Technically People
Technically People

Episode · 1 month ago

Sponsoring Foreign Nationals to Fill Tech Talent Shortage


Today’s guest, Dick Burke, says companies can’t expect to fill their technical roles at the speed required without turning to foreign national talent. The CEO of Envoy Global, which helps employers streamline the process of sponsoring foreign nationals, notes that 78% of students pursuing master’s or doctoral degrees for computer science are foreign nationals. 

“You should be thinking of this as a whole other pool from which to fish,” he says. “While it can be complex, there are a lot of fish in that pool.” 

Dick shares tactical tips for HR professionals who want to take advantage of the benefits of foreign national sponsorship. He also dispels misassumptions about foreign national sponsorship, as well as misassumptions about immigration in general. 

“Don't we want the Sergey Brin’s and the Jerry Yang’s and the Elon Musk’s and the Luke Nosek’s — don't we want those people on our team?” he says, underscoring that the dialogue around the topic needs to divorce illegal from legal immigration. “I would think so. And don't we know that folks who create patents and win Nobel Prizes are disproportionately foreign nationals?”  


  • Primary sponsorship scenarios, starting with foreign nationals who are already in the U.S., including students.
  • Notable research on the topic, including the fact that 82% of HR professionals expect their foreign national headcount to increase or remain the same in 2022 
  • How to navigate the pain points often cited by HR professionals, such as cost, persistently insufficient availability of H-1B visa slots and a lack of predictability in the regulatory environment  
  • The need to recognize that the economics around the topic isn’t a zero sum game; immigration doesn’t take jobs but makes them 
  • How to build onboarding that’s welcoming to foreign national talent

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Welcome to technically people, a communityconversation by and for workplace futurists brought to you by the tech recruitment platform builtin. The podcast features insights from leaders, thinkers and doers on the vanguard buildinghuman centered workplaces of the future. Along the way, you'll hear conceptsthat will stop you in your tracks, concepts that inspire you to ask yourself, what's the most future forward way to approach my people leadership? We allknow the future of work isn't waiting around, so let's get on with the show. Hi Everyone, welcome to the show technically people. I'm your host, Tiffany Myers, and I'm really excited to introduce our guest for the day. Dick Burke is the president and CEO of envoy Global, and envoy globaluses tech to streamline the process of sponsoring foreign nationals. A sponsorship has alwaysbeen very complicated, but two thousand and twenty one has made it more so, given the pandemic, let's say, and the tech talent shortage. SoDick is going to explain why for a national sponsorship is not only crucial forcompanies who are really pressured to meet hiring needs, but also for the USto have a faster economic bounce back. And I'll just say one last thing. He is a fairly fierce advocate for international workers, and so you're goingto pick that up throughout our conversation. Hi, Dick, how are you? Thanks for being here. High Tiffany, wonderful to be with you today andwonderful to be with your audience. I am a big advocate of immigration. Will get into the reasons why and, like I said, delighted to bewith you. I'm a huge fan of built in, a big fanof Maria Cattriss, first generation immigrant. Point out, Tiffany Myers, firstgeneration immigrants. So I really looking forward to today. That's right. FirstJen Immigration, talking about immigration today with you all. All Right, Iwanted to share some findings from a two thousand and twenty one survey of HRprofessionals that envoy produced. So ad two percent of HR professionals in this surveysaid that they expected their foreign national head count to increase or remain the sameover the next year. It's also really big in tech. So tech jobsmade up more than sixty nine percent of all foreign labor requests in two thousandand twenty, so let's get into it. Tell me about some miss assumptions thatpeople have about foreign nationals. The topic of immigration is rife with MissAssumption and that's really one of the things that is held us back from having, I'd argue, common sense immigration reform. Some of the most pernicious miss assumptionsassumed that the economy is zero sum, that if someone is taking something,someone else must be losing that thing, and all the Labor economists and allthe research the demonstrate that to be false. So we know, forinstance, that immigrants add to employment. They do not take jobs, theycreate jobs. I don't know, Tiffany, whether it's selection bias. Will getinto this little bit later, but they are those that are willing toleave their neighborhood, leave their family, leave their friends, leave their classmatesand come here. are going to be a bit more risk taking, abit more innovative, a bit more entrepreneurial, and as a result, all thoseresearch makes clear that they are job makers, not job takers, andthat maker Taker misassumption applies to the economics. In two thousand and eighteen, thelast year forage, good numbers are available for nationals contribute over four hundredbillion dollars in taxes to the US economy, and that excludes that paid by thosewho've been hired by foreign nationals. We also know that many for nationalsare not even able to collect social security. To the contrary, they are addingto the till, is opposed to taking from the till. But thoseare, I think, most damaging and most inaccurate misassumption amongst the range ofthem. Yeah, for sure, and...

