February 3, 2023
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Skilled migrants and the war for talent

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By Vlad Vaiman

Despite the recent economic woes and a looming recession, the war for talent continues to intensify not only on an organizational level but also on a country level, as many advanced economies, including the USA, experience an acute shortage of qualified talent.  

Organizations are starved for talented individuals with a high level of knowledge, skills, and abilities.  In turn, they pressure their governments to create specific immigration-friendly policies to help entice skilled labor from all over the world.

Attracting skilled migrants to a country, however, is just the first step in this process; assisting them in adjusting, integrating and obtaining career success — thereby increasing their chances of staying in the country while meaningfully contributing to the economy — is a more complex and challenging task.  Let’s however discuss the talent attraction first.

Attracting highly skilled migrants to a country can be a complicated process that involves a combination of policy, economic and social factors. Here are a few strategies that some successful countries (e.g., Singapore, Switzerland, and others), in cooperation with local organizations, have used to attract highly skilled migrants:

  • Offer competitive salaries and benefits.  Highly skilled migrants often have a range of options for where they can work, and financial considerations can be a major factor in their decision-making process. Offering competitive salaries and benefits can help to make a country more attractive to these individuals.
  • Develop a reputation as a desirable place to work. Countries that are known for their high quality of life, strong economy, and supportive work environment are more likely to attract highly skilled migrants. Building a reputation as a desirable place to work can involve promoting the country’s strengths in areas such as education, healthcare, and culture.
  • Streamline the immigration process. Highly skilled migrants may be put off by complicated or lengthy immigration processes. Simplifying and streamlining the process can help to make a country more attractive to these individuals.
  • Offer opportunities for professional development. Highly skilled migrants may be attracted to countries that offer opportunities for professional development and advancement. Providing access to training and professional development programs can help to make a country more appealing to these individuals.
  • Promote the country’s research and innovation capabilities. Highly skilled migrants, particularly those in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, may be drawn to countries that are known for their research and innovation capabilities. Promoting the country’s research and innovation ecosystem can help to attract highly skilled migrants in these fields.
  • Foster a welcoming and inclusive culture. Highly skilled migrants may be more likely to consider moving to a country that is welcoming and inclusive. This can involve promoting a diverse and inclusive culture and providing support for migrants as they integrate into their new communities.
  • Create partnerships with universities and research institutions. Highly skilled migrants may be more likely to consider moving to a country if there are strong partnerships between universities, research institutions, and industry. These partnerships can provide opportunities for research and development, as well as career advancement.
  • Offer flexible work arrangements. Highly skilled migrants may be attracted to countries that offer flexible work arrangements, such as the ability to work remotely or on a part-time basis. These arrangements can make it easier for individuals to balance work and family responsibilities.
  • Provide support for families. Highly skilled migrants may be more likely to consider moving to a country if there are support systems in place for families, such as childcare and education options.  Providing these types of support can help to make a country more appealing to highly skilled migrants.
  • Foster a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. Highly skilled migrants may be drawn to countries that have a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. Encouraging and supporting innovation and entrepreneurship can help to attract highly skilled migrants who are looking for opportunities to start their own businesses or work on cutting-edge projects.
  • Promote the country’s quality of life. Highly skilled migrants may be more likely to consider moving to a country if it has a high quality of life. A country can promote its quality of life by highlighting its natural beauty, cultural attractions, and recreational opportunities, as well as its healthcare system, public transportation, and other amenities.

To summarize, attracting highly skilled migrants to a country requires a combination of policy, economic, and social factors. By offering competitive salaries and benefits, developing a reputation as a desirable place to work, streamlining the immigration process, and providing support for families and professional development, countries can make themselves more attractive to highly skilled migrants. 

Both the government and organizations in the United States should definitely take advantage of the best practices described above to ensure that its economy remains highly competitive now and in the future.

To conclude, it is important to reiterate that the importance of talent management is difficult to overestimate, and these issues have come to the fore with even more intensity in the past couple of years, mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent “Great Resignation.” While organizations can implement numerous strategies to attract and retain talent in these difficult times, governments can also help organizations in this endeavor.

They can systematically develop policies, programs, and activities expressly for the purpose of enhancing the quality and quantity of talent within their country to facilitate productivity, innovation, and competitiveness of their domestic and multinational enterprises. Those that choose this path for the benefit of their citizens, organizations, and societies will ultimately win the proverbial war for talent.

Dr. Vlad Vaiman is a Professor and Associate Dean at the Cal Lutheran School of Management

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