In my position as Global Sales & Operations Director, I hear over and over again the same biggest challenge for every industry: how do we find and keep really great people. For London businesses, they may have a population of millions on their doorstep, but that also means it’s the most competitive hotbed for talent in the UK, with companies fighting for the same people.
Maybe they are missing a trick.
Commuters and the flexible working conundrum
About a year ago, I made the move that so many of my peers make when they start having families. I relocated to the country. And, again like so many of my peers, that means I am now doing a longer commute into the city every day.
This daily train journey has given me plenty of opportunity to get to know my fellow 6:48 to Waterloo carriage mates. What they have told me is the same story on repeat. These are highly qualified, motivated professionals who dislike their long commute but value their career enough to do it. If there was an opportunity for them that meant they could cut down commuting, they would be interested.
If you’re thinking – plenty of companies offer flexible working and days working from home – this isn’t what many people are looking for. I talk to lots of people who don’t like working at home. What they really want is the opportunity to still be in a motivating, professional atmosphere without having to travel three hours a day for the privilege.
I’m certain my group of commuters aren’t the only ones who feel this way. I’m sure anyone tackling travel by Southern Rail would be thrilled to have to use them less. I also believe parents (particularly but not exclusively Mothers) who have had to sacrifice high-flying jobs because they are incompatible with family life would be attracted by better local business opportunities.
The power of the regions
Many companies are seeing the value of breaking the London stronghold and having additional regional offices, relocating to cities like Bristol or Bath. My debate is whether this regionalisation could be taken even further. I think there’s a huge opportunity for businesses to set up satellite offices in reasonably populated areas where they can tap into local talent.
Practically, there are different ways these could be set up. They could be small regional hubs, with companies potentially clubbing together with other companies in a workspace. If the workforce there still need to service, say, London clients it could be a requirement to commute 1 or 2 days a week. Also, with an increasingly globalised workforce, there is no reason global business could not be run out of these hubs.
The company HQ would still be the training ground and the lead of company culture. The regional hub, led by a senior manager, would be an offshoot of this.
The business benefits
As I said at the outset, this is just a debate piece. But does any of this ring true for you? Do you struggle to attract talent in London? Or, do you have a lengthy commute and feel your quality of life could be improved?
I think better regional spread of business could be a great solution for the issue of finding and retaining talent and keeping the workforce engaged, reducing risk of burnout. There are also cost benefits of avoiding London salary weighting.
You just have to look at the example of companies setting up offshore centres to see that talent can be found all over the world. It might well be that it’s also on our own doorstep, but we are just not looking hard enough.
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