The Politics of Place and What It Means for Talent Strategy

Politics increasingly drives where your team wants to live. Here’s how leaders can navigate the red and blue tensions inherent in place.

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The influence of politics on where workers want to live now has key implications for a company’s talent strategy. A survey of 500 U.S. real estate agents shows 32% of agents had at least one client who relocated in 2023 due to political fit. My research examining the personal stories of 1,300 U.S. individuals who moved gives context to how local politics can drive workers to relocate — whether it’s people saying they are “tired of a whacky left-wing agenda,” prefer “to live in a more liberal, fact-based environment” or simply want to escape “incompetent” political leadership. The looming presidential election and state-level focus on social policy will intensify this inclination.

Workers are now more apt to prioritize geographic identity in general. Research points to the less stable nature of contemporary work as a reason that greater weight has shifted to our nonwork identities. Further, as pandemic-induced isolation and distributed work made geographic place less vital to our jobs, place started to become more vital to who we are.

At the same time, the entanglement of geography with sociopolitical issues steers residential sorting along political divides, narrowing an organization’s access to talent. This makes local political environments significant to workforce strategies. Let’s examine three ways organizations navigate the red and blue tensions inherent in place and analyze when utilizing each strategy makes the most sense.

1. Separating Organizational Identity From Politics of Place

When an organization is anchored in a politically characterized area, leaders can mitigate the influence on the workforce through structural policies. The following examples show how two companies neutralize politics of place by remaining explicitly apolitical and offering workers at least some extent of geographic flexibility.

Pella Corp., a national designer and manufacturer of windows and doors, is based in the politically conservative city of Pella, Iowa. Pella Corp. has invested significantly in local quality-of-life offerings such as child care, housing, restaurants, and entertainment. These fundamental amenities appeal to all types of talent, regardless of political persuasion. Every job post specifies that the company treats “all persons equally, regardless of political affiliation and belief.”

In 2019, Pella opened a satellite office about an hour away to support workers who prefer to live in the more diverse metro area of Des Moines.


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