Bill Armstrong is president of Gava Talent Solutions. Bill has nearly two decades of professional staffing and consulting industry experience. He is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations and strategic direction of Gava Talent Solutions. Under Bill's leadership, Gava Talent Solutions has expanded its highly successful recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) division and established itself as a leading provider of global staffing services.Follow
On today’s episode of The RecruitingDaily Podcast, we welcome Bill Armstrong to talk about conquering the U.S. worker shortage through international hiring.
Bill has been president of Gava Talent Solutions since 2016 and has nearly two decades of professional staffing and consulting industry experience. He oversees the day-to-day operations and strategic direction of Gava and has helped the company expand its thriving recruitment process outsourcing division.
Gava Talent is a proven global leader in professional staffing and consulting services. This worldwide team is over 600 people strong, offering solutions for temporary and full-time staffing, executive search and recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) across all major industries and countries.
The big questions we answer today: In this COVID era, are companies utilizing H-1Bs? Are there specific difficulties in hiring from country to country? What’s most important to companies: quality, speed, or money?
Of course there’s more, but you’ll have to tune in to find out. Please drop your thoughts in the comments.
Listening Time: 33 minutes
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Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup, and you are listening to the Recruiting Daily Podcast. Today, we have Bill on from Gava Talent. We’re talking about a fascinating topic, actually, conquering the US worker shortage through international hiring. So we haven’t talked about this on the podcast, so I’m really excited to kind of get Bill’s take on this. Why don’t we jump right into it? Bill, do us a favor and introduce both yourself and Gava Talent.
Yeah, sure thing, William. My name is Bill Armstrong and I’m the president of Gava Talent Solutions. Gava Talent Solutions is a staffing and recruitment firm that specializes both in domestic hiring here in the United States, as well as international hiring. And between our own efforts and our international group of partners, we literally can find people just about any place in the world that someone would be looking for people.
And we are part of the Global Upside Corporation. And the Global Upside Corporation is a company that helps businesses expand globally, offers, amongst other things, a software solution, so you can track international time and attendance, as well as employer of record or professional employment organization, PEO services as well that helps people employ people abroad, as well as other things such as international benefits, payroll, accounting and finance, things of that nature.
Well, first of all, I got to ask a bunch of different questions. One is around H-1Bs. In my career, I’ve sponsored a bunch of H-1Bs, and I know that process has changed significantly. Have you began, probably during COVID and even in a post-COVID world, what do you see in H-1Bs from companies that either utilize them or don’t? What’s the world look like right there?
So the H-1B, I think it can be a complicated and sometimes kind of compounding process.
To say the least.
Yes. Exactly. What we really concentrate on are United States companies that are looking to expand abroad-
… as opposed to bringing people and trying to get them through that whole process and determine their eligibility to get those folks working in the United States. We sort of present an alternative to that and say, “Hey, there’s a whole world out there where these people are right now. We can help you go find the people out there.”
Well, see, I love that because again, we’re opening up an office in Lima, Peru. How do you then put the first 10 people there? Obviously, that’s where you can help folks.
Tell me what that world looks like now with… again, we’re not technically out of the pandemic, but yes, you can still work remotely in Lima and maybe one day work in the office, et cetera. So what does that look like right now, currently, when you’re helping a company expand anywhere in the world, obviously? How does it work with both the talent and also dealing with still kind of this COVID issue that we’re dealing with?
Yes. You know, I don’t know that people can come up with a whole big, long list of things that have been positives about this pandemic, but if there has been one silver lining that’s come out of it from an employment perspective, it’s that people have really, and organizations, have really gotten their arms around how to employ people in remote locations. It was sort of forced upon us, right? I mean, virtually I know my company, all of my friends, I mean, virtually every client that we’ve dealt with at some point had people working remotely.
And the big challenges around that were… Forget about the hiring for a second. But then if you do hire somebody, how do you onboard them? How do you train them? How do you sort of monitor what they’re doing to make sure they’re on track?
