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COVID-19's impact on international hiring

Throughout the year 2020, HR Managers have been dealing with an unprecedented situation that required quick adaptation. For some, this meant having to put all international hiring on hold, for others, it has meant a rise in hiring needs. What have been the main impacts so far, and what seem to be the trends for the future?

The initial reaction: what have been the main priorities of HR teams?

The outbreak of coronavirus had its effects across the world and, while during the first quarter of the year HR departments and managers were focused on ensuring their workplace was safe for their employees, the focus of their work is slowly changing.

With an initial decrease in international hiring processes, especially due to the lockdown of several countries and the need to understand how the governmental restrictions would impact their companies, HR managers are now describing a different situation.

According to the underlying survey of the Localyze trend report The future of talent mobility post COVID-19, international hiring still remains a priority for many businesses. In fact, 77% of the respondents have indicated that the challenges related to immigration and border closures were one of the main hindrances for the hiring processes, as opposed to any other challenges. On the same note, 73% claimed that the coronavirus pandemic has created a surge in the availability of international talent, which is something that should be taken advantage of.

The recruitment process of hiring international talent

One of the things that has not been affected by the coronavirus crisis is the hiring process itself. While certain restrictions that were put in place due to Covid-19, such as social distancing measures, have changed the recruitment processes of HR teams that were focused on hiring local talent, the same cannot be said about international hires. 

Recruitment activities for new international employees have been mostly operating virtually before the current world situation, and they have remained the same. According to Randstad, having the possibilities to conduct interviews, assessments, and reference checks through virtual platforms are some of the most effective and beneficial methods that employers have been using in order to increase their talent.

Adapting to the difficulty to relocate: how are international employees working?

Closed borders and travel restrictions have been one of the most pressing issues that have affected international hiring, with relocation not being possible in many cases for a period of time. However, companies seem to have quickly adapted to providing different employment options for their international employees until they are able to relocate again.

In fact, according to a PwC report, 52% of the respondents of the underlying survey have stated that they are currently taking steps in order to improve the experience of remote working, which is being utilized while the borders are still closed. Alongside providing the possibility of remote work, HR managers have been opting for different ways of employing international talent. When borders are closed, businesses find themselves in the need of considering the employment options still available for continuing with their hiring processes with candidates that are based in a different location. There are some employment options that can be taken into consideration, such as establishing an international entity abroad, contracting through a PEO or EOR, hiring freelancers or consultants, and secondments or postings.

The selected option by HR managers varies according to the needs of the employer as well as the employee. Depending on how quickly the new hire should start, options such as PEO or EOR recruitment or the use of freelancing talent tend to be the preferred methods. These, however, are not ideal for the long-term, but rather for a short-term collaboration or for isolated cases.

It is also important to consider the impacts Covid-19 has had on the employees themselves, and how companies can improve the hiring experience. According to a survey from CV-Library, 64.7% of IT professionals are worried about the lack of job security during the pandemic. As such, offering employment solutions that give a sense of security to international hires needs to be a priority for HR managers.

International onboarding in the time of a pandemic

Onboarding of international employees is already a challenge without Covid-19 as they on average encounter more struggles than employees locally hired.  Our Localyze survey revealed that 60% of HR professionals experienced that their existing international employees have been struggling with the current world situation, which has demanded an increase in the special attention that is given to international hires. 

A strong onboarding process becomes therefore even more important as it will allow them to become more comfortable in their new position, feel more in touch with the company’s expectations, and be able to perform better overall.

The difficulty in relocation to different countries has also created the demand for adapting onboarding processes to the virtual world, thus assisting the new hires with the joining of the team from their current location. A strong and consistent onboarding process is now, more than ever, a crucial element to ensure the success of international hiring, allowing the new employee to feel welcomed and part of the team even if working from abroad. Ensuring that the proper guidance is given virtually will have a tremendous impact on how quickly the new hire will become a successful long term member of the team.

It is expected that the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic will be slow in terms of the current economic crisis, but as well in terms of the shift back to normality. Companies are still growing and hiring new talent, however, their approach to recruitment is not expected to return to what it was before 2019.

Surveys have demonstrated that several companies have seen the benefits of hiring candidates remotely, as well as from the time-saving virtual recruitment processes they have been using. Due to this, it is expected that even once the pandemic is over, a certain share of recruitment processes will continue to happen online.

Nevertheless, many companies have also stated that they do not wish to use remote work as their main option, stating that the lack of personal interaction can be detrimental to the success of their teams as well as the well-being of their international employees who have relocated and are now living in a foreign country. Rather, there should be a surge of a more flexible working environment, with the possibility of working both from the office and from home. Thus, a hybrid solution.

In regard to welcoming international talent, companies in the tech industry have admitted that this is the ideal time to be hiring. There is a surge of available talent in specialized fields of work, as well as there is a higher probability for people to take risks, jump industries, or even opt for relocation. This is particularly true when it comes to the overcoming of the Covid-19 restrictions, with many candidates considering relocating to countries where the outbreak seems to be under control.

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