I you know, I just thinkthat's so important for people to understand that this is an additive scenario, andyou spelled it out pretty perfectly. We are now in an era of recordlow tech unemployment, so it's been hovering between one to two percent, andwe're also facing this rate resignation, and what that means is recruiters are goingto need to both backfill and hire their roles for the future. So Iwanted to talk about your point of view that sponsorship of for our nationals isat least part of filling the gap and TEX skills. It's thank you,and you're exactly right. We're curious when covid came, what would hiring managersthink about the need for foreign talent, and for exactly the reasons you said, Tiffany, they're expecting the need for for talent to increase, not decrease, even with the ascendency of remote work. And why is that? Well,you outline some of the issues. Number One, the unemployment rate forstem professionals actually went down during covid it never got above three and is tailingdown, like you said. So we know there's a shortage of people.We also know that tech companies generally are growing faster than other companies. That'snot me talking, that's the US government saying when they do forecasts and historicanalysis, tech companies have been growing faster and we know the tech companies havethis pronounced need for stem talent. We also know that, against this backdropof a shortage of workers, seventy eight percent of students pursuing masters or doctoraldegrees for computer science are for national so if you think you're going to solvea hundred percent solve your hiring need, particularly for tech, without looking atfor nationals, I think you're fooling yourself. You should be thinking this is awhole nother pool from which to fish from. While it can be complex, there's there's a lot of fish in that pool, and so we thinkthat the combination of low unemployment great resignation underscores the need to have a thoughtfulimmigration policy, not to be do good or because you get great talent wellput. So moving along, there's something I'd like to do for our listenersbecause, well, we've already covered the fact that this is a really complexlandscape, but I think it'll be helpful for us to outline some of theprimary sponsorship scenarios. And these these scenarios, many of them envoy helps guide companies. So I'm going to go ahead and outline them. So first,we have companies who sponsor foreign nationals who are already in the US, andwhat that means, typically speaking, is that they're recruiting students. Second scenariowhen a foreign national changes from one US employer to another. Third, companiesbring foreign nationals to the US, which is, I think, kind ofwhat people have in mind when they think about the H One b visa andapplying for that. And the fourth is that companies sponsor employees who stay overseasbut work remotely. So I think that covers most of the scenarios, butif you want to learn more, I would just say go straight to onVoy. Globalcom, because there are temporary work visas. Page has a lotmore information about each of those. So, generally speaking, what to h ourprofessionals say are the main struggles that they face? Certainly thank you forreferencing that resources page, Tiffany, on the envoy globalcom website. We've hadfrankly, terrific content in there and it's written to be accessible. Too oftenlegal memoranda, and I can say this is a thirty two year lawyer,can be as dry as sawdust are, but we, in connection with ouryou will represent over a thousand different employers from fortune forty companies all the waydown to start up. We do the surveying on top that's we really havea really pretty good sense and there's probably three or four pain points that aremost consistently referenced by employers as to being headaches around immigration. They're all surmountablewith planning and with good council, but...

