How to attract talent when location is no longer a differentiator

By Kate Lee

With the shift to remote work, employee experience and culture are crucial to attracting and retaining talent.

In February, the COVID-19 pandemic launched the world’s largest remote work experiment, with 42% of the workforce working at home. Seven months later, companies including Microsoft, Zillow, REI, Facebook, Nationwide, Square, Mastercard, and Nielsen have announced that they will allow their employees to work remotely indefinitely. These companies are not alone. A recent survey found that 67% of companies that implemented remote work policies in response to the pandemic expect these policies to remain in place either permanently or for the long-term.

Location has traditionally played a significant role in attracting and retaining talent. A 2018 survey asked recent hires to identify the factors most important when considering a job offer – 68% reported they were influenced by job location. Another 2018 survey found that 71.5% of job searches began by searching job openings in the candidate’s own metro area. The same survey found that more experienced workers were significantly less likely to apply to jobs outside their home metro area.

With the shift to remote work, you live where you work has taken on a new meaning. With location off the table, organizations will need to differentiate themselves in other ways – including employee experience and culture.

Employee Experience

Employee experience is the journey an employee takes within an organization. It includes every interaction that happens along the employee lifecycle and the experiences that involve an employee’s role, workplace, manager, and well-being.

According to the Global Talent Trends 2020 report, 96% of human resource (HR) and business leaders believe employee experience (EX) is becoming more important.  The 2020 HR Sentiment Survey asked HR and business leaders to rank their top initiatives for 2020 – employee experience ranked first with 50% of respondents.

With location no longer in play, employee experience will serve as a differentiator. Organizations that invest in and personalize employee experience will be able to attract and retain talent. Initiatives that will help set an organization apart include flexible work policies, compensation and benefits, and learning and development opportunities.

Organizations can also enhance the employee experience and stand out by offering perks such as laundry pick-up and drop-off, food delivery, childcare, and extra time off.


The culture of an organization is rooted in its values and mission. Culture shapes an organization’s attitudes, behaviors, and preferences and defines what is encouraged, discouraged, accepted, and rejected. Culture is at the heart of the employee experience, and it can be energizing or draining, empowering or suffocating, motivating or discouraging.

Fostering a strong and positive culture is critical to setting your organization apart from others. While it may seem challenging to do this in a remote environment, remember that fundamentally, culture is “how we do things around here,” and that the foundation of what enables a culture to thrive is the extent to which employees are empowered to be engaged, feel valued, and be heard.

Leaders can strengthen their organization’s culture by fostering an environment of trust, leading with empathy, and creating opportunities for connection.

A well-defined, inclusive, and positive corporate culture is the glue that binds an organization and its employees. It is also what can make an organization stand out.

No longer limited by commuting-distance, many people are reevaluating where they live and where they work. Location is no longer a differentiating factor for organizations. On the one hand, organizations will now have more competition when attracting and retaining talent. On the other hand, organizations can now attract talent, especially top talent, previously out of reach. To stand out, organizations will need to focus on employee experience and culture.


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