Study highlights staffing challenges facing rural Peak District businesses

7 February 2024

Rural businesses in the Derbyshire Peak District are facing significant challenges in recruiting and retaining staff due to a combination of global and national influences, and place-specific factors, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of Derby.

Undertaken with employers and employees in the Derbyshire Peak District, the study has led to the researchers making a number of key recommendations for changes to policy that need to take place to support rural businesses in the region and encourage people to work in the area.

The study, Exploring Identity, Place and Worker Attraction and Retention in Rural Businesses, was funded by the National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE). It was led by Carley Foster, Professor of Services Marketing and Head of the Centre for Business Improvement at the University of Derby, working with Dr Susan Kirk, Reader in International Human Resource Management at Newcastle University Business School.

Professor Foster explained:

“The Peak District has so much to offer in the way of ‘natural capital’ – it’s a beautiful place to live and work, which is something that isn’t exploited enough. We think there is lots more to do to promote the Peak District as a place to work as a way of encouraging people to move to the region to work and enjoy these lovely surroundings.”

Despite being located in the middle of England, surrounded by large cities like Derby, Sheffield and Manchester, the region’s businesses face a number of challenges in recruiting and retaining skilled staff. These include:

Dr Kirk said:

“Some employers are implementing initiatives to mitigate the challenges. For example, they adapt their employment packages to appeal to different people at different life stages and this is something we would encourage. But there’s much more that needs to be done to address the challenges, at a regional and national level.”

The researchers’ recommendations include:

The team’s research has been supported by both the Peak District Partnership and Business Peak District. Dr Peter Dewhurst, who chairs both organisations, commented:

“This research investigation highlights some significant challenges that Business Peak District is working with others to address. In doing so we are looking to ensure that businesses across the Peak District are no longer at a competitive disadvantage to their urban counterparts.”

One early positive outcome has seen the research being used in a successful £15 million Levelling Up ‘Ashbourne Reborn’ bid, led by Derbyshire Dales District Council. This two-year development project will transform Ashbourne town centre.

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