Office in an ‘unsexy’ area? Use these 5 talent attraction strategies

Doug Bonderud | |

New York. Los Angeles. Toronto. Vancouver. London. These “sexy” locations are where great talent wants to work – your talent attraction strategies don’t need a lot of refining. But what happens when you’re located outside the perceived perfection of high-profile cities? How do you recruit top talent when you’re based out of Cleveland, or Buffalo? Somerset? Leeds? Regina?! Ugh.

This calls for a reevaluation of your talent attraction strategies, but it’s not as scary as you might think. The problem isn’t you — or even your location — it’s a disconnect between what makes your company great and what you’re showcasing to potential talent.

In fact, opportunity knocks for those employers in the Clevelands and Somersets of the world: there’s growing interest among employees to escape the grind of big-city living. As noted by Forbes, while 75% of the massive millennial labor force now work in large towns or cities, more than half are open to working in a less stressful environment (and area) – although community, cost, and the ‘cool factor’ remain important factors according to one survey representative.

This means that even if your location isn’t a perfect 10 it’s possible to find, recruit and keep great talent. But highlighting your best assets doesn’t always come naturally. The solution? A strategy that combines critical brand messaging with hiring best practices: recruitment marketing.

Unpacking “Unsexy”

So what exactly is an “unsexy” or “undesirable” location?

Broadly speaking, unsexy locations are the suburban areas of big cities — the industrial parks that don’t have great transit access, or the well-served office buildings that are outside the hipper, flashier downtown core. This begs the question – why would companies choose to set up shop in locations that naturally hamper great hiring? The answer is easy: Money.

As noted by the San Francisco Chronicle, the per-square-foot price for office space in San Francisco recently broke $81 USD, while rents in sexy London districts like King’s Cross are pushing $100 USD. Living space is also an issue. According to the Mirror, even rents for “cramped flats” in and around London are well over 2,000 pounds ($2,500 USD) per month. The impact on the bottom line is significant: to make it in top-tier locations, businesses must both charge more for services and offer increased salaries to offset living, transportation and other costs borne by their employees.

Consider the alternative, such as an office in Cleveland. No problem – it’s just $18.29 USD per square foot. In Leeds? Just over $27 USD. Rents are similarly cheaper – 900 square foot apartments in Cleveland go for just under $900 per month, while a one-bedroom apartment in New York runs more than $2,900. Want a place to stay in Leeds? That’ll be $750 on average. Thinking of London? Renters pay more than $2,300.

While lowered rents in those far-off places are great for business, they lead to another sticking point: Salary. Businesses operating off the beaten path can’t afford to keep up with the Joneses when it comes to compensation, making it easy for prospective employees to overlook these options.

Ultimately, unsexy locations can help cut costs and allow companies to build out better amenities, but aren’t the first choice for most job seekers. Who wants to work in a remote business park inaccessible by transit, far from amenities for a smaller paycheck? Exactly.

Hard Target

Recruiting great talent is getting harder: According to Inc., 67% of recruiters say their job is harder than it was five years ago, and 62% say it’s “tougher to find quality candidates for their companies.” Part of the problem is shrinking talent pools: A recent USA Today piece notes that as unemployment shrinks, fewer candidates are looking for jobs, making it even harder to find the best of the best for your business.

Location also plays a critical role in hiring success. As reported by CityLab, recent survey data shows that millennials are happiest in cities because large urban areas are “more associated with status and ‘making it’,” in addition to providing better economic opportunities and access to amenities. But what happens when you’re located outside the golden areas of urban excess? How do you succeed with your talent attraction strategies in “unsexy” locations?

You’re good enough, you’re smart enough – and gosh darn it, people like you

While Stuart Smalley’s self-confidence mantra on SNL was played for comedic effect, the truth is that many companies are good enough and smart enough to hire top talent. The problem isn’t that job seekers don’t like you — it’s that they haven’t yet been informed on who you are, what you’re doing or where you’re located. That’s where you can step in by taking a marketing angle to your outreach.

Brand marketing holds the key to better recruiting. Effective brand marketing focuses on what sets your company apart, what makes you different than the competition, what makes you special. As noted by Business.com, effective brand marketing must deliver both high-quality content (i.e. careers page, social media, blogs, etc.) and relevant interactions to reach prospective clients – and employees.

