Fishing in the global talent pool

New rules for hiring foreign labour

As a CIO at Royal Dutch Shell, Jay Crotts knows something about recruiting IT talent on a global scale. The US$26.3 billion company employs 8,000 IT professionals in 145 countries, including remote areas such as Iceland, Togo and Mauritius, a small country off the East African coast.

Shell's goal is to hire the best IT person for every role, no matter where in the world that person resides, according to Crotts. And he's a good example: Almost two years ago, he moved with his family from Texas to Shell's London offices when he accepted the job of CIO of the global business-to-business and lubricants segments.

A growing number of U.S. companies -- whether they're global or domestic, small or large -- are mimicking Shell's approach. They may have job openings or skill needs in a particular country, but they don't limit their IT talent searches to that location. And that makes sense.

Think about it: Some areas of the world are experiencing technology talent shortages -- especially in key skill areas. Meanwhile, technology talent pools are cropping up worldwide, particularly in developing economies. No wonder many IT executives are casting wider hiring nets that reach into foreign waters.

New rules

Hiring foreign labour is no longer just about work visas and offshoring. Thanks to employee referrals, in- country recruiting firms, global job boards such as Monster.com and Jobster, sophisticated corporate Web recruiting sites and online programmer "marketplaces" like RentACoder.com or oDesk, there are more ways than ever before to communicate and collaborate with skilled individuals who happen to live overseas.

Some companies are directly contracting or hiring IT professionals with the understanding that they will continue living in their home countries.

"It doesn't matter whether you're in Singapore, China, the U.S., India or Australia -- it's increasingly a global labour market," says Kevin Wheeler, president of Global Learning Resources, a California-based recruiting consulting firm. "If I can bring the labour to me, that's good; if I have to take the work to you, that's OK, too."

Wheeler sees all sorts of hybrid hiring models cropping up and notes a general move away from blanket hiring of full-time employees.

"Smart companies are really looking at a whole mix of options -- contractors, consultants, part-time workers, offshoring -- and it's being driven partly by strategy, partly by the ability to find talent and generally to keep costs lower," he says.

A common setup might include a U.S.-based management and research-and-development staff working with a few programmers in Ireland, a couple more in China and maybe a dozen in India, he says.

And while cost is still the No. 1 driver of global hiring efforts, "the search for talent will surpass low cost in the next few years," says Allan Schweyer, president and executive director of The Human Capital Institute, a talent management organization in Washington.

As that happens, Schweyer says, companies will less often ask employees to move and instead use globally dispersed, remote workforces led by a U.S. project manager.

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