Changes in the recruitment market have been present around the world for several years now. An increase in freelancing and remote working, the introduction of Gen-Z into the workforce, and changes in expectations like the four-day working week have all meant that businesses need to adapt their hiring strategies to keep up with what candidates want.
The engineering industry is no different. But on top of that ongoing challenge, the UK is also facing a skills shortage that is impacting STEM sectors in particular, with an Institution of Engineering and Technology survey highlighting that 49% of new engineering graduates lack the necessary technical or soft skills.
When it comes to sourcing the most talented candidates, many engineering companies are now looking at the international job market in order to find employees with the necessary skills to help their company succeed. But are global recruiting strategies actually a reliable approach, and what do engineering companies need to change if they want to expand their candidate pool?
In this article, we explain everything you need to know about international recruiting and hiring a global workforce.
The Benefits of Hiring International Employees
When you open your recruitment efforts to include candidates from around the world, you have the potential to receive a range of benefits. Here are some of the most rewarding.
Access to More Talent
Perhaps the biggest benefit of global hiring, and one of the key reasons it can help to combat the UK’s skills shortage, is that it gives companies access to a much wider talent pool. Instead of trying to source the right kinds of employees exclusively from the same country, international recruitment means that there will be plenty more candidates available with the skills and experience you need.
There are talented engineers placed all over the world, and if you’re recruiting for specialist roles then you’ll have a much larger selection of candidates to choose from if you widen your search to other countries.
Greater Chance of Innovation
A wider talent pool also brings the benefit of higher chances of innovation because of the diversity of employees you’ll end up with. Research has proven that companies with a more diverse employee base produce more revenue through innovation than companies with below-average diversity, and you can achieve this diversity by hiring internationally.
When it comes to brainstorming ideas or working collaboratively, employees from different places are likely to have had different experiences and therefore bring different perspectives to the table. This allows for great creativity, more expansive ideas and more innovative solutions.
Speaking of diversity, global recruitment can help you to create a much more diverse workforce, and not just because you’ll be hiring employees that come from different parts of the world. Having a wider candidate pool means that you’ll likely have access to candidates from a range of backgrounds and identities, helping to ensure that your hiring efforts are as inclusive as possible.
You should never hire candidates for the sake of ticking a diversity box, but global recruiting strategies are a useful way of increasing the different types of people that apply for your roles. As well as the innovation benefits we highlighted above, having a more diverse workforce is also an advantage because companies with the most diverse teams are likely to outperform their competitors by 36% in terms of profits.
Increased Hours of Operation
A practical advantage of having a workforce that is spread across the world is that your company’s hours of operation will be able to increase. You might not be able to offer much in terms of 24/7 service if you only have a few international employees, but it can be reassuring to know that someone is always online and able to quickly identify issues or handle problems when they occur.
This can also be a benefit in terms of client relations, as you’ll decrease the time that clients are left waiting for a response by having more employees online around the clock.
International Market Access
One of the key benefits of a global workforce is that it can help your engineering company venture into international markets, which can have a huge influence on your growth.
Selling your product or services abroad can be a risky step for a company, especially if they’re trying to venture into a new culture or operate in another language. Having employees already working in another country can help to ensure your sales efforts will be well received by a new audience, highlight any potential cultural mishaps, and provide a local touchpoint for clients whilst you’re still getting properly established.
The Challenges of Global Recruitment
Whilst there are many benefits to hiring employees from around the world, this approach to recruitment does also present a fair few challenges that engineering businesses need to prepare for.
Sourcing in a New Market
The types of candidates you’ll be hiring will have many similarities with engineers from the UK, but you should be aware that sourcing them for potential roles will have to be done differently. Outreaching and advertising new roles in other countries requires an understanding of the recruitment market in these cultures, and you’ll need to tailor your approach if you want to find the most talented candidates.
Whilst many job websites are used internationally to advertise roles, make sure that you research where your target candidates are searching for jobs and get your roles on that platform. Consider whether you need to adapt your advertisements as well, whether this involves changing the language and/or imagery use, or ensuring that the remote aspect of the job is front and centre of the role description.
Screening and Interviewing
Following on from that point, it can also be more of a challenge to screen and interview candidates when they’re remote. The events of the past few years have meant that things like video interviews or online assessments are much more straightforward than they once were, but it can still be tricky to get a proper feel for someone’s character.
There are also more logistical details to discuss when hiring an international employee, as you’ll need to find out what times they’d be comfortable working, how they feel about joining a team remotely and whether they’d be open to travelling for specific events or meetings.
Using the same recruitment approach as with local candidates is unlikely to cut it in these cases. Analyse your current hiring process and identify which areas will need to be tailored when you’re focusing on global recruitment.
