‘Accidental Superplaces’ – A Snapshot on Talent Attraction State of Affairs

Accidental Superplaces

Talent Attraction learning journey across Denmark, Sweden, Georgia and Central Africa, by Nicole van Haelst, Senior Consultant in Talent Attraction & Retention

Recently I returned from an exhilarating trip to Copenhagen and Southern Sweden with a bus full of enthusiastic professionals from the Netherlands, followed by a trip to Tbilisi in Georgia. Fact finding journeys. Acknowledging that in this decade, attracting and retaining talent is the key in transforming our economies. Cannot wait to tell you all about it!

Talent Attraction Management has become, like most businesses these days, a data-driven business. Labour market analyses all day, every day: What are the most wanted profiles now and in the future? What drives talent in profession A? What is less relevant for talent in profession B? Talent perception studies generate data on attractiveness of Places. And that data can be used to improve that attractiveness. The eagerness to be included in the Talent City Index proves the assumption that cities increasingly make use of data to optimize their proposition towards talent and investors. The historic and structural scarcity levels on the labour market are only expected to push this development.

Demographics tell all

A Dutch example as given by Jan Rotmans, a transition expert: In just 20 years, only 60% of the total population will constitute the working population. The Netherlands will have some 4,7 million people of 65 years old or over and 1,5 million of 80 years or older. 1 out of every 3 people will have to work in health care to be able to provide the required care and cure. This is not likely going to happen, despite the very best efforts in re- and up-skilling and activation of the labour force. Similar calculations apply to most countries in the west. The most wanted profiles will have to come from other places in the world, at least in part. At the same time, immigration discussions are far from comfortable. I just read a news piece on ‘the risks of employing migrants for the installation of energy solutions’. The Human Capital Agenda has become a priority in most, if not all European economies. Finding solutions to close the gap between supply and demand for talent will benefit from looking beyond the obvious. 


(Future) place leaders will need to take it upon themselves to actively seek different perspectives. ‘Hej Allihopa!’, a group of 25 professionals working in talent attraction and retention in the Province of Overijssel, Netherlands, embarked on a study trip to greater Copenhagen and Southern Sweden a couple of weeks ago. The warm welcome, the openness and authenticity in dialogues with our local hosts impressed us the most. The embodiment of Nordic values – informal, earnest and plain-spoken. Participants very much appreciated the fact that concepts like ‘cross-border collaboration’, ‘a data driven approach’, ‘social cohesion’ and ‘a transformative government’ have gotten a more profound meaning. The practice of ‘talking with them, not about them’ has been imprinted as an integral part of their programming (personal and professional). They have been energized and feel proud of their region. So they told.

Going to Places to explore and check assumptions is rewarding. Two additional experiences from the last two weeks: a trip to Georgia and launch of the Swedish Talent Attraction Forum. Asking about the Forum’s attributes that add most value to their daily practice, the participants replied: the Q&A session. Being able –  in the informal setting created – to share the challenges they are struggling with and getting immediate ideas that have proven to work, was appreciated most.   

The Hej Allihopa! team

Talent bridging

One of our ambitions is to help set up a talent bridge between Africa and Europe. Earlier this year we explored the design for such a bridge together with a delegation from Berlin Partner. We investigated the talent ecosystem, and it proved out to be mature and inviting (even more than we assumed, check!). Collaboration should be beneficial to both sides. Critical success factor is the readiness of European cities and civilians to adopt African talent in their workforce. In this context it can only be applauded that ‘Africa’ invests in taking the stage in Europe to display the business opportunities and skills they can add. Whilst this ‘onboarding process’ needs time to gain full traction, we are engaging with very interesting regions to the east.  

Last week I returned from a study trip to beautiful Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. The goal was to get a better idea of the work done in placemaking and items on their human capital agenda. Georgia is part of the Middle Corridor of what is called the New Silk Road. And this is where geopolitics meets Talent Attraction. Interesting! Due to the war in Ukraine talent and (international) business on both sides of this corridor are looking for alternative destinations for their career and investments respectively.

Over 30 countries make this Middle Corridor, from Western Europe to Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan and all countries in between. Due to the unforeseen and unfortunate events in the region, opportunities have in fact opened up for them. Investors and employers are looking for partners and people to grow. In this context, an increase in place branding and acquisition efforts are taking place. The competition is fierce and requires creativity and proven concepts. I met with some very interesting people in the private sector, government and academic world and learned a lot about the drivers of talent, business needs, employer brands and the start-up ecosystem. Some of the energy risks in the west might be addressed by the capabilities available in the east. Sourcing and being sourced. That’s what sticks to me.
Future place leaders in the west benefit from incorporating good practices from ‘unusual suspects’. The countries of the South Caucasus and Central Europe for example. And visa versa. 



Following the business meet ups, my husband and I went on a hiking trip to Mt Kazbek basecamp. Stunning views! He was reading Accidental Superpowers from Peter Zeihan. It made me think: geopolitics, economics, FDI and talent attraction…  Accidental Superplaces! I am a fan of the Middle Corridor. Will definitely do my best to see if we can organize a special edition of the PlaceX conference there.

Mount Kazbek, Georgia

Soon I am traveling back to Africa and I will be staying there for the ‘festive season’ as the general elections are coming up in Congo. Tumultuous times ahead for the talents in this part of the world. Wishing them a lot of accidental superpower. 

In the meantime, I will seize the opportunity and commit to another episode in the series ‘Demystifying misbeliefs in Talent Attraction Management’. A topic that keeps popping up in my projects is language. To be continued. 



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