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The New Normal: Leveraging Global Talent Creates Real Business Value

Sachin Bhagwat
By Sachin Bhagwat
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We’ve all seen it: Traditional ways of working were disrupted by the pandemic. But while offices were closed and people were working from anywhere, something incredible happened. The momentum shifted and organizations realized that access to talent was, indeed, boundaryless. 

While this shift to remote work was slowly taking place over the past five years, it was never fully adopted by most organizations. This hesitancy can more or less be attributed to three factors:

  1. Physical office locations: Companies had made a large investment in the real estate of their physical office locations and wanted their employees to use them.
  2. Access to talent: When it came to talent, recruiting was often dictated by geography, and hiring distributed talent was considered unusual; remote work and using a distributed workforce itself has increased 3-4X since pre-pandemic times.
  3. Productivity: Pre-COVID, only 7% of workers in the United States had access to a “flexible workplace” or telework; not nearly enough to inspire employers that it could be a viable, productive option at a global scale.

Despite these apprehensions, COVID-19 pushed the shift towards remote work into high gear. This dramatic pivot in how we work has opened the door not only for new engagement models, but the way we think about and employ talent. 

Let’s take a look at both.

Hiring priorities have changed

Due to new and evolving work needs resulting from the pandemic, a few new engagement models have gained popularity. Typically, these engagement models determine the basis of collaboration between a company and talent, including the company’s wants, needs, and interests. These models have also changed the way companies are now hiring talent.

Team augmentation model

The team augmentation model is implemented by organizations that need highly-qualified team members to come on board in order to expedite the roadmaps they have in place. The people these companies want to contract with would be the same type of people they would hire full-time in other circumstances.

While this model was prevalent pre-COVID (as the classic staff augmentation model), the ability to onboard and ramp up teams that are a true extension of the in-house teams has accelerated since the pandemic. In the past, staffing models were focused on cookie-cutter or low-impact, operationally-focused work. Today, companies are looking at the team augmentation model to keep quality outcomes consistent with the expectations of their in-house teams. They are now able to hire highly-qualified, global workers on a contract basis to keep output consistent.

Global model

Due to the pandemic and the forced adoption of remote work, companies have started to look at global models to engage talent. The true global model has pivoted from companies outsourcing in concentrated hubs such as India, China, Mexico, Brazil, Ukraine, and Argentina to casting a wider net and hiring employees from all around the world. This global model has proven itself to be useful to many of the world’s most innovative organizations. As Dana Lawson, the VP of Engineering at GitHub put it, “having a local presence with amazing talent is super valuable to building a global product.”

In fact, many companies that were once skeptical of this global model are now pleasantly surprised to access global talent pools that are of high quality, available in their time zones, and set up efficiently, from an infrastructure standpoint, to support them.

Outcome-based model

Companies operating under the outcome-based model are trying to tackle specific problems, and therefore look for talent that can directly contribute towards specific goals that are required in order to accomplish these outcomes. (This model is especially prevalent with data science and engineering talent).

The outcome-based model is often viewed as an extension of both the team augmentation model and the global model, because companies that are hiring with the outcome-based model in mind are looking for highly-skilled talent with a specific skill set on a global scale. Similar to the team augmentation model, they want an extension of their in-house teams, and similar to the global model, they’re looking wherever talent is available.

Because these engagements are tied to outcomes rather than a fixed scope or fixed team construct, they provide unique opportunities for both clients and talent. Clients benefit from a fairly straightforward agreement, as contracts based around this model are contingent on a particular outcome being delivered. For talent, they have the ability to work on cutting-edge initiatives which have tremendous impact, making the work very interesting and challenging. Organizations in the AI and ML space have been some of the first verticals to adopt an outcome-based model in their hiring, but we will see many other areas like mobile apps, game designs, UX/UI, and more adopt it in the near future.

Concerns about remote talent have been flipped on their head

In addition to a shift in the way companies think about engagement models, there’s also been a noticeable shift in employer’s attitudes toward remote work.

Let’s take a look at how former concerns around a distributed workforce were flipped on their head as a result of the pandemic.

Geography

Access to talent has traditionally been limited by geography. However, once factors like geography are no longer important, companies can keep their options open; as long as someone is qualified to do the work, they can be a candidate. This has opened a new world of opportunities to companies looking for talent. Instead of having to be physically located nearby, companies can now be more focused on finding people that are an organizational fit and have the appropriate skills.

Productivity

While productivity was a main concern of companies shifting their workforces to 100% remote during the pandemic, this fear has not played out. Many companies haven’t seen much—if any—change in productivity. In fact, workers may be even more productive.

According to PwC’s US Remote Work Survey, conducted in January of 2021, more employee respondents say they’re more productive now than they were before the pandemic, and executives agree—over half say average employee productivity has improved.

At Andela, we’ve seen the same spike in productivity. According to Rosa Langhammer, Head of Talent Experience at Andela, our engineers have reported that they love that “they can choose their most productive hours to get into deep work so that they deliver consistently.”

Newfound flexibility

Ultimately, the COVID era has provided more flexibility in engaging and hiring talent globally.

Companies of all sizes, from small-to-medium sized businesses to large enterprises, have recognized that there are a number of advantages with regards to remote work and a distributed workforce.

When Enterprise organizations were asked about some of the key benefits of moving to a globally-distributed workforce in a recent Remote Maturity Model survey that we conducted, respondents said that they now have more high-quality talent to choose from and that engineers outside of the US provide more global and diverse perspectives to their products. What’s more, they found it easier to scale development because they’re closer to a 24/7 development cycle.

Similarly, when organizations that make $501million-1B in yearly revenue were asked what the greatest benefits are of a globally-distributed workforce, they emphasized the ability to scale and speed up hiring, gain regional market expertise, and have an increased return on investment with their team—in that they were gaining higher value given the cost.

The takeaway

The shift to remote work and access to global talent has changed the way companies think about engagement models, assess job candidates, hire talent, and more. This means the future of work will be more globally collaborative and talent will be increasingly assessed more on factors like skill, availability, and fit rather than location. We’ll also see more companies make the shift to these increasingly flexible—and global—ways of working and engaging talent.

Download our Ebook “Making the Shift: Experts Share How to Rapidly Build and Scale Remote Teams” to learn more about the benefits of a distributed workforce.

Sachin Bhagwat
Written by
Sachin Bhagwat
The VP of Enterprise at Andela, Sachin Bhagwat is an executive with over 18+ years of experience in Consulting, Strategy helping C and VP Level leaders at Fortune 500 and Global 2000 clients with Talent Strategy and Deployment. He is based in NY/NJ area.