Highlights From Our 2006 Global Trends Survey

The idea of a global workforce is just emerging. Most of us still believe and practice the maxim that “all recruiting is local.” For some firms, even recruiting outside their state or county is a rare occurrence, while some of the world’s largest companies have recruited internationally for decades. Over the next decade, most organizations will face the need to look for people beyond their local environments. This is partially because people locally may lack the needed skills or experience, but also just because they can. It is very enticing to hiring managers to think that they can tap into the world’s best talent — no matter where it lives. With the tools we have today — the Internet, referral technologies, email, and so forth, seeking out talent in other places is easier and faster than ever. The Internet has changed most of what we do and it has allowed work to move anywhere. Just a few years ago, the thought of having someone in another country design our products, talk to our customers, provide technical help, read X-rays, or diagnose a disease was unthinkable. Today it is happening regularly. This also means that recruiters usually find themselves facing one of two global recruiting situations:

  1. Recruiting remotely from the home country to find people anywhere and recruit them to the parent organization.
  2. Recruiting remotely to find people in the local country to work for the parent organization locally.

Yet barriers to success remain high in global recruiting. Our respondents reported language and cultural barriers for recruiters and candidates. Others reported on the lack of understanding at the corporate level of the challenges recruiting globally imposes on recruiters. Other barriers, especially for U.S.-based recruiters, were the lack of certainty around visa quotas and the difficulty in doing background screening. One respondent wrote: “In Asia, particularly India, China, Philippines, the challenges are in retaining employees. The turnover is so high in the outsourcing and technical areas because with the influx of outsourcing business from the U.S. and other countries, the competition for human capital is fierce. We have to think of creative ways to attract and keep people.” Being a global recruiter will require developing broad skills and deep understanding of the cultures and legal systems in numerous countries. Another respondent listed many of the issues a global recruiter faces:

Work eligibility and visas are a large issue, particularly when trying to find senior leaders who are bilingual. Laws for employment differ greatly from country to country. Candidates must give three to five months’ notice in some countries, so this impacts time to fill. Recruiting is done differently in different markets (e.g. England’s professionals go through agencies), so trying to cold call is nearly impossible for senior leaders.

It takes a special person to be successful at global recruiting ó probably someone who has lived in different cultures, understands the laws and customary recruiting practices in a particular region or country, perhaps speaks another language, and who develops an international set of connections and relationships. A tall order, indeed! Yet, the need is growing, and barriers will become more manageable over time. More and more recruiters do have (or are getting) this deeper understanding of the requirements and challenges of global recruiting.

The Survey

In order to better understand what is happening and how organizations are responding to the need to recruit globally, several weeks ago we sent out a survey to recruiters in the United States and other countries, including China, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Canada, and India. Approximately 133 recruiters or recruiting managers responded ó a small sample, but representative of a cross-section of organizations, both small and large. This week and next I will present some of our findings and conclusions from the survey. You’ll be able to download a free copy of the entire survey from our website next week.

Recruiting From Other Countries

The primary motive for looking globally for people is to find people with exceptional skills. For U.S.-based firms this usually means looking for skilled engineers, software or IT professionals, medical staff, and so forth. The survey clearly upheld this as respondents who are based in the U.S. said they are most frequently looking to fill targeted, specialized, highly skilled technical positions (31 percent), general, highly skilled technical positions (20 percent), or senior leadership spots (17 percent). Over half (53 percent) of the respondents consider it important to recruit from other countries to meet recruiting goals; only 20 percent do not think it’s important. Yet just 10 percent of U.S.-based recruiters normally source globally for U.S.-based positions. Future expectations are quite different though, with 35 percent expecting to do more global recruiting this year. Only 2 percent expect that to decrease.

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Recruiting Remotely for Local Positions

This is a challenging proposition as recruiters frequently lack an understanding of local requirements and practices in recruitment. It is also a challenge to screen and assess candidates remotely. Respondents reported that they rely heavily on recruiting firms to find global candidates, as they lack expertise and tools to source remotely. Many have budgets for global recruiting that they control (29 percent) and others have a budget that is under local control (20 percent), while about 26 percent have no budget earmarked for global recruiting at all. For 23 percent of respondents, the entire global recruiting budget consists of less than 5 percent of the total recruiting budget.

Recruiting Strategy

Successful recruiting functions should have a keen understanding of their organization’s goals and should have a strategy in place to help the firm achieve those goals by ensuring they have the right people. This also means having a sourcing strategy and a quantitative rationale for each source they use. Because global recruiting is riskier and often more expensive than local recruiting, the need for a strategy and rationale becomes even stronger. In our survey we asked recruiters whether they had a clear and widely understood strategy for global recruiting. Only 36 percent reported having a global talent strategy, while another 29 percent did not have one. Next week I will review our findings around the use of applicant tracking systems and recruiting websites, as well as how recruiters are approaching screening and assessment.

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for ERE.net, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at kwheeler@futureoftalent.org.

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