And these were big issues that caused companies a lot of grief early on in the pandemic, when so many people were going remotely at once. But gradually, people figured it out. Companies started to get their arms around it. They began to design programs internally to handle those issues. And then sort of this light bulb went off and you could tell the thought process, and it was, “Look, if we can employ somebody across town or maybe in a different state remotely, and we can figure this out.
If they’re remote, they’re remote. So then how much different is it if we’re working with somebody that’s in another country, that is international? Because the same sort of systems of how we’re going to onboard somebody and get them trained and look at what they’re doing, those are going to remain the same if somebody’s not in the office, regardless of where they are in the world.” So that, I think, was just a seismic shift in how people thought about a remote workforce.
Yeah. It’s the onboarding. Again, if you’re based in San Francisco and you’re onboarding a new employee from Topeka, it’s you’re onboarding them remotely. What’s outside of time zones and maybe some cultural things or language or other things that might apply, what’s the difference between onboarding someone from London? Yeah, there’s plus five or six hours. But other than that, a lot of it’s the same.
I think what historically have scared people outside of being able to find the talent and also some mental bridges that they probably had trouble crossing is the localization part, is, “Okay, how do I find talent in London? How do I convince them that this job makes sense for them as well?”
I think you’re right. One of the silver linings of COVID is all now candidates can look at the entire globe as an opportunity and recruiters can look at the entire globe as an opportunity too, right?
It’s true. And that’s where I think we can really be a benefit to our clients. If somebody has a big operation somewhere, they probably don’t need us to help them find people.
They’re probably comfortable with operating there. But it can be a pretty daunting task at first to say, “Okay, we are going to put some people in Eastern Europe. How do we do that? I mean, where do we even start?”
And so that’s where we can really come in and help people get those first hires done and help them get up and running and established in different locations and sort of ease them into it and take a lot of those things that they would worry about off of their plate.
I mean, what I love about this is, again, recruiting… You know the nuances of bringing somebody in from the Cayman Islands versus someone in from Laos. And again, they’re different and there’s so many local laws and probably even national laws that have to be abided by that you can help them navigate those things. Something as simple as payroll, which by the way, isn’t simple, it’s something to be navigated. You can help them with that as well.
So one of the things that I wanted to ask while we had some time together is give us, without the company or even the candidate, what’s been like one of the challenges that you just have… it’s been mind blowing, that it’s been so hard to bring somebody in from this particular area?
And then the opposite of that, like just it’s like cutting butter with a hot knife, just super easy. So people have an idea of like there is not just complexity, but just like when we talked about H-1Bs, being the process, being so crazy, certain countries are easier to recruit from, or at least historically have been that way. So what are you learning? What are you finding out about where it’s easier, where it’s a little bit can be done, just a little bit more challenging?
I think one of the things we’ve learned out of this is recruiting is recruiting.
That process of finding candidates, and then getting people through an interview process is surprisingly similar wherever you’re getting the candidates from. Now, the tricky part is locally knowing what you have to do to get the candidates, if you’re going to post it on a job board. For example, if you’re in India, you’re going to use Naukri. And if you’re in Germany, there are a few specialized sites that you’re going to go to there. It depends on what type of job it is.
So that’s where I think it can be a little bit difficult from the client, just trying to start. If they don’t have that knowledge, then you might wonder, “Why am I not getting a candidate flow? Or where do I even start?” You’ve got to start talking to people somewhere to even begin to get referrals and so forth. So I think that’s one of the tricky parts, is just understanding where to go to begin the process, to begin getting candidates in the flow.
Then where it can get complicated, I think are a couple of areas. One is timing. Because in the United States, if you’ve done all your hiring here, you go, you like somebody, you give them an offer letter, they give two weeks’ notice, and then they start working for you.
