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Why you need to hire international tech talent

Written by: Tiona Corcoran, VP, Immigration and Recruitment
May 12, 2021

The market for tech talent is continuing to heat up.  As of March 2021, Canada's national unemployment rate was 7.5 percent while unemployment in the tech sector was less than 3% (Statista). This trend is expected to increase due to the global impact of COVID-19 on businesses around the world adapting to a new digital workplace. The shift to remote workplaces has significantly increased the demand for tech professionals. 

Top in-demand tech roles: 

  1. Data Scientists & Machine Learning Engineers: The demand for data scientists has been accelerated by the pandemic by 50% for the year. 55% of all the data scientists on LinkedIn are located in the United States but there are other hotbeds of data scientists in countries like India, the Netherlands, and Israel (The State of Data Science)
  2. Automation Engineers: It is predicted that more than 3 million automation jobs will emerge in the next decade. The demand has been accelerated by the pandemic with increased reliance on logistics companies, retail, e-commerce, manufacturing and healthcare (Motion Recruitment).  
  3. Full-Stack developers & Mobile developers: Prior to COVID we were seeing an annual increase of 35% in demand for Full Stack Engineers over the past four years (LinkedIn’s 2020 Emerging Jobs Report). Increased demand in industries such as ed-tech, health tech, e-commerce and gaming have accelerated that demand. 
  4. Infrastructure Engineers: test, design, build, and maintain a company's infrastructure, such as a search engine, database, or other platforms. The demand for infrastructure engineers has been exponentially increasing, especially within the telecom industry. Increased online traffic, e-commerce and cloud migration has accelerated demand. 
  5. Cybersecurity Engineers: Since moving to remote work last year,  Cybersecurity attacks have increased 150%. It is expected that in 2021, there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity roles globally, and the yearly cost of cybercrime will reach $6 trillion (Cybersecurity Ventures)

Talent Outlook for 2021

The Canadian tech sector has remained strong in the face of the pandemic, with growth in remote work, e-learning, telemedicine and e-commerce accelerating the adoption of technologies across all sectors. This growth is predicted to continue into 2021, with 40% of Canadian SMEs planning to invest in technology and the sector projected to grow by 2.2% this year (BDC Economic Outlook). 

This increased growth will only continue to increase the demand in the already tight tech talent market. There is not enough local talent to meet the demand for Canadian tech companies. Prior to the pandemic, with Trump’s restrictions on H1-B visas, it was a challenging process for US companies to hire Canadian talent and bring them into the US. With the rise of remote working, Canadian tech companies are struggling to keep tech workers from going to American companies that pay 30% higher salaries and stay in Canada (Financial Post).

According to Bredon Bernard, Senior Economist at Indeed Canada, Canadian tech companies will have to compete harder to hire STEM workers from abroad. Prior to the pandemic, 85% of the population growth was attributed to immigration with Canada issuing more than 400,000 Temporary Work Permits and admitting more than 340,000 permanent residents. Travel restrictions and border closures have significantly impacted these numbers with an 18% drop in the number of foreign workers and only 280,000 new permanent residence visas issued (CIC News). 

The reduced inflow of labour combined with an increase in the demand for skilled workers with specialized tech skills makes it even harder to grow a tech team. It makes sourcing talent a zero-sum game. As one company hires the other retracts. Canadian companies are now learning what Silicon Valley companies have known for a while- the search for top talent is global. 87% of executives believe that the remote workforce is opening up the global market for technical talent while increasing competition among companies (Accenture). Job seekers are no longer required to go through the process of acquiring work visas and can work remotely from anywhere in the world, as either independent contractors or full-time employees. For companies to execute on their growth plans recruiters must expand their search to include international tech talent. The most successful companies that will emerge from the pandemic are those that will not wait for the world to return to an in-person workplace but those adapting their hiring practices to a more global and evolving world (Accenture). 

Why international talent?

The smaller the talent pool, the longer the hiring process takes, hence the need for a bigger pool of talent. In the US, it takes on average 35 days to fill a developer role. In Canada, the process is even longer- 45 days. Many tech jobs go unfilled while recruiters go through numerous rounds of interviews to find the perfect candidate.