When it comes to recruiting, however, it’s easy for companies to rely on previously tried-and-true hiring templates: Advertisements that list position details, salary ranges and corporate location. And while the first bullet point might get noticed by candidates searching for specific keywords, less-than-stellar salary numbers combined with problematic postcodes quickly dampen interest.
According to Pete Fairburn, managing director of digital strategy firm morphsites – based in the southwest Somerset town of Ilminster in England – many professionals now “want a more relaxed lifestyle. They want work-life balance.”

But Pete’s efforts to recruit new employees via job boards were a mixed bag. Success came when potential staff saw the office environment in person: “Once they see it, they get it,” he says.

This is the goal of talent attraction strategies and recruitment marketing: Putting the purpose and potential of your business front and center. By communicating what your company does differently – maybe it’s a laid-back, casual atmosphere or a flat management structure – and articulating the potential for new employees, such as room to move up the corporate ladder or carve out their own industry niche, organizations can snag top talent that would otherwise stay in the city. Also a good idea? Leverage new technologies like virtual reality (VR) to provide prospective candidates with a first-hand look at your office space, even if they can’t be there in person.

Simply put? To capture prospective candidate consideration, change is required. The goal here isn’t just creating an image of your company as a great place to work, but putting in the time and effort to create — and market — a work environment that stands out from the crowd.

Getting your groove back

It’s one thing to talk big about changing current practices, but when it comes to an increasingly competitive employee marketplace, many businesses aren’t sure where to start: Which methods offer the best potential for reliable ROI?

We’ve got you covered. To get your recruitment marketing off the ground, start with these 5 strategies:

1. Get out of town

One option for getting great talent in unsexy locations? Let your employees live elsewhere while they work for you. As noted by Sean Pour of SellMax, when his company encountered difficulty recruiting for their Little Rock, Arkansas location, they bridged the talent gap by allowing staff to work remotely.

“Instead of making people live in the Little Rock area we fly out the individuals every few months to meet with the rest of the office.” Along with grabbing competitive talent, Sean notes that salaries are less of a problem since “people will often accept a lower salary for remote work.”

2. I know a guy…

Another option? Keep things local and work the network. This strategy has worked extremely well for mattress review site The Slumber Yard — according to COO Matthew Ross, while the company’s Nevada location means zero state income tax, it’s hard to bring in talent from west coast states like California or Washington. His solution? “We seek out professors at our local college and let them do the recruiting for us. Basically, we form tight bonds with professors and ask them to find top-level candidates.”

This strategy has also paid dividends for Pete in Somerset — he notes that business reputation and word of mouth produce higher-quality candidates than recruiting boards or job websites.

3. Welcome to paradise

Companies can also increase their recruiting impact by building out in-office amenities. As noted by Cristian Rennella, co-founder and VP of Argentinian financial comparison firm Mejor Trato, it’s critical to develop a “microclimate” that sets your business apart from the competition.

For Cristian, this meant adding a full in-office kitchen, gym room with professional equipment, and developing two large parks around the main office complex in Córdoba. The result? A 44% increase in hiring efficiency.

4. Changing the game

Not every office is ideally situated – even in popular cities. As noted by Rich Franklin of KBC Staffing, this was the challenge with their Oakland office: With poor public transit access and constantly congested traffic, staff morale tanked every morning and “around 3 p.m., the daily grumbling about how bad the drive home was going to be would start.”

Instead of moving the business, Franklin and his team added a new tool to their list of talent attraction strategies: An employee carpool system that incentivized staff for driving coworkers and reduced the overall frustration of their commute. After the change, KBC saw a 30% reduction in employee turnover.

5. Sense of belonging

The biggest shift a company can make to attract and keep top talent? Create a standout corporate culture. For Pete, making employees feel like “part of a family” is critical to both recruiting new talent and reducing staff turnover in his Somerset office. According to Pete, this starts with great leadership — he’s a firm believer in “being in the trenches with your team” and never asking them to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself.

By combining high-quality office equipment, furnishings and design with a culture that makes staff feel “welcome, comfortable and nurtured”, Pete has been able to bring in top talent across the critical 20-40 year-old demographic — and keep them so satisfied that when one staff member moved to South Korea, he asked to stay on remotely rather than looking for another job.

Win with smart talent attraction strategies

Attracting great talent to unsexy locations isn’t easy, but it’s possible with the right talent attraction strategy.

Don’t try to compete with the cool kids – instead, play to your strengths. Let employees live where they want when possible, source local talent where available, streamline existing business practices when practical, build out better amenities where feasible — and create a corporate atmosphere that’s exceptional.

Looking for an all-in-one recruiting solution? Workable can improve candidate sourcing, interviewing and applicant tracking for a streamlined hiring process. Sign up for our 15-day free trial today.

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