Strategy: Talent Without Borders Raises Some Tricky Questions

The anecdotal evidence is in (even if the data is mixed). Companies have been pleasantly surprised by a lack of productivity drop-off as a result of their people working from home (WFH). Coupled with potential overhead savings by shrinking their real estate footprint, organizations are now adapting their policies.

Several large organizations have announced extended WFH adoption for all employees. Like Slack, which has stated that their people will be working from home “indefinitely.” Or like Google, which announced work-from-home through July 2021, giving employees some stability around planning their living situation for the next year. 

But it’s not just tech companies: Nationwide Insurance, like other employers outside of Silicon Alley, has adopted a permanent WFH model, as well. (Yes, I’m aware there is a large number of employees who cannot and never will be able to work from home. I support paying them appropriately, ensuring that they have the PPE necessary to work safely, and finding ways to add scheduling flexibility to help them meet competing needs at work and home. But that’s a separate article!)

Given the trend toward accepting WFH as a long-term solution, it’s important to rethink your organization’s hiring practices. Where people sit is no longer as important as whether they can do the work. Translation: You can expand the geographic footprint from which you source candidates.

There are a lot of advantages to this: Metro areas that traditionally struggle to attract top talent can now source from tech hubs; candidates no longer have to worry about relocation with a potential increase in cost of living; and intentional hiring practices could expand an organization’s diversity by opening up the talent pool. None of which even begins to address the potential cost savings in office setup. 

Before you jump in with both feet to hire from anywhere, there are some things to consider:

  • What is leadership’s perspective on WFH? While some organizations are embracing WFH as a permanent option, it’s not for everyone. Leadership needs to be aligned on the longevity and positivity of this before you start hiring candidates from anywhere. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
  • What’s the ROI on a remote employee? Let’s say your organization isn’t going to full WFH but will accept some remote employees. It’s important to determine the ROI of a remote employee for that role. Except, this isn’t any different than any other remote employee. Simply look at the cost of relocation and salary vs the cost of having that person potentially travel once in a while. Just be aware of the pros and cons of a mix of remote vs onsite employees on any given team. Most organizations handle it with ease, but depending on the work being done or your culture, it may take some time getting used to.
  • Have you thought about compensation and salary ranges? I’m not a fan of docking salaries because people can now live in cheaper places, as Facebook intends to do. But think about your comp structures going forward. How will you adjust the ranges to accommodate skills vs location? How will you handle merit and salary adjustments for people who move to Montana now that they don’t have to find a tiny overpriced apartment in Manhattan? You might choose to go with a national average, or you might decide to set an incredibly wide range and then base offers on candidates’ locations. Whichever you decide to do, establish your post-COVID pay philosophy before you start hiring willy-nilly.
  • Are your competitors going permanent WFH? Depending on your industry and the demand of skill sets for your ideal candidates, allowing people to WFH could be a competitive advantage (though if WFH has always been an expectation at your company, the current climate doesn’t fundamentally change your EVP). Despite sky-high unemployment, top in-demand candidates should still have the upper hand on where they want to work, and you need to consider which factors will become table stakes for those candidates. 

This is just a sampling of the considerations before you plunge headfirst into a borderless talent pool, but it’s important you start having those internal conversations now. The liquid workforce is only going to become more fluid and squishy in the years to come. Building a talent pipeline to meet your business’ needs –and those of your candidates and workers — means taking a stand on some issues that you have avoided up until now. Regardless of whether you decide to embrace the borderless candidate, it’s important to at least make an informed decision and build your talent strategy from there. 

Mary is a senior advisor with IA, a boutique consulting firm focused on HR transformation. She is also a talent strategist and business leader with almost 15 years experience in helping organizations achieve their goals. After working on the operations side of start-ups and small companies, Mary landed in HR by way of learning and development, with extensive experience in leadership and organizational development, coaching, key talent planning, talent acquisition, performance management, business partnering, HRIS, process and policy creation, and instructional design.

In addition to her work within companies, Mary authors a leadership development blog called Surviving Leadership to continue the dialogue around the challenges of leadership – both being a leader and being led. 

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