The challenge facing many organisations is where to find talent. International recruitment practices may help business leaders face the challenge, countering the effects of the UK's skills shortage. Casting a recruitment net across borders may help to fill in-demand roles such as IT and computing, as well as hospitality.

The pandemic, says The Guardian, ‘changed how some people think about life, work, and what they want out of both’. It seems there is no shortage of willing candidates eager to fill new roles, so the key for business leaders is in enabling geographical mobility strategies.

This matters because, while there are similarities between domestic recruitment and international recruitment practices, there are significant differences. And, in a highly competitive talent marketplace, it’s a good idea to get ahead (and stay ahead) of the curve.

Talent and skills can be found across borders

To plug skills gaps, it may pay to focus on the wants and needs of Gen Z. These may include remote and flexible work policies, fair salaries, and diversity and inclusion credentials.

Deloitte’s Global 2022 Gen Z and Millennial Survey says 49% of Gen Zs and 45% of millennials work remotely at least some of the time, and three-quarters say this would be their preferred mode of working. In September 2022, says HRreview, there were 1,034 ‘work from anywhere’ (WFA) vacancies, representing a 48% year-on-year increase. And it's the cool companies that young talent wants to work for that offer the most attractive policies. For example, Spotify announced that ‘distributed-first is the future of work’ at the beginning of 2021.

A London School of Economics study, according to BDR Group, says access to remote work increases employee wellbeing and productivity. This is great news for employers already attuned to the benefits of international recruitment. Yet, what about those unaware of the advantages of embracing geographic mobility?

Following a stringent recruitment process, with the foundation stones of effective remote onboarding in place, could help organisations discover Gen Z and Millennial digital nomads. This process looks similar to a domestic recruitment strategy, but there are some differences.

Know what’s needed most, and tackle the pain points

International recruitment isn’t an obscure science. Organisations still have to identify what they need, attract talent that matches business needs, conduct interviews, make a selection, then hire and onboard the right candidates. Some differences lie in the details.

For instance, it may be a good idea to drill down into what the business requires the most. Scarcity of talent dictates that these should be the first people a business recruits, to ensure specific skills gaps are met as a top priority. By casting a wider net over geographical boundaries, senior leaders may have a better chance of recruiting people who can help the business grow.

There are obstacles to consider. Typical pain points for international recruitment may be cultural differences, regional employment laws, expectations, and so on. These should ideally be factored into any international recruitment process, so that learning can take place as well as hiring.

As well as guidelines around remote working from afar, there are factors such as work visas to consider, and timezones, tax and legal regulations, sponsorship (more about this below), and differences in educational standards. (Of course, it may be better to emphasise skills and qualifications over educational achievements, as highlighted by India's People Matters.)

The importance of sponsor licences

In 2010, a PwC report forecast ‘the growing importance of emerging markets’ over the following decade, that would provide ‘greater diversity in the global talent pool’. More than a decade has passed since the PwC report, yet Migrate UK analysis of ONS data, according to People Management, reveals that ‘many organisations are still failing to use sponsor licences to aid recruitment’.

The desire to embrace the geographical mobility of labour doesn’t appear to be reflected by common sense. While there are post-Brexit arguments for and against migrant workers, they appear redundant when the infrastructure is in place, yet organisations are not using it to counter skills shortages.

Not having a sponsorship licence, says Helen Astill of Cherington HR, ‘severely restricts the available talent pool, while businesses are currently finding it really difficult to fill some of their posts with those who have the right to work in the UK’. The answer, as obvious as it sounds, is to apply for a sponsorship licence.

The power of geographic mobility

There are obvious paths to follow: common guidelines around domestic recruitment strategies, for example. Knowing what to do above and beyond these guidelines may be the difference between a positive or negative international recruitment strategy. 

Leaders should know what they need, identifying talent gaps that will help the business scale. It may still be beneficial to promote rather than hire someone new, so include this as part of the due diligence process. Otherwise, emphasise company culture and values, thought leadership credentials, and strengthen onboarding so that employees remain engaged and connected, wherever they are in the world.

Geographic mobility is a powerful enabler of work opportunities for people in far-flung corners of the world. It's also an enabler of business growth and opportunity in a crowded marketplace.