Cardiff Metropolitan University
Version 29 October 24th 2020.docx (12.49 MB)

How Small Cities Attract and Retain Skilled People: Development of a Mode

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posted on 2022-10-20, 12:40 authored by Jane Croad

Skilled people are generally accepted as a vital force in economic development. The executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, has stated that skilled people will become increasingly more important than capital (Elliot, 2017). The UK is vulnerable to changes in the macro-environment because the economy is so over reliant on London which has a disproportionate level of skilled people, wealth and opportunities compared to the other cities in the UK. This imbalance is of importance particularly with the uncertainties and inevitable changes caused by BREXIT and the Covid19 pandemic. This thesis aims to develop a transferable policy model for attracting and retaining skilled people to small cities, to promote economic development and contribute to addressing the imbalance between London and the other cities in the UK.

Based on adapted grounded research in case study cities Manchester, Cardiff, Newport and Bristol, the key factors that motivate skilled people to locate and remain in small cities have been identified as employment, social life, infrastructure, culture and the family. These factors have been labelled as Attraction Motivators based on an adaptation of Herzberg’s two-factor theory. Other factors, such as diversity, safety, inclusivity, accommodation, education, physical factors and shopping, are not motivators to attract and retain skilled people but need to be maintained and managed effectively to maximise economic development and not deter skilled people.

The Attraction Motivation Model was developed through combining the findings from adapted grounded research to identify the Attraction Motivators with the city branding literature and the findings from interviews with key stakeholders. The Model will assist small cities to attract and retain skilled people using finite resources.

There were some differences in the Attraction Motivators for skilled people with different characteristics of gender, life-stage and location, supporting theory that skilled people cannot be treated as a homogeneous group although they do have commonalities. Considerable communalities were found between skilled and unskilled people which is an area for further research to ensure improved inclusivity in policy making.

The transferable Attraction Motivator Model assists policy makers to attract and retain skilled people contributing to small cities achieving increased economic and social development, leading to greater prosperity and certainty for its citizens and improving economic balance between the regions of the UK.



  • School of Management

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD

Publication year