Companies Scrambling to Find Ways to Bring Talent to Rural Areas

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The economic prospects for the nation may be good, but the outlook for rural employers and employees is less sanguine, according to findings from global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Because technology is eliminating many jobs, much of the rural talent is shifting to cities in search of better job opportunities. That leaves companies in rural regions scrambling to find and retain talented employees.

“Low-income and rural communities are especially vulnerable to job loss from automation, which is likely to rapidly increase in the coming years,” said John Challenger, chief executive officer Challenger Gray. “Rural communities that rely on just a few large businesses to support the local economy are at a higher risk of being upended.”

Job seekers in rural environments generally seem to be less hopeful about their prospects when compared to those in suburban and urban regions, according to Challenger Gray. In a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation Poll, only 30% of Americans living in rural areas believe their job prospects to be excellent or good. On the other hand, nearly half of suburban and urban job seekers believe their job prospects are excellent or good.

Stanching the talent exodus from rural-based companies poses a challenge to employers.

“One possible answer is compensation,” said John Challenger. “Workers who are financially incentivized will move to where the jobs are.”

Challenger Gray referenced an article by Modern Healthcare that said the most effective means the publication found for attracting high-talent physicians to rural areas is through higher compensation. Starting salaries for rural areas often need to be higher because many potential employees do not want to live in rural areas despite high demand.

Another possible lure for talent is technology. When college grads or urban workers are trained on the most current technology, they expect to use it in their jobs. That tends to be the case in health care and hospitals, which can be the largest employers in rural areas.