Skills gaps are massive — and global — problems. When companies don’t have the necessary workforce talent, it becomes harder to compete globally. Businesses also face more difficulties when their leaders cope with new or existing problems.
Skills shortages place more stress on the current workers, which could negatively affect morale and overall productivity.
According to one study, 84% of small- and medium business owners said COVID-19 changed their skills requirements. The respondents also expected to need certain attributes more than others throughout the rest of 2020. Network management, web and app development, and social media marketing were among the most-needed capabilities, they noted.
Moreover, global research published in 2020 revealed that businesses in 36 out of 44 countries studied had more difficulty attracting skilled talent now than in 2018. Cybersecurity is one area of worldwide concern. In one poll published in July 2020, 70% of respondents said they were impacted by the skills shortage, with 45% agreeing the problem had worsened over the last few years.
There’s no magical, quick fix for closing the skills gap. However, hiring international workers could make a meaningful difference. Here are six reasons why that’s the case.
1. Reduce Training Time With Skilled Global Workers
A decision to hire skilled workers can also mean employers spend less time training them. That’s because some national leaders emphasize teaching their citizens through real-world education that translates well to future workforce potential.
A 2019 ranking showed Switzerland topped the list for vocational and on-the-job training, and it also reached the top spot for graduate employability. Most Swiss students start paid training at age 16 for the next three to four years. This scenario shows how people who choose to tackle skills gaps with international workers could find people ready to give full contributions to the workforce almost from the moment of their arrival.
2. Get More Access to Skilled Graduate Students
Employers in the United States may not initially realize that international graduate students often outpace their domestic peers in particular majors. Research indicated that from 1995 through 2015, there was a more than 480% increase in computer science program spots filled by international full-time graduate students.
Another source showed that international students comprised 5.5% of scholars pursuing higher education and that half of them enrolled in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) programs. The COVID-19 pandemic created additional obstacles for those trying to get jobs in the U.S., but working through those challenges could be worth the effort. Focusing on international graduates gives employers more access to people with current knowledge.
3. Hire International Workers Remotely to Gauge Performance
The recent rise in remote working came about as a result of the prevalent global health threat. However, it’s also helpful for employers who want to tap into an international workforce before acquiring work permits and having the new hires travel abroad. They could hire people on a contract basis. Contractors usually work for less than six months for companies, providing a time frame for an employer to evaluate their performance.
For example, managers could offer a contractor the option to get hired as a full employee based on feedback or metrics received during the contract period. This approach could motivate the contractor while setting expectations for the employer. However, company representatives must investigate local laws to learn the official definition of a contractor since it changes based on location.
4. Broaden the Overall Talent Pool
Closing the skills gap with foreign workers often becomes the most viable approach when it’s insufficient to look for qualified workers closer to home. Numerous statistics show that artificial intelligence (AI) shortages persist throughout Europe, for example. That means even the best efforts of a European company to attract that kind of talent without looking abroad may fail.
Recent research also indicates that the ability to work remotely may factor heavily into a person’s willingness to relocate. A study of tech workers in the United Kingdom showed that 79% would move if they could do remote work in the same job with identical earnings potential. Moreover, 71% said they would go to another country. Offering remote work capabilities is not the only way to entice workers, but the perk could play a sizeable role in increasing appeal.
5. Prepare for Future Global Expansion
Relying on international workers to deal with existing skills gaps could have an extra benefit of helping companies get equipped for planned expansions into other countries. For example, a business may hire tech talent from a country where it wants to expand soon. In that situation, the enterprise addresses the workforce’s lack of technical expertise while getting insights about market conditions.
Foreign workers can weigh in on cultural differences that could require tweaking marketing messages to the new place’s target audience. The workers could also inform of job market conditions that may impact hiring successes once the business grows its footprint. International workers may have leads on where to look for candidates, too, preventing future skills gaps.
6. Utilize a Faster Option Than Reskilling Workers
According to a 2019 global survey of CEOs, 46% remarked that significant retraining and upskilling were the most important initiatives for closing the skills gap. Specialized education can strengthen a workforce, but it could take a long time to accomplish. Many providers offer accelerated “boot camp” courses to help people learn new skills quickly. However, getting help from foreign workers could still prove faster.
For example, many business owners need people with social media marketing expertise due to shifts in COVID-19 skills requirements. Putting a team member through an intensive course to grow their skills in that area is a long-term investment. However, a company decision-maker could simultaneously fill short-term demands by hiring a foreign social media expert to work remotely on a contract basis.
Closing the Skills Gap Requires an Individualized Approach
These six advantages show that addressing skills gaps could become more manageable if hiring professionals expand their searches to include international markets. However, that method is not necessarily the best approach for every situation. Decision-makers should always weigh numerous factors when deciding if and when to depend on international workforce members.