Once you’ve hired a new employee that lives and works abroad, one of the key challenges faced by engineering companies is helping them to fit into your existing team. As with virtual interviews, most people are much more comfortable collaborating and socialising with colleagues online than they were a few years ago, but it can still be tricky to integrate an international employee.
Of course, if the rest of your team also works remotely a lot of the time, this won’t be as much of an issue. But some elements of company culture can be lost when a team isn’t working together in person, so you’ll need to think of ways that you can facilitate relationships and ensure a smooth transition when some employees aren’t in the same location.
Virtual communication with team members and employees is possible across a range of software and platforms, so the potential challenge here isn’t necessarily that a global workforce won’t be able to communicate with each other. Instead, the issue is that you can have problems with this communication if you don’t define how employees should share information and collaborate, so a clear system is needed that new employees should all be briefed on.
If your staff are working across different time zones, set specific hours when everyone is required to be online and ensure that meetings are planned for this time. Set an
expectation that remote employees must have a one-on-one with their manager a certain number of times a month, and ensure that some, or all social and team-building activities are accessible for people in different locations. Try to keep communication as visible to everyone as possible, and clearly outline expectations and processes so that new employees know how to keep in touch with their team.
One of the key challenges faced by engineering companies that want to hire international employees is that certain arrangements will require international tax compliance. If you hire permanent employees in another country, you may have to pay taxes in these locations because they are classed as a ‘permanent establishment’ for your business.
Depending on the number of international employees, or your long-term plans for global hiring, you may decide to set up a subsidiary for your company that pays local taxes and complies with local laws. This may not be a viable option for everyone however, so you need to make a plan for how you’ll remain compliant and manage international taxes.
The Best Recruiting Methods for International Recruitment
Hiring international employees is a great way to combat the UK’s current skills shortage and put together a team of exceptional engineers. Here are some of the best recruiting methods you should employ when putting together a global workforce.
Get Familiar with the Job Market
We’ve touched on this point already, but when you’re expanding your recruitment efforts to international markets, it’s important to get familiar with the recruitment scene in different countries before you start advertising jobs there. Read recruitment trend reports from other locations, speak to a recruitment expert with international recruiting experience like KO2, or reach out to other engineering companies that have a global workforce and ask for advice or insight.
Tailor Your International Hiring Approach
In some cases, recruitment will happen pretty similarly and candidate expectations will be the same, which means you won’t have to tweak your approach too much. But in others, finding engineers from other countries will require a completely different sourcing approach, which is why it’s so important to do your research into international markets and then adapt your approach to recruitment accordingly.
Be Specific About Requirements
Specificity is important in all job descriptions, but when you’re hiring internationally you need to really double down on this. A lack of clarity in role responsibilities is a huge issue when employees are working remotely, and the last thing you want is to onboard an international candidate only for them to leave the role in a few months because it wasn’t what they wanted or they didn’t have the required skills.
Be clear on any essential skills or training, explain how they will fit into the team in a remote position, and make any expectations in terms of travel or availability transparent from the start.
Develop a Strong Culture
If you’re going to expand your engineering business to have employees placed all over the world, you need a strong company culture. This culture will ensure that all your staff are aligned on values and goals, as well as help teams to feel connected even when they rarely or never see each other in person.
Developing a strong culture for inbound recruitment takes time and needs to be tackled from multiple angles; your brand image, your workplace culture, your employee benefits, your brand values and how you personify these, and your overall approach to business. A good place to start is returning to the values at the core of your brand, making sure these are clear in job adverts and in mind when recruiting, and then working on helping employees feel aligned to these with the work that they do.
Be Willing to Adapt
Finally, if you’re new to international recruiting then remember to stay flexible and be ready to adapt your expectations when you’re hiring new employees. You might have a clear idea in mind for how you’d like your global workforce to operate, but some candidates might have requirements you need to meet, or you might have to change your approach once you realise internal processes aren’t working as well as they should be. The way you hire, onboard and manage remote employees will change over time as you figure out what works best, so stay open to adapting from the start.
The workforce of the future is likely to be spread out across the world, either living internationally or enjoying the freedom of flexible and remote working to do their jobs from a range of different locations. Adopting an international approach to recruitment is the best way to source the most talented and qualified candidates for your engineering business, along with ensuring that your company remains competitive and creates a culture that allows teams to connect and collaborate from all over the world.
If you’re looking for support in international recruitment in the engineering industry, KO2 is a specialist recruitment agency that can help. You can read more recruitment advice on our blog, or get in touch to speak to a member of our experienced team.