Attracting talent in a knowledge economy


Manish Shah is the former president of Midwest Law Printing in Chicago. He also worked at Intel, PwC and Motorola. He has an MBA from Kellogg Graduate School of Management, and a MS in Computer Science from Illinois Institute of Technology. He can be reached at

By Manish Shah
In a knowledge economy, attracting talent is crucial for a company’s success. Good companies try to create an environment wherein their workers can advance and get an opportunity to make a difference. Until recently, the desire to work for such a company was front and center in a worker’s mind. Not any more. A study by CEOs for Cities, a Chicago-based organization, found that 64 percent of highly mobile global knowledge workers were more likely to accept an offer because of the location of the company rather than the company itself.

In a dynamic economy, the talented knowledge workers know that a  company    cannot guarantee them a job. So these workers want to reduce their dependence on   companies for their careers. To achieve that, they choose to be in locations that enhance  their ability to build their skills and to build their network over the course of their career.

The idea that location is key to attracting talent has not caught on with companies. Therefore, most companies’ recruiting strategy does not include an emphasis on revitalizing the regions to which they want to attract skilled people.

According to Charles Landry, an expert on urban planning, any company or region serious about attracting talent must create infrastructures that embody three qualities: distinction, variety and flow. Distinction means offering a unique experience. Cookie cutter streets create boredom and a city cannot afford to be boring. Variety means co-existence of small and large businesses together; a café alongside a jewelry store which is next to a market. Flow makes it easier for people to explore a city.

Cities such as Glasgow, Perth and Boise have reinvented themselves by focusing on distinction, variety and flow. Other cities need to follow suit if they want to be talent magnets.

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