  • Hire faster: hiring internationally can significantly reduce your time to hire. By choosing to hire a worker overseas you can significantly reduce the lead time to fill the role. If you choose to hire international talent, you can onboard them remotely using platforms such as Deel which allows you to hire workers compliantly anywhere in the world. On top of that, you can pay your team in 120 local currencies (including cryptocurrencies), giving them the best experience, despite the physical distance. If you still wish to relocate your talent, the Canadian government has created a fast track called the Global Talent Stream (GTS) which allows you to bring talent to Canada in as little as two weeks. 
  • Expand your talent pool: companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple know that hiring tech talent is competitive and they recruit globally for top talent. They use Canada’s GTS as a landing/staging location before eventually bringing them to the US. By expanding your talent pool beyond the local market, you can access people with unique skills that are not readily available in the local market. Talent in other regions in the world comes with diverse work experience and different skills. 
  • Diversity: Diversity is a key driver in productivity and innovation. According to a 2018 McKinsey report the most ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform their peers in profitability and long-term value creation. Diversity is crucial to encouraging different perspectives and ideas that foster innovation (Forbes).
  • Cost savings: Reduction in downtime is another reason for hiring internationally; you can operate across time zones without paying overtime or night shifts. The cost to hire can also be lower. The cost of living significantly varies from city to city and country to country, as we saw last year when tech companies in Silicon Valley proposed a pay cut for anyone moving outside the Valley. Depending on the location of your foreign worker or team you might be able to reduce the salary for your next hire by looking internationally. The average annual salary for a developer in Brazil is $111,000 BRL or $25,000 CAD (Glassdoor), compared to $74,000 CAD in Toronto and $80,000 CAD in Vancouver. 

Considerations before looking international?

Communication: When hiring foreign talent, communications skills are vital. If your company requires proficiency in English or French it will impact the size of the talent pool. But if your team has Spanish-speaking leads, for example, you can hire from the Americas. 

Culture: You’ve spent a lot of time building it, so it is important to ensure that your foreign talent hires are also aligned with your company culture. It would be best to consider including culture fit interviews for the candidates that are in the later stages of the hiring process. However, keep in mind that the company culture is represented in everything you do and should be reflected in the earliest stages of the hiring process such as job descriptions.

Time zones,: It’s a big world out there, so where do you even begin your search? The easiest place to start is time zones. Do you need someone working during the same hours as you or do you want someone to work while your team is offline, with a couple of overlapping hours? Once you have made your decision, ensure smooth onboarding and communication policies that will support working across multiple time zones.

Compliance: Depending on whether you are hiring an independent contractor, a team, or relocating an employee, you will need to ensure that you are adhering to national and international compliance regulations around hiring, paying, and relocating foreign talent. Companies like Deel can support remote hiring (for both contractors and employees) without the need to open a foreign subsidiary and companies like Global Talent Accelerator can support tech talent immigration filings for work permits and permanent residency into Canada. 

Benefits: Offering benefits to your international staff can be challenging, due to international regulations and worker status. Luckily, there are ways to offer your global team health insurance, perks and even equity, while staying compliant and ensuring they stay on par with their local counterparts.

How do I begin?

Now, before you hop on Linkedin and start sending messages to developers all over the world, there are a few things that you should consider. 

  1. Determine your needs: Do you need to build a team, an individual for a short-term project, or a dedicated, full-time employee? Can that employee work remotely or do you need them here on-site in Canada? Consider where your business is at, right now, and what the best solution is for your specific development needs. You probably don’t need someone physically present in Canada for a short-term project.
  2. Define company culture: Understanding your company culture and communication style are one of the determining factors when hiring internationally. Even if you are working with an outsourcing dev shop you’d want to ensure culture alignment. It is important to understand each other's preferred style of communication and collaboration and how you both approach challenges. Alignment in these areas will reduce potential conflict and increase your team’s productivity. 
  3. Find help: While doing it yourself is always an option, there is no reason for you to take time away from your business to learn about international hiring compliance and immigration. There are many companies out there that specialize in sourcing, hiring, relocating, and onboarding international talent. It is well worth the investment and will ensure you are bringing in the right people, the right way.