...there they do exist. Number oneis there's a persistent lack of availability, or insufficient availability of visa slots.Every year the government conducts this H One b visa lottery. Eighty five thousandslots available, consistently oversubscribed by the tune of three to one. We havefinite supplies of other visas as well. Employers are making clear to us they'dlike to see more availability and as you think about how much our economy hasgrown in the last twenty years, it's pretty shocking to think that in manyof the visa classes have not increased one bit. In fact there's perhaps beensome contraction from the prior administration. So number one, more availability. Numbertwo, they'd like more predictability. Business likes a predictable environment and the regulatoryworld. When there's a lot of uncertainty and tumult it's difficult to plan anddifficult to bank on something as important as you're hiring strategy. So they wantmore consistency, more predictability. The good news is the current administration seems tobe understanding that and moving towards that, and that's been been very well receivedby our by those were lucky enough to serve. Number three is cost.The costs that the government collects to process these applications is not trivial. Theseagencies that process are not funded by tax pair dollars. They are funded entirelyby the application fees and they've gone up pretty dramatically and they love to finda way to have those stop increasing so much. One way that would happen. That would leads to the fourth thing, after availability predictable in cost, wouldbe a move to more digital friendly landscape. You think about you payyour taxes electronically and online. You can file documents with the SEC electronically.Still everything to the US government for immigration, almost all of it is still paperbased, which slows things down and adds cost. So those are thefour things that the most employers can consistently point to, and they can allbe navigated a again with good planning and good council. Yeah, so maybegood for FEDECX, but not good for the rest of the US. Yeah, exactly. So all of that's really interesting. I would say cost,I would expect that to come up. The lack of predictability, I thinkto meet would be something that I would predict. But what strikes me themost is the fact that there are one point two million applicants who are onthe waiting list because the government's allotments of these green cards hasn't changed. It'sastonishing to think that, amid all of that, fifty nine percent of theAsia professionals. You survey plans to increase their foreign national sponsorship head count.That says a lot. So, in any case, you just outlined theproblems, the pain points. So give us the flip side. Give ussome of the solutions. Well, the solutions. I think it needs tostart with a change in attitude. What we think has to happen is weneed to divorce legal from illegal immigration. We need to view high skilled immigrationas a separate issue of national economic consequence. Don't we want the Sergey brins andthe Jerry Yang's and the Elon mosques and the Luke no six? Don'twe want those people on our team? I would think so. And anddon't we know that folks who create patents and when Nobel Prizes are disproportionately fornationals? And so what we need to do is isolate the discussion to afact based debate about high school dimigration and then we can make clear all thepositive benefits the convert. But until that happens it's going to get swept upin this partisan vitriol around immigration generally. So that's, you know, themain thing that has to happen. Yeah, and to Echo what you said,don't we want German born Einstein on our side, and I think theanswer for everyone would be us. Thank you please. I want to talkabout another potential solution or a path to solution, which is advocacy, andI want to hear how you advocate. Sure we advocate in Washington and throughour research. We work with groups.

Is Disparate is the Cato Institute,Right Wing Libertarian happens to be very prosed skilled immigration, all the way tothe versions of them on the left of the political spectrum. So we workwith anyone who's willing to have a dispassionate debate. We also keep a strongear to what's happening in Washington and we just continually try to tone down thetemperature and provide facts that underscore the criticality of immigrants to our economy, whetherit's the innovation economy, whether it's job creation, whether it's contributions to socialsecurity, whether it's a way to address the population decline, and how arewe going to handle that in terms of social security if we're going net zeroin terms of population growth? We try to find arguments that rise above thethe partisan two things that are bit more common sensical with think tanks and withlegislators and you hope it breaks through, but truth be told, it's astruggle because it is wrapped up in this inextricable mess around immigration writ large.Yeah, just passionate was the key word there. and well, this passionateand data driven in your case too. And I don't know, there's thesaying data will set you free, and I feel like that's part of youradvocacy, is being bipartisan and saying here the numbers. So yeah, itmake up your own mind and if you're being intellectually honest, you'll realize thepositive benefits for our team, for the United States. So okay, that'sthat is all really important and also really high level stuff. Let's get downto the brass tax get a little bit more tactical. Tell me where hare professionals who want to do this. Should start recruiting, for instance,sure, three or four spots, one colleges and universities. You can getpeople young, you can train them as you wish, all the benefits ofthat. And the advice we give is do not be alarmed or put offby the fact that they will need authorization. There are avenues out there that canbe pursued. And if you're putting together a basketball team, why wouldyou say we're not taking anyone from a certain country? Chicago Bulls wouldn't dothat. You shouldn't do that either. So colleges and universities number one.You can look internationally. There are Jobo words that focus on people. Indianuniversity system, it it, Indian Institute of Technology, is deemed by many, everybody, the equal of MIT. You can look internationally. You canlook at people who are already here in the United States. They've received workauthorization and now all you would need to do is transfer and you can findthem on all the common job boards. And then obviously intercompany transfers. Ifyou're a big enough company with overseas operations, you can take advantage, hopefully,of what's called the L visa to move people from an overseas branch overto the United States. The reality is the financial are large part of theworkforce in stem fields. They over index. So the problem isn't finding them.The problem is saying, okay, we are going to do the littlebit extra work to get all the benefits are going to bring. So it'sreally change in execution versus trying to find them. Yeah, and just thinkabout how opposition all the conversation is around finding touch talent. You know,you're saying the problem is not finding them. Well, all we're talking about herein the US has the problem is finding touch talent. Yeah, it'sreally hard to find tech talent. Why make it all the harder by ignoringsome of the candidates are coming across just because they'll need authorization? You know, the large majority of those we serve are already here. It's slightly easierproposition. I think the wisest and scrappiest tea teams are focused on that andnot ignoring that critical part of the Labor Pool. MMM, yeah, getscrappy. So all right, you've done your recruitment, you've managed to fightyour way through the red tape, if maybe engaged the help of envoy,and you have your foreign national here and...

