The Future of Engineering Is Global: Unlocking a New Talent Opportunity

CTOs across many types of organizations are rethinking how they hire staff now that remote work has proven to be effective. Apple, Zillow, and Google are among the many technology-driven companies that plan to be fully remote through 2021. People have gotten used to more flexible workdays, with Slack and Zoom reporting increased usage even during evenings and weekends, paving the way for teams in different time zones.
Research we conducted at Andela shows that 66 percent of engineering leaders plan to allow remote work to continue, even once the pandemic has ended. Remote work in itself is just the first stage in a seismic shift from local to global engineering. If teams are fully remote, then CTOs can recruit without the restraints of office locations. They can unlock a global talent opportunity and hire exactly the people they need, wherever those engineers may be. 
A Buyer’s Market for Engineering Talent
A global workforce allows companies to access expertise that is often hard to find in local markets. For CTOs hiring in tech hubs like Silicon Valley, Austin, or New York City, talent shortages are a real issue, as are the eye-watering salaries. When CTOs can take a global approach, talent shortages become less of a concern — and the more competitive prices of the global talent market don’t hurt, either.
There are roughly 18 million trained engineers in the world. Adopting a global recruiting strategy allows hiring managers to operate with a buyer’s-market mentality. With more choices, employers can afford to be choosier, instituting more rigorous tests and stricter criteria for hire. In effect, hiring managers can expect to build better teams that are more productive and more cost-effective.
That said, global staffing requires a new approach to hiring and recruiting. Existing internal recruiting teams will need to create networks of recruiting professionals who are connected in various regions in order to access the best talent in those regions, all while competing against other companies tapping the global talent market. Engineering thought leader Joel Spolsky recommends creating a network to attract the best talent, or tapping into a good one that already exists. In a global economy, having ready access to a community of great developers is absolutely vital.
What Keeps Companies From Going Global? 
In the Andela research cited earlier, about half of US companies said they use some form of staff augmentation for engineering, but 83 percent of senior tech leaders said they were open to staff augmentation. A few key barriers are responsible for stopping some companies from tapping into staff augmentation to meet their needs. Examining and pushing through those barriers is an important step in the transformation from a locally focused company to one that takes a global hiring approach — whether or not a company decides to use staff augmentation to get there.
As a CTO, my top concern is the management burden of onboarding a remote engineer and ensuring they are committed to my success for the long term. Successful staff augmentation allows time for engineers to learn the code base, take on leadership roles, and drive innovation for the company, but it has to be worth it. A global talent search needs to prioritize finding engineers who are committed enough to be an embedded part of the team and a driver of positive growth.
Our study found that other concerns are more tactical: perceived language barriers, time zone issues, and the fear of miscommunication. A study reported in Harvard Business Review suggests concerns about language barriers and miscommunication are largely unfounded: English has been the established language of business for decades, and engineering professionals have the second-highest English language proficiency of all professions globally.
Concern about time zones are certainly warranted, but they must be solved by any company that seeks to evolve into a global organization that can tap talent wherever it is located. Deloitte describes one possible solution: embracing an elastic workplace. An elastic approach values more independent managers and more self-directed teams, thereby creating more space for employees to work wherever and whenever they work best, which in turn paves the way for more effective use of global staff augmentation.
The benefits of a global staff are many. With access to more talent, CTOs are able to meet their product roadmap goals quickly and cost-effectively. The improved scalability and flexibility of a global staff also allows an organization to insulate itself from many fluctuations in the market. Hiring remotely allows companies to reduce the cost of real estate, and these savings can be reinvested to increase development further.
Companies that embrace global staffs will also have more diverse talent pipelines by design. Rather than recruiting from their professional networks, alumni groups, or local regions, employers can source talent from countries and communities around the globe. When the workforce contains a broader set of skills and perspectives, that gives product development a competitive advantage. For example, multinationals want to access new markets, and having products developed by people living in those markets offers a much better chance of success.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced companies to embrace remote work, which in turn has accelerated a shift to global talent acquisition. Companies that move quickly to create models that support global remote work will have the competitive advantage moving forward in the new talent market.