Benefits and Challenges of Splitting your Workforce into Multiple Geographies

There is a growing tech talent shortage across APAC. With many regional and global firms entering the landscape, Singapore could feel the impact too. The lack of talent is a looming threat to the country’s economy.

 

According to Korn Ferry, Singapore could suffer a loss of $106.82bn USD by 2030 due to a talent crunch. Companies are under tremendous pressure to enhance their capabilities to hire, engage and retain their desired workforce.

 

The Singaporean government has been actively upskilling its existing talent pool. Colleges saw a 17% increase in IT course enrolment. Unfortunately, there is still a gap in demand versus supply. In 2019, companies in Singapore attributed 70% net job growth for UX/UI designers and cybersecurity engineers, and a 50% increase in data analysts and data scientists jobs. However, due to a talent crunch, Singaporeans filled less than 20% of software engineering jobs that year. To deal with it, employers have begun to find ways to acquire talent locally and internationally.

 

Here, we discuss the pros and cons of hiring a globally dispersed team over finding local talent:

 

Hiring Across Geographies - Benefits

 

Singapore sees a major talent crunch as regional and global tech companies scale up in the region. Employers are struggling to find suitable technical talent locally. To meet this growing demand, companies have begun to embrace hiring beyond geographies. Apart from meeting hiring needs, global talent recruitment is beneficial to businesses in several ways:

 

1. Larger employee pool

By hiring remote employees, companies are no longer limited by a location and gain access to in-demand talent around the world. According to Singapore's manpower ministry data, the number of foreign employees dropped from 1,393,000 (192,300 employment pass holders) in 2016 to 1,200,400(161,700 employment pass holders) in 2021.

 

Indeed, the data from 2021 shows that approximately 38% of these employees are in information technology and communication and professional services. And contrary to popular belief, foreign talent has not led to a decrease in opportunities for the local talent. In fact, the statistics show that in spite of good talent in Singapore, it is not enough to meet the talent deficit in the technology hub. Thus, reaching out to a larger candidate pool is the only solution.

 

Also, due the growing demand for software professionals, tech giants are giving hefty compensation packages making it difficult for Startups to compete in attracting talent. Thus, by widening their reach, startups, particularly in Series A, could find candidates interested in working with them.

 

2. Freedom and flexibility

Today, employees prefer freedom and flexibility over financial benefits. Hence, companies hiring employees multi-geographically are likely to attract job seekers.

 

Hiring remote talent gives the hires the desired flexibility, and enables them to strike a better work-life balance. They will have time for themselves, and for their friends and family.

 

And remote working is not just beneficial for employees, it is beneficial for businesses as well. Remote hiring helps organisations cut down on costs, and the stress on their workforce, thus improving productivity.. Since fewer people work physically at the office, the cost of rent, stationery supplies, computers, printers, and work desks is reduced significantly.

 

3. Diversity Hires

When you search for talent locally, all the candidates have similar education, cultural values, and skills-sets, and go through the same hiring process.

 

Thus, when you restrict yourself to hiring from your region, you run the risk of building teams that are similar to one another in terms of strengths and knowledge. This may simplify the hiring process, but are you really building a team that’s diverse enough?

 

By following a global talent recruitment process, you can build winning teams which complement each other’s strengths rather than replicating them. By casting a wide and varied net, you can find your ideal candidate from countries and communities you wouldn’t have reached otherwise.

 

With the flexibility and the environment you provide, you are likely to attract GenZ, one of the smartest, result-oriented, and tech savvy generation in the workforce. They value freedom and flexibility over compensation, inclusivity and diversity, over regional bias, and would be the ideal employees for a global team.

 

4. Increased Productivity

An employee working remotely is no longer stigmatised as being less productive, or insincere. Several studies have discovered that remote workers typically have higher levels of productivity and engagement.

 

In the Gartner 2021 Digital Worker Experience Survey that uses data from 10K employees across APAC, Europe, and the US, 43% of employees say that flexible working hours make them more productive. And 30% of employees found less or no commuting time helps them achieve greater productivity as employees can choose to work in the hours when they are most productive instead of the traditional office hours Thus, it can be argued that remote hiring translates to happier, highly productive and less stressful employees.

 

5. Better Accessibility

Hiring across geographies opens the doors of employability to those who can’t commute to a physical office. Child care, elderly care, disabilities, and illness are some reasons why people may opt out of the workforce. Today’s technology and remote jobs can also help technically skilled professionals who want to work but stay in rural areas.

 

Thus, global talent recruitment can provide companies with top talent who can make valuable contributions to the company business irrespective of their location constraint.

 

Hiring Across Geographies - Costs

 

Although hiring international workers can be a cost-effective strategy, it has its share of drawbacks too. Some of the disadvantages of multi-geography hiring are:

 

1. Hurdles in Collaboration

Effective collaboration is difficult when members are spread out geographically in different time zones. Remote configuration can also result in technical issues such as an unstable internet connection, or problems with communication applications. Furthermore, virtual communication, such as email, chat, video conferencing, etc., is susceptible to misinterpretation causing project delays and misunderstandings among team-members.

 

However, choosing the right tools can certainly cut down on the above from occurring and encourage better collaboration.

