Maps and Mobility: Revisiting the Yellow State/Blue State Phenomenon - America's Future

May 31, 2019

Career Advice

Maps and Mobility: Revisiting the Yellow State/Blue State Phenomenon

By: Claire Kittle Dixon

People often ask me, “How did you land in Charleston?”

The answer mystifies some and intrigues others: I picked it on a map.

I’m not kidding. I sat down with a map and asked myself where I wanted to live. When I factored in lifestyle, cost of living, proximity to family (and the ocean), and weather, I ended up with Charleston. I didn’t know a soul here, but I figured, how bad can it be?

My story is not uncommon. People are more mobile now than ever. Opportunities for virtual work are becoming more plentiful, and people are increasingly making geographic moves for lifestyle and family reasons.

Maps and Mobility: Revisiting the Yellow State/Blue State Phenomenon

And that brings us to the United Van Lines map above. (If this looks familiar, it’s because I shared an earlier version with you a couple of years ago.) Our friends at United Van Lines released an updated study recently, and I thought this might be a good excuse to revisit the topic of virtual employees.

First, there is good news for those of you living in blue states: your state is experiencing medium/high inbound traffic. People want to live in your state, and that, of course, should make hiring a bit easier. (It won’t surprise our free-market readers to know that four of the blue states are tax-friendly — Florida, Nevada, Tennessee, and South Dakota.)

Now for the bad news. If your state is yellow, you’re experiencing an outbound trend. That might mean hiring is a bit more challenging for your organization. Unfortunately, the Northeast and Midwest have been hit especially hard by this trend. (Incidentally, all three of us at Talent Market personify the map: we all moved from a yellow state in the Midwest to a blue state in the South.)

So, what should you do if your organization is in a yellow state and in need of talent? Here are five things to consider.

Hire virtually within your state. If having a state presence is required, be willing to hire someone who lives there but cannot relocate to the city where your office is located. Depending on the size of your state, the person may be able to make semi-regular visits to the office anyway. If the best talent for the role is in the upstate instead of next door, maybe it makes sense to think creatively?

Hire virtually from anywhere. If you’re hiring for a position that doesn’t require an office presence, be open to someone who can’t relocate to your state. What if the best talent lives six states away? With videoconferencing and travel, might it be worth it to make that relationship work?

Prepare for your searches to take longer. Because your searches may take a bit longer than those of your blue state counterparts, you might want to bring on a consultant or firm to cover the bases while the search process plays out. Outside vendors can help cover many of the short-term critical functions of your organization, whether it’s fundraising, communications, operations, finance, etc. And there are plenty of scholars and researchers who can fill in the policy gaps.

Utilize your network. If there’s one thing the map indirectly illustrates, it’s how critical your state network is. You’ve spent years building a database of supporters, friends, donors, activists, and volunteers who care deeply about your state — make sure you tap into this network when you have an opening.

Retain the talent you have! Do everything you can to keep the rock star talent you have now. Compensate them well. Treat them well. Give them room to grow. If you can retain these top performers, you will have fewer openings to fill!

If you have other ideas about how to approach hiring in yellow states, please drop me a note. Don’t forget to reach out to Talent Market for assistance — no matter where your organization is located!

And if you’re wondering how Charleston turned out, it’s not bad at all. Come visit anytime…the Mint Julep is on me.