In the past, when companies needed to hire new employees to fill important jobs, it usually required the physical relocation of talent. Immigration was always considered a way for growing companies to bring new labor or talent into a country, but it also required a lot of paperwork and process.
President George H.W. Bush signed the Immigration Act of 1990 to create the H-1B program to help American companies overcome labor shortages in growing fields that demanded specialized skills, such as research, engineering and computer programming. In nearly three decades of existence, the best and brightest around the world have contributed to American companies with significant impact; however, due to increased barriers and employee freedom, only 2 of every 100 jobs are filled by the H-1B program.
Our recent mass migration to remote work has triggered a change in the dynamics between talent and employers — talent today has learned that they no longer have to move across country and state borders to land roles at leading companies. According to my company’s recent engineer survey, 40% of engineers in Canada and Mexico say they don’t want to come to the U.S. What’s more, data from LinkedIn on city migration patterns amid the pandemic found that in America’s major metropolitan cities like New York and San Francisco, departures have significantly exceeded new arrivals and have fallen more than 20% from April through August of this year versus a year earlier.
From the ashes of closed physical borders and in-home lockdowns, we’re now seeing the phoenix of digital immigration — the natural progression of digital transformation, the idea that modern companies and workers are connecting across borders through digital technologies, increasing opportunity and access without relocation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 35.4% of American workers teleworked in May as the country was in full lockdown. The Covid-19 pandemic became the inflection point that changed everything in weeks, scaling up remote work through the power of the cloud and ushering in a new era of choice.
Are companies truly ready for this gigantic shift in business processes? Another one of my company’s recent reports reveals that 95% of those in HR and engineering believe they’ve navigated remote work well during Covid-19, but less than 1 in 3 has a long-term remote strategy. Perhaps more shocking, 53% of leaders reported spending more time planning the company holiday party than their remote work future.
Now is the time to catch up. Digital immigration for talent is the next step of evolution for forward-thinking companies to access pools of elite global talent that have been untapped for too long. Standardized cloud platforms and time zone alignment makes new hires in Colombia as easy to reach as a colleague who lives a few blocks over. In embracing this global model, companies face an opportunity to amplify their recruiting efforts by strategically leveraging multiple talent markets around the world. And when companies tap into multiple global talent markets, they can also access a wider array of talents.
How can companies start hiring globally?
When you can hire anywhere, it’s easy to spin wheels searching for talent everywhere. It’s especially confusing and complex today, with mobile talent plus new tech talent hot spots cropping up around the world. With that in mind, here are a few tactics to get started with this new way of recruiting.
• Decide on essential hiring criteria. This is critical because every talent market around the world has its own unique set of pros and cons. Leading talent factors may be salary affordability, a specific skill set or experience working in a particular organizational structure. Every market matches differently with these factors, so before starting global recruiting efforts, take the time upfront to establish your essential criteria and a clear priority.
• Select your markets. I recommend starting within two time zones in either direction because 88% of engineers prefer working in time zones within two hours of colleagues, according to our research. Alongside proven talent pools in Canada and Mexico, be sure to evaluate newer engineering hotbeds. For example, South America offers 1.2 million experienced engineers who are rarely considered for U.S.-based engineering roles. And in Latin America, Colombia boasts 100,000 skilled engineering prospects ready to work in a quickly growing area. Go further by exploring local startup and entrepreneurship ecosystems, university systems with strong engineering programs, local business and IP regulatory laws, and existing U.S. company presences in your area of interest. Understanding these elements of a market will lead your team toward finding the right market fit — and can also set the table to develop powerful local partnerships.
• Make HR processes remote-optimized. How companies vet, interview and assess talent for remote work is quite different than it is for traditional HQ employees. You’ll need to assess your salary and benefits strategy, ensure legal compliance, and generally make sure that you understand what matters to local engineers. Our research linked above found that while all engineers want to solve problems, dramatic differences across countries exist, especially around expectations regarding career opportunities, stability and pay. Companies also need to build an attractive remote employer brand to clearly communicate their remote strategy and demonstrate that global immigrants will be welcomed and given opportunities to contribute, lead and succeed.
Digital immigration is the next frontier of talent acquisition.
Remote work is a new methodology for organizational management and an invitation for companies to reinvent how and where they attract talent to their company. Building high-performing teams creates winning companies — and today’s high performers are more likely to live outside of your traditional hiring zone than ever before.
With digital transformation reinventing everything from work meetings to buying groceries, digital immigration for talent is the next frontier in how companies must evolve and take advantage of this moment for long-term competitive advantage.