seem like a challenge to companies based outside of dominant metro areas, where potential employees are often lured away from job offers to the promise of lucrative opportunities by big-city businesses.

However, many companies such as Boeing, NASA, and Lockheed Martin have proven the potential to recruit and retain the best of the best in more remote locations.

A high concentration of workers around major cities doesn’t mean they are content. With the cost of living in big cities rising many are looking for a way to move to smaller ones, presenting companies outside of dominant metro areas with a real opportunity.

Here’s six ways to attract talent outside the big cities…

1. Make remote working the norm

The world of work as we know it is changing. With new technology making it easier to work anywhere and anytime, the traditional ‘9 to 5’ is dying out and from 2020, it’s expected that fifty percent of the U.S. workforce will be remote.

Employees simply no longer need to be in the office to do their jobs effectively. Most employees now have all the tools they need on their smartphones and tablets. Cloud technology gives employees secure access to documents externally, while collaboration and communication tools enable staff to work together from opposite sides of the globe.

Progressive companies know that recruiting a remote workforce is a no-brainer. Flexible working has been shown to boost productivity, empower employees and enhance workforce wellbeing. Most importantly, it’s what employees want. 

Not only do 50% of people say they would like to be more mobile at work, but a recent study found that 54% would be willing to move jobs to gain greater flexibility.

Offering highly skilled employees the opportunity to maintain their city lives by working for your business remotely, could be a big incentive. That said, it’s not the only one.

2. Create competitive salaries  

Concerns about money are one of the biggest causes of stress impacting employee experience. Financial wellbeing is so important that 38% of employees say they would move to a company that prioritizes this. 

In response to this, many companies outside of dominant metro areas, like Industrial fan manufacturer Big Ass Fans have tried to attract highly skilled employees by offering salaries higher than the national and state average. 

Don’t underestimate the appeal of a competitive salary. 54% of people say that they would leave their job for a pay rise.

Anticipating this impact on attracting top talent, US salary budgets alone rose by 3.2% in 2019. Work with your organization to provide salaries that are competitive while still profitable.

3. Sell your employer brand through People Marketing

People Marketing goes beyond simple employer branding – it means creating integrated marketing strategies to attract, and retain, top talent in organizations.

Zappos, a leading online retailer for shoes and clothes, uses the power of social media to broadcast their brand culture loud and clear, working with their staff to post images of their quirky workplace on the company’s social media channels.

Potential candidates have an authentic window into employee experience and can see how Zappos value their workforce. Comments indicate the positive impact on their staffing strategy. 

Whilst 55% of senior executives think their company is people-orientated, only 29% of employees agree. In an environment where people care about the organizations that value them, if your company pulls out all the stops to market themselves to potential and existing candidates, you are more likely to get noticed.  

4. Sell your location   

Selling your location can have as much impact as selling your brand. 

When tech company LogMeIn moved from Woburn, Massachusetts to a trendy waterfront Boston neighborhood they realized their ideal work candidates, young IT professionals, were attracted to cultural centers. By advertising the ability to go straight from work to ‘a comedy club’, an ultimate frisbee game or any other number of fun local activities, their new location became one of their top-selling points to potential employees. 

Marketing the benefits of working in your company’s location can play a big role in attracting and retaining top talent. Work with your local government’s tourism board to discover what people find appealing about your area and emphasize these in your recruitment. 

5. Develop your referrals scheme 

48% of HR and talent leaders have found employee referral programs to be their top source of quality hire, according to LinkedIn’s Global Recruiting Trends report. Creating a generous rewarding referrals scheme will encourage your employees to recommend contacts in their network. 

DigitalOcean sets the bar for launching an employee referral program. For every referral candidate hired, the referring employee receives a bonus of $3,500 in addition to a $1,500 donation to a charity on the employee’s half, paid by DigitalOcean. Their scheme now leads to 40% new hires and by giving back to the community as well as rewarding employees they have improved potential and existing employees’ perception of their company culture.

Making a hire via a rewards-based referral strategy might seem like a financially daunting strategy, but it could save you thousands of dollars in recruitment fees and encourage your workforce to become ambassadors for your brand. 

6. Work with local colleges 

College campuses are hubs for the next generation of talent. Visiting campuses and connecting with students can be an effective way to attract new talent to your firm and find people who are well suited to your culture. 

Amazon seeks internship candidates by visiting college campuses around the country and seeking out students interested in internship opportunities. Those who qualify are eligible for long-term positions that easily span into the six-figure range.

The tech giant has one of the most successful yet competitive internships in the United States and has ensured a steady stream of top talent that they know will fit with the rest of their workforce before hiring them for permanent roles.

Targeting college campuses can be an effective way HR and people teams can identify potential hires. With an internship in place, you can work with the people you recruit to understand whether they’re a good fit for your culture. 

Attracting top talent  

Attracting top talent is a major challenge for remote businesses, but it isn’t impossible. With the approach and incentives in place, HR and People teams can help their companies to expand and diversify their workforce. 

Find out more about what your workforce really wants. Download research from 3,500 employees today.

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