I imagine, just a hunch,that there's going to be some kind of culture shock for the foreign worker.So tell me some of the things that you do to help hr people leadersthat help their for a nationals feel comfortable? Sure, I'm really grateful, Tiffany, that you raise this point because after you go through the hassle ofrealizing okay, workers are going to need authorization and we get them. Wouldn'tit be a shamed to lose them? And so we advise h our armsto think of it as on boarding plus all the steps you take with newemployees to on board them, introduce them to the company and explain the cultureand roll out the welcome Mat and have them meet people in community building,all those things. You need to do that, plus a few other things. You're going to want to make certain that you explain to your existing workforcewhy customers maybe a little bit different, that the new person you're so excitedto have may think it's odd that the beers start opening up Friday at threePM, that we have a big party at the end of the year.You know when people were crazy sweaters. So you need to educate your existingworkforce, maybe for probably native born, to be empathic, to realize thatthese all the things that we consider normal are going to be for so orientationplus. It is empathy, it is some educational components. It is communication, making certain, particularly this remote day and age, that you are reachingout over phone, over slack, over video, so that they feel welcome, recognize that they're not home, this is not their first language more likely. So you've got to be extra welcoming, extra empathic. You want to treatthem as a guest and make them feel welcome. So really nothing crazycomplicated, just be mindful of it. Yeah, and I think it's actuallyof particular importance to HR people in the tech community because some of those thingsthat you mentioned that are going to seem really weird the foreign worker are particularattack. You know, the beer at three PM in the kitchen on aThursday is pretty unique. To tack. I also think we could talked aboutthe flip side, which is helping current employees understand why does this new colleagueof mind pray five times a day or fast for one month of the year? So go both ways right, without a doubt. It can be fasting, it can be praying, it can be why will the second monitor beshowing a cricket game and during the afternoon? You've got to be really mindful ofeven like a reticence to shake hands. You've got to just be very awareof it's a big world with different customs and more as, and peopleneed to be welcoming and tolerant of that. In the benefits will be really quiterich. All the innovation benefits, the familiarity with foreign markets, ifyou're thinking about expanding that way, a diversity of opinion. You'll get allthese benefits. But it's critical to retain these people and to be mindful ofall those things. Yeah, you know, and I hear about that, Ithink. Also, you know, leaders are so trained to not stepon any political or illegal landmines. How can an h our professional be assensitive as they need to be if they are doing all of this education arounddifferent cultures? Well, that is a really a terrific question because if itgoes the wrong way it can lead to a concern about profiling or discrimination,but if it goes the right way it can create an avenue for a morehospitable, welcoming, collegial and environment. I just think I'd encourage h ourprofessional to keep your eyes open and let the foreign national know that you're herefor them. How can you support them other things that would make their life, their day in the office, more enjoyable to them? How can yoube supportive and see what comes to that? I wouldn't look at someone and makean assumption around fasting or drinking or...