And it doesn’t work like that anywhere else in the world. Everywhere else in the world, you need a legally binding employment contract. And in some places, those contracts are a little bit more complicated than others. And there are certain social costs that are mandated in some countries that could be… In China, for instance, sometimes it can be 40% or more of the employee’s wages, the employer is going to have to pay in social cost.
And then also understanding that in many, many places, it’s not two weeks’ notice. It can be, I would say typically about 30 days, but you could be talking one to two months, maybe even up to six months’ notice for some senior level roles.
So I think for clients, I think those are a couple of the areas where it can get complicated, is just navigating this employment contract process and then understanding the timing that can be involved with it.
What I love about that is I’ve learned about hiring in France and Germany through this years. Again, once you understand kind of the rules, it’s not difficult or complex, it’s just different than what we’re accustomed to. I think you eloquently kind of said here, like Susan, Susan likes us, Susan gets offer letter, Susan starts next Tuesday. You know what I mean?
It’s a privilege that we kind of operate that way, but the rest of the world, as you already said, doesn’t work that way. What have you learned through the pandemic? How did it change things for you in terms of… and some of the learns that you’ve had with again now, the world is your talent pool, and you’re looking at it that way. Really, you’re getting companies to change their mindset around that and look at that, the world that way. What are some of the things that you’ve learned during the pandemic that have actually been really interesting for you?
I think just how… easy isn’t the right word, because I’m not going to say that any of this is easy, but just how seamless it can be sometimes to get people up and running in other countries. I think companies need to think about what… You need to think about, “Why am I doing it?” First off. Am I looking for some sort of diversity in the workforce, or am I looking to tap into another talent pool? Am I looking to have more 24/7 type coverage or whatever?
So I think companies need to understand why they’re doing it, but in almost every time, there’s some sort of a cost savings involved in this as well. And then for example, we had a Silicon Valley company that was looking to expand in their accounting and finance department and they were looking to add… through a couple of conversations with them and trying to understand what they were trying to do, that they decided on Eastern Europe as being a place that they wanted to add a couple of people.
Now, if they were looking for something in like a technical accountant there, where they were really looking for somebody that needed maybe United States GAAP, Generally Accepted Accounting Principle, CPA over here, that could be difficult to find in Eastern Europe.
But they were looking for a couple of more analytical positions, that didn’t require necessarily… that they required good analytical skills and good finance skills, but not that knowledge of the US GAAP. So we were able to go find some very, very good, qualified candidates for them that they wound up hiring multiple people and putting them there.
And then they love the fact that there is a little bit of a time difference. So there’s a little bit of overlap in the morning, but basically at the end of the day, they’re giving these projects to their folks that are in Europe, and then when they come in in the morning, these things are way far advanced and then they have a little crossover to ask questions or whatever. But it’s worked out very, very well for them.
I think that’s one of just the biggest learnings or the biggest takeaways is that once you get a good person and you get them on board or people, I should say, sometimes, it’s big teams, that it can really run pretty seamlessly, that this is… it integrates much more quickly than I think some people might think.
You’re right. I think you nailed it, or you hit on one thing that I really love, is this idea of work kind of being 24/7, or at least using the time zones in a way of having that crossover, but also people are working when you’re asleep, and there’s something attractive to that for a lot of people.
Absolutely. And we’ve helped companies also staff call centers all over the world, put IT centers in many different places. And then these people are able to work their local hours. They’re not necessarily having to work a midnight shift in their local country. And so they’re having what you would consider like a normal work day there, and then all of that work is getting done sort of overnight here. So now, the company has gone from maybe operating in this 10 to 12 hour timeframe to literally almost 24 hours.
Yep. I can see that being… Well, I mean, I can see it being attractive everywhere, quite frankly, but I can especially, for folks that need to get a product to market software or something like that, it’s like, you’ve got a scrum team here and all the way around the globe and they’re just kind of keep moving the products along. Again, I think software firms have kind of picked up on that and learned that.