 

2. Issues in Building Trust

An absence of face-to-face interaction between the employer and the employee can create a lack of trust. Managers may resort to micromanaging to ensure that timelines are met. However, this can lead to employees becoming further disgruntled and disengaged.

 

Instead, to establish trust from the get-go, you should set SMART goals for everyone on the team, define their roles, and convey your expectations.

 

3. Legal aspects

When onboarding a remote employee from another country, the hiring company needs to consider all the legal aspects related to employment in that region. There could be several limitations when attempting to comply with each country's federal, state, and employment laws. Also, you will need to pay employees according to the benchmarks in their home country and local currency.

 

4. Difficult to track progress

Tracking progress is a real struggle of setting up a great remote team. Since there is no possibility to just pop by and request for updates, tracking progress can be challenging, particularly if the employee isn’t a proactive communicator.

 

To deal with this situation, you can schedule weekly or monthly virtual check-ins with the teams to track individual and project progress and ensure things are running smoothly.

 

How to Tackle Disparity in Diversity

 

To succeed in a global economy, more and more businesses today are depending on a geographically distributed workforce. Deel’s recent State of Global Recruiting Report reveals a 227% increase in remote workers and contractors hiring in APAC alone.

 

Companies are creating teams that combine top technical skills with in-depth local knowledge of their potential markets. However, it is a challenge to manage teams that live in different locations, follow diverse cultures, speak different languages, and have different values. Despite this, leaders can bring about unity to diverse teams spread across several continents by following the below strategies:

 

1. Bind the team by a common purpose

Despite the members being from different parts of the world with dissimilar characteristics, the team needs to function as a single entity. All the employees in an organisation must be in alignment with the company values and goals.

 

The company leaders should remind its employees of the common business purpose and guide them to focus their energies towards fulfilling said goals.

 

Toptal, the world’s largest fully remote company, hires only those people who align with their culture. They put culture on the forefront of hiring and onboarding. The company understands that the key to successful remote teams is their ability to connect with each other, understand and respect each other’s values and cultural differences.

 

Some other ways to foster unity in teams:

  • Have a clear vision of your goals and make sure every employee buys into and is passionate about them
  • Don’t treat one location/team as headquarter
  • Encourage video meetings over voice calls
  • Let everyone be themselves
  • Foster an environment where the team respects each other’s cultural views
  • Include some fun activities like virtual coffee meet, games, yoga and mediation sessions, etc.
  • Celebrate all wins together, whether big or small and always appreciate the team

During team meetings, managers should emphasise how every employee’s efforts help the company achieve its targets and strengthen its position in the market.

 

2. Promote and create empathetic teams

Empathy is a quality that differentiates the best from the rest. During face-to-face interactions, employees often create an empathetic connection with their colleagues. But in a remotely dispersed team, it takes more than watercooler talk to build empathy toward each other.

 

The employer needs to create a culture where employees are sensitive to each other's cultural differences. There should be a zero-tolerance policy toward a display of cultural insensitivity.

 

The power of small talk is big. Managers could encourage some unstructured meetings. In absence of a predefined agenda, teammates are likely to begin meetings with small talk, asking and learning about each other’s culture, families, kids, etc.

 

Also, to ensure that employees are comfortable engaging each other, disagreements and debates should be encouraged rather than frowned upon.

 

3. Focus on employee engagement

Language is another barrier that divides a multi-geography team. Most companies do use English as the official language, but people from certain regions may be more fluent than others. There can also be a language divide between native English speakers versus employees who speak English as a second language.

 

Sometimes, less fluent speakers may avoid putting forward their ideas during meetings. Managers should monitor these employees to see how they are contributing to meetings. They should be encouraged to speak more often, and also confirm if they understood what was spoken in the meeting.

 

Ask them to check routinely whether others understand what they say. This transition can be challenging for non-native speakers, yet doing so will prevent them from being stigmatised.

 

360-degree feedback

360° feedback is a process to gather feedback from colleagues, managers, subordinates, customers and self to provide a 360° view of one's performance, strengths, limitations, and problems.

 

In his book Work Rules, Laszlo Bock, Ex-Senior VP of People Operations at Google, mentions how Google transformed their culture by adopting a 360-degree performance management process.

 

Google emphasises the importance of self-awareness and uses self-evaluations as the first step in performance assessments, followed by a mix of qualitative and quantitative data and feedback from others. The result is improved employee performance, employment engagement and overall experience.

 

For a global remote team, a 360-degree feedback system will help the employees to gain insights into their performance, and help them become better versions of themselves at work.

 

Moreover, employers can also take advantage of the 360-degree feedback system to understand their employee’s concerns and stressors. They can also remove cultural bias from the team through open and impartial feedback.

 

Summary

 

Businesses are facing a massive talent crunch. But, the rise of remote work arrangements over the past few years has made it easier to access global talent today. To compete in the current economic climate, companies need to take advantage of remote hiring around the world. They need to bring together individuals from various cultures with diverse professional backgrounds and viewpoints.

 

To manage the surplus demand for tech talent, companies in Singapore must leverage remote hiring to create a geographically dispersed team. By leveraging technology, they can bridge the communication gap and create a culture of trust and respect within teams.

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