As an American living abroad, I often get asked 'why did you choose to build a company in the UK'? My answer is simple -- I believe that finding top talent is the number one priority for building a successful company, and being based in the UK allows me to access the best from all over the world. Let me expand on this further.
Today, most executives would agree that the ability to attract and retain top talent is a key competitive differentiator for their business, but more than 63% of CEOs are concerned about the availability of key skills needed for their business to succeed (PwC).
Critical skills shortages are adding increasing pressures on companies to meet their projected recruitment targets. For example, one recent study from Everline found that the UK economy could lose £18 billion because of over half a million in job vacancies that businesses cannot fill due to the lack of qualified skills.
As the CEO of a UK-based tech startup that helps global companies relocate talent, I observe this challenge on a daily basis. Many of our customers cannot find the talent they need to grow their businesses, so they have to source from long distances and abroad to fill these massive skills gaps.
Opening the doors to the worlds best and brightest allows them to move between borders, creating a much larger talent pool for companies to attract and retain key skill-sets on a global scale.
My company significantly benefits from being a part of the EU. We can attract the best talent from all over Europe and as part of the Commonwealth, the UK also has easy visa application requirements for Commonwealth citizens, which we leverage to expand our talent pool. This has significantly broadened our talent pool, helped us meet recruitment goals and has enabled us to build a truly global team of over 30+ nationalities.
Another good example of this is a retailer we work with. They cannot find the designers they need in their local market, so they recruit a lot from abroad. They also have a strong company culture so they seed new stores and locations in other markets with existing talent to ensure their values are embedded globally.
That said, an increase in visa restrictions, the spread of anti-immigrant sentiments and political pressures are making it extremely challenging for companies to attract and recruit from outside their home markets.
One of our customers recently faced this challenge. A European tech company expanding to the US wanted to send an executive to open an office. The executive had to wait months to receive their visa and the growth of the business was inhibited while they waited in London.
Unfortunately, this type of red tape happens more often than not and can dramatically impact the employee, and their team members, who have to put their personal and professional lives on hold in the interim.
In addition to helping close the skills gap, immigrants have long played a big role in the vibrancy of the tech industry. Of the top 25 US-headquartered tech companies, 60% were founded by first or second generation Americans, reported Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
The importance of leveraging talent from abroad is also evident through campaigns such as FWD.us, founded by top tech executives, such as Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and Sean Parker, to mobilize the tech community around comprehensive immigration reform. They understand that the exchange between different nationalities enables team members to view the world through different lens, create international networks and promote a company culture driven by innovation.
Companies cannot afford to lose out on recruiting outside their home markets especially when the intense competition for global talent will only get tougher given rapid globalization and global skills shortages. The deployment of talent and skills on a global scale is more critical than ever before and it is essential for growing a successful business in the 21st century.