You mentioned cost. And so I want to kind of ask you a kind of a follow-up question around that, because it’s the pyramid of price, quality and speed, right? Again, the whole idea that we’re thinking of the shortage that we have in the US and thinking of it and saying, “Well, actually,” with a lot of knowledge worker jobs, if not all, “the globe is now your talent pool.”
You mentioned cost as a driver for potentially going off shore. Have you had clients that have… Cost is always important. Got it. Stated and covered. But have you had clients that have asked you more on the quality line or even speed? Spinning up a call center in Manila might not be as difficult as spinning up a call center in Topeka or whatever.
So really the other side, because it costs, I think makes six there… will make sense to everybody that listens to the show. Developer here, X dollars per hour. Developer in Croatia, X dollars per hour. Okay. Like I think we can all get that. But have you had conversations on quality or speed?
Yeah. The quality is always a part of the issue because this whole concept doesn’t work if somebody goes to some other country and now their work product suffers. So the key to the whole thing here has to be… is, I should say, that the quality is at, or in some cases, maybe even greater than what you would get if you didn’t go abroad.
Because oftentimes, there is such a disparity in wages that somebody… You can get a more senior level person and another, if you go abroad, that may be more qualified than you have in your budget for this person in the United States. So you’re getting more and more experienced person at a low, and you’re still realizing that cost savings. But the quality-
So you’re getting both at that point? You’re getting a higher quality and you’re getting him at a lower cost?
And the speed, that is something we… depending on where the client is going, we try and be very upfront with them [crosstalk 00:22:09]. Here is how much time you need to budget for this, because [crosstalk 00:22:16]-
I can see that being very interesting conversations, actually.
What do you mean in Germany they need a year? What?
You want to be realistic, because it is likely going to take, to get something staffed up… I’m not going to say an individual hire. But a lot of times, you got to budget two or three months for this because, you got to find the candidate, get them through your interview process. Then there’s that employment contract process.
Then you’ve got the candidate giving notice. And oftentimes, that notice is going to be more than two weeks. Well, not all the time, but you’ve got to figure, if you’re going to budget about 30 days, and then we can be more specific once we understand the location.
But it’s part of our responsibility, is making sure that we’re very upfront with people about that part of it, because you don’t want to create an expectation that’s not there.
So first of all, I love that example of higher quality and lower cost. Like who wouldn’t love that, A? B, C, number eight, let’s deal with what we call FUN, right, fear, uncertainty and doubt. You deal with customers that get it, and you deal with prospects that maybe either emotionally or intellectually might not quite there yet.
So what does that fear, uncertainty and doubt, what are the questions that kind of comes at you when you’re trying to talk to them about, “Hey, in Chile, Santiago has a wonderful creative center and there’s just graphic design sitting on top of graphic designers. And it’s amazing. And they do great work,” but you’re talking to somebody that’s just blank stare. They don’t see the world and maybe they don’t understand it in the way that you do. What are the questions that they’re asking you? And then how do you overcome those?
I think the questions start with about the talent. How are we going to find the talent? What’s that going to look like? And then we try to reassure them that, “Look, we’ll find the talent. And you’ll get to review the resumes. We’re going to screen them and get them to you, just like if we were doing it here and you’re going to be able to take a look at these CVs or resumes and decide who you want to interview and have those interviews just like you would here.” So by the time you get to the point where you’re going to want to hire somebody, you’re going to have that comfort level with them.
And then the second part is how do we employ them?
Right. Now it’s some of the legal or compliance related stuff.
That’s one of the other drivers here, is that now with companies that have the PEO, or the employer of record service, that you can employ people in these other countries without having to go stand up your own entity there. Then that also gets back into this speed issue. Because if you have to go, the staff you have to…
If you’re going to employ somebody on your own in a foreign country, you have to go get an established entity there, so you have to be registered as a corporation, and then you have to open up a bank account. And in many countries, to open the bank account, you need to be there in person to do it. No two things about it. And some countries require a large deposit that you have to put in to open that. They want to know that you’re serious about doing this.
