Anthony Haynes writes: Recently the topic of geographical location has risen in profile. This is a consequence of its connection to contentious debates in political economy.
In France, Christophe Guilluy has pointed to the significance of geographical disparity: the elite live in metropolitan centres; ordinary people, who live far from those centres, experienced a much tougher life in towns and provinces that have been hollowed out.
The sub-title of his bestseller, La France périphérique, is Comment on a sacrifié les classes populaires. It is, surely, impossible to understand the ‘gilets jaunes’ phenomenon without considering the geography.
In the UK, David Goodhart has pointed to the distinction between the ‘Anywheres’ and the ‘Somewheres’. The former are typified by elites who are highly mobile: they are free to move from one centre to another (whilst tending, one might add, to make those centres increasingly homogenous).
The latter are, to speak in negative terms, ‘tied’ to particular places — because of family ties, health and social care responsibilities, disparities in the housing market, and so on — though more positively we could say that they are ‘rooted’.
Either way, changes in political economy impact the two groups differently.
So how does this intersect with our work as a talent agency?
At first glance it might look as though we come down as the Anywheres. When making appointments within the company, we pay little regard to location. We’ve never had a central office and we don’t propose to have one in future. Our employees work from home offices, meet stakeholders in spaces provided by the Institute of Directors and Regus, and, from time to time, use informal workspaces such as cafes.
It turns out though, that remote working does not mean that location doesn’t matter. As our agency has grown, our team has become more dispersed. We now have members working in London and the South East, East Anglia, the North West, and the North East.
This has two advantages. First, it means that we work in variety of socio-economic contexts. We’ve posted before about the importance of scanning the business environment. Being located in a variety of regions makes us more likely to pick up on a variety of cues, reducing the risk of a bubble effect.
Second, our stakeholders — in particular, our clients and candidates — are also dispersed. Though many large professional organisations maintain a head office in London, many smaller ones opt for provincial locations. The diversity of our locations facilitates empathy with our stakeholders — and, as we’ve argued before, empathy is a key component of success in the talent industry.
Though we didn’t deliberately plan it this way, it seems that we have become Anywheres and Somewheres simultaneously — and that combination helps us in the work we do.