Talent Migration

COVID-19 driving change to rural parts of UK

Over half (52%) of UK workers think we will see a “reverse brain drain” of talent away from big cities like London and Manchester towards regional areas as a result of COVID-19, according to latest research from the Adecco Group UK and Ireland.

The study of 1,000 UK workers, conducted by YouGov, highlights the radical transformation of both working norms and locations as we move into the next normal, with top talent looking set to be redistributed across the country.

Those in the capital are predicting the biggest movement of UK workers out of the city, with 57% believing many workers will no longer feel the need to live within commuting distance of top city firms. However, the Adecco Group UK and Ireland predicts this doesn’t mean that London organisations will lose out, because access to top talent, within rural areas, will remain as a result of new hybrid working measures.

Interestingly, only 42% of those in Wales and 46% of those in Scotland agreed that we would see a migration of top talent away from the big cities in the UK as a result of the pandemic. This again suggests that overall, while people may physically move out of cities, with the option to work in commercial hubs like Edinburgh, Cardiff and Birmingham, city firms will be able to retain talent rather than lose it.

Alex Fleming, Country Head and President of the Adecco Group UK and Ireland commented on the findings, “While the UK’s cities will look to reinvent themselves post-pandemic, as working patterns and preferences change, city centres will undoubtedly remain popular and continue to be a pull for top talent. Even if we do see people move out of the city, there will be many who relish the contrast between working from home and being in the office.

“We will always need places where companies and people come together to do business – to network with a range of diverse individuals and companies, and to learn from more experienced colleagues. The social pull of working in a metropolis will continue to attract – especially young talent.”

The study found an interesting divide in opinion on this issue when it comes to industries. Nearly two thirds (61%) of those who work in finance and accounting predict there will be movement of professions to regional areas. This is along with 67% of those who work in education, three quarters (75%) of those who work in real estate and 62% of those in media, marketing and advertising.

However, only 43% of those who work in manufacturing and 42% of those currently working in retail felt we would see top talent leave the cities in favour of regional living and remote working.

Fleming continued, “To ensure they retain and attract top talent, companies need to adapt their office environments, regardless of where they are based, to reflect the new age of hybrid working. This means creating offices that are compelling places for employees to collaborate with colleagues and clients, and a hub for establishing and maintaining a strong company culture.”

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1003 GB employees. Fieldwork was undertaken between 24th – 28th September 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of British business size.

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