Record numbers of Brits are leaving our shores every year for warmer climes, and UK companies will need to become more adept at recruiting overseas talent in accordance with this. Kate Farrell, associate director at Hudson, looks at the potential rewards and challenges of looking beyond our borders.
The reported talent shortage in the UK is not a myth created by the media. It is a current issue for many employers across a number of sectors and it is economic growth that is fuelling the trend.
The proof is in the large increase in the number of companies looking abroad to fill professional roles. Certain sectors stand out as having adopted the practice with gusto: the public sector and the banking and financial services sector in particular.
As well as increasing the size of the available talent pool, recruiting overseas staff can bring additional benefits to companies. As well as providing a very flexible source of employment, they have demonstrated a strong work and team ethic, and as with any new recruits in a company, they bring welcome new perspectives and fresh ideas.
The internet has played a large role in this trend by creating what, for some jobs, can be a truly global talent pool where problems such as visas and work permits are a minor concern compared to securing the right individual.
Indeed, social networking sites such as Facebook, or the more professionally-focused LinkedIn.com, are beginning to be used by companies as worldwide job boards.
Taking the plunge
The most competitive sectors are going further still in their efforts to attract talent from abroad. Some companies and recruitment consultancies hold seminars in target countries to help assuage the doubts of overseas recruits and convert the ‘merely interested’ into candidates willing to take the plunge.
Increasingly too, recruitment consultants are deploying specialists and resources to find candidates specifically interested in coming to the UK to work. This is no longer an ad hoc process – it is beginning to become a standard process within the industry.
Of course, this is not to say that recruiting from overseas does not present its own challenges. While EU candidates face no barriers to working in Britain, those from further afield do face restrictions on whether they can work in the UK, what type of work they can do and how long they can stay.
It is essential, therefore, that companies carry out the proper checks to ensure eligibility, or else they could face prosecution with a £5,000 maximum penalty per illegal employee.
Other difficulties may be less obvious and only present themselves once a candidate has joined an organisation. Companies and HR staff, in particular, should pay close attention to the welfare of overseas recruits who, outside of work, may be struggling with the personal administration of moving countries: opening a bank account, getting a national insurance number or simply buying a TV licence.
These seemingly simple tasks can cause frustration, which, if not sorted, could turn to resentment and lead overseas candidates longing for the simplicity of home. Often, companies will give the new recruit a mentor or a coach. They will guide the person for the first few months of their placement to ensure they integrate easily and reduce the likelihood that they return home after just a few unhappy months.
Making sure that candidates will transition into the UK office goes beyond the language barrier. In many roles, it will be assumed that candidates have the necessary background knowledge to properly carry out their job. In HR, for example, knowledge of UK employment law is necessary in many roles and is something that ill-prepared overseas candidates may not share with their UK counterparts.
Similarly, the expectations of what is required from the HR professional differ from country to country. As an advanced economy, UK-based HR professionals are expected to have a demonstrable commercial awareness to ensure that they can truly work in partnership and add value to the business. This is an expectation that is not always shared in some other countries, so companies should probe candidates to be sure they will cope with the demands placed upon them.
The trend for overseas recruitment looks set only to pick up speed. London’s growth as a global financial hub will continue to attract candidates from around the world, not only to the banking sectors but to all the support roles and ancillary sectors that are riding the wave of growth. As China and, particularly, India continue along their steep economic growth curve, we can expect to see more highly qualified candidates coming to the UK.
Despite the challenges, the return on investment when looking for talent abroad can be enormous. There is an abundance of qualified international candidates looking to experience working life in a different market. The global talent pool is exciting – companies should take the plunge.
Kate Farrell is associate director at Hudson, an international recruitment and talent management consultancy. For more information, please visit: www.hudson.com.