Office Location: A Bigger Talent Magnet Than Employer Branding?

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locationI wrote recently about the effect that sophisticated employer branding actually has on attracting talent – and there was plenty of compelling evidence to show that employer branding will actually attract more, better talent. No surprises there, I guess…

But one piece of data that I uncovered stuck with me and in many ways, threatens to turn the employer branding paradigm on its head. Yes, an exhaustive survey by Career Builder in June last year of 800,000 workers, known as their Applicant Experience survey has presented findings which I think question the importance or at least prioritization of employer branding in attracting talent. In their study, they revealed what the top reasons were that workers apply to a job, and these were;

  • Location (45%)
  • Desirable Industry (33%)
  • Reputation of the company (23%)
  • Advancement Opportunities (22%)

Now, Keith at CareerBuilder has kindly come back to me and clarified that this high importance of location on a candidate’s choice was a sign of an undifferentiated brand and that those companies who revamped their brand actually discovered that employer brand then became the no 1 differentiator.

So, I want to make it clear that I am in no way diminishing the importance of employer branding in talent attraction, (arguably location may be part of the brand anyway), but I feel that it is worth exploring how employers can exploit location to maximize their appeal to talent.

So, what steps can employers or talent attraction specialists take to make their location more attractive to the qualified talent they desire?

Go where top talent is

When deciding to to open your first or new office, think carefully about the core business skills you need, be that programming, engineering, social media etc… and research and locate cities, states where you know there is strong supply of talent (and ideally low demand). Don’t be afraid to develop a national or even internationally distributed virtual team if this enables you to put your offices in locations that are attractive to and have a huge supply of the talent you need. Other areas you can think about opening an office are close to universities and colleges that you know produce the type of talent you are looking for. You could also focus on opening an office on areas of high unemployment.

Let talent choose its own location

Clearly, another option to prioritize location in your talent attraction strategy is to let talent choose its own location. Where possible, allow new hires to work virtually in any location they want, and rather than having a stringent fixed city listed as your location on your job advert, you have a highly flexible and intriguing entry such, ‘Location? You Decide.‘, or ‘Location? Aruba? Bali? Anywhere with an internet connection..’,

Focus on prime locations within cities that suit your target audience

Research your target audience and understand what they like and prefer, and how they work best. For example, programmers, analysts and those requiring long periods of sustained concentration without distraction might prefer quieter out of town locations to work, whereas sales and marketing types might prefer the buzz and connectivity of the metro areas. Think carefully before you put your office out in some hard to access district and later find you fail to attract talent because the travel time and logistics are prohibitive. (These examples are just meant to be illustrations)

If you place your offices in cities where there is an abundant supply of talent and also within locations within those cities that are most appealing to your target audience, you will be optimizing your employment location – and at the same time creating a powerful talent attraction magnet.

I am not saying “forget employee branding”: it is a crucial differentiator. I am just saying don’t forget location optimization as means in itself of attracting talent, as it is a key differentiator too.

By Kazim Ladimeji