This week saw Transport for the North propose a new train line that would connect Bradford to Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and beyond. The Northern Powerhouse Rail line is a positive development for the North, and especially Bradford – a city which doesn’t have a through-railway station and which boasts the most youthful population of any UK city. With almost a quarter of its residents under 16, they are literally the ‘next generation’ of talent, but they also currently reside in a potentially career-inhibiting location.
Of course, it’s not just Bradford which sees these limitations placed on its workforce, with only 10,000 people in the North of England within one hour’s reach of the region’s largest four cities. Journey times are not short, with even a trip between the relatively close cities of Manchester and Liverpool taking 50 minutes and a trip between Leeds and Manchester, clocking in at over an hour.
So what does this mean for attracting talent?
Let’s imagine the best candidate for your role lives in a suburb of Leeds and you’re in Manchester. You have a few options: the candidate makes that commute every day, the employer accommodates home-working on a very regular basis or the candidate stays over during the working week.
Whichever option you take has both positive and negative implications on that employee’s performance, their wellbeing, understanding of your business culture, and retention.
OK, so you could appoint the second best candidate based in your city – conceding on quality – but this isn’t usually the preferred option (in more ways than one).
As a firm that places talent in the North on a regular basis, we see first-hand the impact of limited transport infrastructure on businesses, and the solutions our clients’ have to adopt to overcome these challenges and secure the right candidate.
- The outstanding candidate for a Manchester-based IT exec role who lives on the other side of Bradford. She secures the role and fulfills it successfully, earmarked to succeed her boss. But after 2 years, even working 1-2 days/week from home, the commute (of just over 37 miles) takes its toll – especially with 2 young children and she opts for a role closer to home.
- A market-leading organisation wants a specialist skill-set and cannot compromise quality. The needle in the haystack lives near Rochdale about 39 miles away from the role in Cheshire. A 2 hour drive or a train with 3 changes each way, means the company pays a premium to cover a weekly commute/stay.
- A technology leader lives 75 miles away from HQ – a commute that will be do-able if the proposed Northern Powerhouse rail scheme happens. Under the status quo he works from home at least 2 days a week. In a project heavy environment this is less than ideal and, whilst he’s been successful in his post for 4 years, there have been challenges (not least ” if he does 2 days from home, why can’t I..?)
(We do recruit people who live near work, too, by the way!…)
As open-minded as people are to flexible and remote working, relocating and so on., it’s idealistic to think these options are a reality for everyone, especially those in leadership positions.
The work outlined yesterday by TFN won’t be finished until 2030, with the much heralded HS2 set for completion 2 years after that. This can’t come soon enough.
Whilst Northerner’s will succeed regardless, there’s no doubt that improved transport will be a game-changer for attracting and retaining talent across the region.
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