Mega cities must improve quality of life to attract talent

12 June 2019 4 min. read

The levels of safety, healthcare, child care, green spaces, access to public transport and cultural amenities are the key factors people consider when moving to a new city. As a result, facilitating economic models which focus on meeting essential human needs through local and national government could benefit employers as they look to attract and retain top talent.

Employees are becoming increasingly difficult to retain, as labour markets tighten, older workers retire, and skill demands shift. As those with skills become aware of their true value, they are able to leverage this against this heightened demand to traverse global borders and find greener pastures. The world’s largest cities are subsequently puzzling over how to support the workforces they need for the 21st century.

New analysis from Mercer has explored the factors that employees see as the most important for them to be tied to a particular location. The analysis, which involved 7,200 respondents across the globe’s 15 largest developing mega cities, found that while employers like to believe that people live for work – the 996 trend in China is but one example – most people in fact work to live. As a result, while pleasant work is attractive, factors beyond the office remain vital to retain healthy, relaxed and well-adjusted staff.

Factors important to workers staying in a city

The most important factor cited by workers regarding their decision to stay or leave a city is their overall satisfaction with life – in the top three for 46% of respondents. Security, safety and a lack of violence takes the number two spot, on 37%. Finances come in third, with total income cited by 26% in their top three. Family and friends remain important, at 23% of respondents’ top three, while career opportunity, access to affordable healthcare and weather and city climate were cited by 17%.

Work factors, the firm notes, play an increased role around decision-making once the wider decision about a city has been made. Thus, when considering a move within a city to a new employer, a number of work-related factors come into play. For employees, the top factors are more pay to work elsewhere (59%), better career opportunities to work elsewhere (58%) and promotion of advancement (41%). A better work/life balance is cited by 40% of respondents, while just a fifth move due to unhappiness with their current employer.

Attracting staff

Employers are less savvy when it comes to their employee’s possible motivation for moving on. Better career opportunities are noted by 44% of respondents, followed by ‘for personal reasons’, at 43%. 41% realise that it is due to better pay elsewhere that an employee moved on. Unhappiness with the job or a supervisor were noted at 29% and 27% respectively – well above the levels cited by the employees themselves (21% and 13% respectively).

Drivers of Job Change Within a City

The report notes that employers when seeking to attract employees to their city tend to focus on second tier factors – largely financial or related to the work – rather than wider social factors that employees tend to seek. Local governments and national governments therefore provide a key background to employers’ ability to attract people, by having policies in place that make healthcare affordable, the streets safe, access to public transport, access to key amenities (childcare, elderly care, doctors, libraries etc.), access to cultural activities, access to green spaces and wider community factors that improve overall life satisfaction.

Commenting on the study, David Anderson, President International for Mercer said, “Cities and businesses around the world cannot thrive without putting people first. It’s a competitive landscape that is intensifying. Success is earned by those who understand people’s needs more deeply and execute to meet them better than the alternative destinations.”

Should London in particular fail to heed such warnings, it could face something of an exodus in coming years. While its markets continue to perform well, and the city is talked about as a potential global tech hub in the near future, London faces a multitude of conundrums as it plans for a future outside of the European Union.

Should a number of structural issues – including spiralling costs of living and housing – fail to be addressed in the capital, over 500,000 Londoners could exit the city, with many millennials among them, costing its economy around £60 billion in Gross Value Added.