There are remote workers, and then there are really remote workers. Now that the hybrid workplace model is gaining traction, some companies are recruiting new hires to do work-from-home permanently — even if ‘home’ is in a completely different city or country.
This isn’t just traditional offshore outsourcing on a contract basis. We’re talking about hiring people as permanent employees for IT jobs they will only perform remotely, from another county or continent, with no requirement to ever work from a corporate office.
According to researchers:
- one-third of companies plan on “expanding tech talent recruiting outside typical high-tech areas” like Silicon Valley
- 12% of IT job postings offered remote work in 2020, more than double the 2019 rate of 5.5%
The trend could have big implications for the tight IT labour market. If you can’t find the right tech talent in your own backyard, why not cast the net farther afield and allow the best candidates to do the job virtually from wherever they live?
Work from anywhere
Spotify answered that question by announcing its Work From Anywhere initiative at the beginning of this year. Proclaiming itself a “flexible/distributed-first company,” it promised to “introduce more flexibility when it comes to what country and city each employee works from.” The music streaming giant said the goal is to “help (Spotify) tap into new talent pools while keeping our existing (team) members.”
Edward Barrientos, CEO of virtual HR software maker Brazen, predicted months ago that others would follow Spotify’s lead on a globalized quest for remote tech talent.
“As more and more companies make the transition to permanent remote or hybrid models, competition for talent will become increasingly difficult,” Barrientos wrote. “Companies that are moving to remote workforces … can tap into talent that is located anywhere in the world.”
This could dramatically increase enterprise access to skilled IT workers. But the trend could also have big implications for other aspects of the technology sector.
Competition for talent
Removing location as a recruiting barrier will solve the IT skills shortage by increasing access to talent, right? Not exactly. As IT recruiting specialist Megan McCann has pointed out in Forbes, “for job seekers, the market is now wide open and without geographic borders. For employers seeking to hire, the now worldwide talent pool means more competition to recruit candidates.”
This heightened global competition for new hires could prove tough for enterprises in a country like Canada. The remote recruiting trend didn’t specifically come up during a recent panel discussion at the Canadian Telecom Summit. But panelist Matt Skynner, COO of Venture Lab, lamented Canada’s constant rivalry with American firms, “the brain drain” that already sees “hundreds of (Canadian) engineers leave for the U.S.” every year.
“We need to give (Canadian engineers) better opportunities but also better salaries,” added panel member Catherine Rosenberg, Cisco Research Chair in 5G Systems.
“The salaries they offer in the U.S., we can’t compete with that,” conceded fellow panelist Viet Nguyen, head of government and industry relations at Ericsson. “So we have to think of different (recruiting and retention) angles.”
If Canadian firms can’t attract foreign IT talent on pay scale alone, they should market based on quality of life, Nguyen suggested. “It’s about the families of the employees. Look at Canada as a country and play on that as a competitive advantage,” he said.
With the new shift to hire remote IT workers anywhere in the world, however, quality of life may not matter as much to job seekers. When you’re a foreign candidate considering a fully remote job offer from Canada, does quality of life even matter if you don’t have to move there?
The permanent work from anywhere recruiting trend could turn tech compensation rates upside down.
If a company in Boston hires someone in Iowa or Iceland to do an IT job on a permanent WFH basis, does it pay them a Boston-level salary? Or does it offer them money commensurate with the cost of living in Des Moines or Reykjavik? It will be interesting to see if enterprises embracing this trend offer compensation based on where their offices are located or where their new remote employees live.
Since 70 per cent of U.S. employees are already suffering from WFH burnout during the pandemic, it’s fair to wonder how hiring permanent WFH staff in far-flung locations will affect workplace culture and employee wellbeing. Spotify touched briefly on the issue while unveiling its Work From Anywhere policy.
“We realize it’s likely to have an impact on our in-office culture which we’re proud of. But listening to our employees, embracing the need for change, and finding our way of making adaptations is definitely the way to continue to evolve our culture for the long-term,” the company stated.
If pandemic-era WFH is causing long-time employees to feel disconnected from their coworkers, how will new permanent WFH hires integrate into teams they might never meet in person?
This is just one of many questions cropping up as all of this unfolds. At least there’s one thing these job candidates won’t be asking IT employers during their virtual job interviews: “Does your office have free parking?”