...any of those things. But Ithink if you can create an atmosphere and a culture of inclusion, you willhear and you will know. Yeah, I think so often what we comeback to and we're talking about things like this is just ask you know,just touch base, how are you doing? And, as you said, don'tmake the assumption, and I think also the idea of creating a culturethat's inclusive for everyone, inclusive for both the foreign national and the kid fromChicago is going to create some of that comfort. So let's look forward ifwe can. I would like to ask you about some of the trends thatare on the horizon. Sure, we thought a lot about that because youthink about Covid, two of the most immediate consequences of covid were hiring stopped. First, all companies put the hiring freeze until they could figure out whatwas going to happen. Boarders closed. And now is that reverses itself.Hopefully it will continue to reverse. We've done a lot of surveying about thisand talked to a lot of our clients about it and some of the answerstiffany almost counterintuitive. We thought that the rise and remote work may reduce theneed for immigration because talent acquisitions. He would say, you know what,we don't need the person to come to Chicago. They can stay in Canadaor they can stay in Spain, they can stay in Singapore and will navigatethe Times. And the reality is that's not what our service told us.Our service so is that, notwithstanding the move to remote work, employers stillwant people in the country. It's just too far a distance because a time. So number one is that the remote work is here to stay. Ithink it's going to put a pressure on tea teams to find and keep thebest talent, but it's not going to reduce the need for immigration. That'sone thing that became very clear. Another thing that became very clear is thatas the economy rebounds, employers believe that their need for foreign talent is goingto increase. Now some of that is probably because of the over indexing andoverperformance of technology companies. Look what has happened to zoom, what has happenedto Amazon, what is happened to Google? What has happened to Apple? Duringcovid all tech companies, both be to B and B Toc, havehad an incredible tail when provided by Covid and because of that, and isit just the economy now enjoys four, five, six percent GDP growth fora few quarters, they think they need for foreign talent is going to beexacerbated. The third thing they tell us is that they know the attraction ofworking overseas remains real, particularly for millennials. We do surveying which shows that asixty five percent folks under the age of thirty would like to have anoverseas assignment in their development. Not The standard three or four years, maybeit's two or three months. So we know that forward thinking employers are thinkingabout can we offer something to our employeer he's US born, so that theycan get the benefits of a more diverse background. And then the fourth thingwe're hearing consistently is it about seventy percent of employers tiffany are either or thein Canada or are going to Canada for one of two reasons. First reasonis because they're just expanding there. They expanding their business. They want tosell in Toronto or Vancouver Montreal, or secondly they're if they've had enough struggleswith the US system, those things about lack of availability, lack of predictability. Canada has taken a hundred eighty degree different tact they view immigration is cordof their growth. There is widespread bipartisan support up and down throughout the countryand so they're being very aggressive about making Canada a place for immigration. Oris. It can take years to get a green card in the United States, in Canada it's done in months. So there is a hospitality and aggressivepursuit in Canada. So those would be...

...that. Those would be the bigones. Yeah, it's just amazing how different things are with our neighbors rightnext door. Totally polar opposite approaches. I don't know, Dick, it'slike you have a crystal ball. So thank you for that forecast of what'sto come and I think it's good time to a segue into our two minutetakeaway. Tell us a couple of key points that you want people to reallyunderstand. Maybe you can reiterate something we spoke about or add something new.Surely again, thank you so much for the opportunity. I'm such a fanof built in I think, as you know, Tiffany, a couple takeaways. Is a citizen. I just encourage you to try to get past thepartisanship and past the hyperbole to have a database, fact based, dispassionate considerationin your own head around immigration. That's point number one. Realize that themost sophisticated employers see the criticality and value a foreign national talent and, asa result, are willing to learn that which is necessary, partner with peoplewho are expert and go through the steps to avail themselves of this very talentedset of the labor market. If you ignore them because it seems too complicated, you are deserving yourselves. These labor shortages are only going to continue.The literally the stem unemploy rate that it declined during covid in. It's underthree percent. That is staggering. And almost eighty percent of Grad students,skin and seestercase, are for born. Your kidding yourself if you think youcan have a scaled tech operation without at least considering for national talent. That'swhy envoy does what it does. Try to make it easy so teams cansucceed. Yeah, well, I think you have just then probably convinced awhole listenership. Tell me, if folks wanted to be in touch with you, with linked in the best way. Linkedin is great. My emails andeasy one. DB That envoy Globalcom, and you can also reach out tome through the envoid globalcom website. Love to see if we can help oranswer any questions. So I have a feeling you will be hearing from somefolks there. So thank you so much, Dick, for joining us and forthis really information data rich conversation about something that is extremely important for techcompanies and for HR people in Tech. So thanks for being here. Thankyou for having me. I love talking about the topic and I really appreciatethe chance to be with you today. So, listeners, I just reminderto subscribe on whatever podcast player you like. You can visit technically peoplecom to dothat. If you're feeling like you loved this conversation and want to hearmore, go ahead and give us a five star review on Apple podcasts.Thank you for spending time with us and will talk to you next week.Whether you're looking to fill opportunities or find them, built in has you've covered. If you're seeking to meet aggressive hiring goals, will help you attract soughtafter tech talent you might not otherwise reach. And if you're on the market fora career change, visit our site to explore exciting jobs with our customersand even with built in find talent, find opportunities built incom.

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