This, historically, is something that’s taken a long time to do. Particularly in some places, it can take months. Now put the pandemic on top of it, where you can’t travel to these places to do it, that it’s really thrown a wrench into that whole process. But our company, for example, we have entities in over 70 different countries, and then we have partner relationships in probably another 70 countries.
So if you’re dealing with somebody that already has an entity set up, then you can go through that employer of record service, where you are still going to manage that person exactly how you would manage any other employee that you have anywhere. However, their paycheck is going to come from, in our case like Global PEO Services, which would be our sister company. And then since we are technically the employer of record, that means we’re responsible for tax, compliance, all of these things, and you aren’t responsible for anything except managing your employee.
So typically, what we see is there’s a magic number and it can depend a little bit on the country, but somewhere between probably five to 10 people. If you’re employing less than that, then the employee of record is going to be a great thing for you. And then if you start getting way beyond that, then it’s probably more cost-effective to bite the bullet and establish your own entity.
But when companies are getting started, that is one of the fears. “How do I file taxes and all that [crosstalk 00:28:16] laws?” And if you do go through one of those employee of record service or a PEO service, all of that is taken care of for you. You’re just going to pay a sort of a fee per employee per month for having all of that done, and you have no responsibilities there. So that’s a great way for companies to sort of get their feet wet in a new market.
Then once they feel more comfortable there and get established, and that fear starts to drop and they start seeing, “Hey, this is working. Let me add another one. Let me add another one,” then it can really take off.
I love that. Last question just on the way out. And it’s just a curiosity that I have. We’re kind of used to different types of perks and benefits and rewards and things like that. And in particular, I’m thinking about Canada. One of the things I learned about doing business in Canada is their maternity leave is different than our maternity leave, right? So by and large, their maternity leave is a year and the job is guaranteed.
And every country, probably even regionally, even within countries, you’re going to have different things that are important to people on the perks, benefits, rewards comp, all that stuff. First of all, how do you keep up with all that, A? B, but also, how do you talk to your clients about how that is, how it’s different?
I mean, because I love how you started. When we went down to [inaudible 00:30:05] route, the first thing you started with is sourcing. It’s finding the talent. First thing out of the box, can you find the talent? Yes. Okay. We can find the talent. Okay. Now the more complex things that pop up, right? And so you’ve dealt with that.
But just dealing with the people themselves, again, somebody that’s in Cape Town versus somebody that’s in Dallas, Texas. There’s different societal norms, cultural norms, there’s different things that they kind of expect as usual, maybe even things that we don’t think that are usual. Like how do you explain that part to them?
Yeah. And I think you can divide that into two buckets. There’s one which are some of the sort of the cultural norms. Like you had mentioned Germany earlier. We find in Germany is the process takes a little bit longer. You don’t just call somebody up on the phone and tell them about a new job. And they’re like, “Oh yeah, let me interview tomorrow,” and [crosstalk 00:31:11] I’ll start next week. Generally, it’s a couple of calls to get somebody interested. They will think about it for a while. And I’m generalizing here a little bit.
Yeah, of course.
But it does, certainly in that market, on average takes much longer to get a candidate ready to interview than it would in some other places. So you have some of those cultural things and where you’re relying on sort of the skills of the recruiter. And then these other things that you’re talking about, those are things that are oftentimes legally required in that employment contract.
Right. Good point.
And in other places, it could be meal vouchers. It could be housing allowance, or transportation allowance, or how do you handle cell phone expenses? Like a lot of countries, these things have to be written into an employment contract. So that’s when you need to make sure you’re dealing with local experts. If it’s somebody, maybe on our team, that we’ve done a lot of work in a particular country. But in almost every case, we’re going to be dealing with local attorneys that are up to speed on all of these things because they do change all the time, just like they do here. Like in the San Francisco Bay Area, and San Francisco has certain laws and ordinances that San Jose does not have.
That’s right. That’s [crosstalk 00:32:41]-
The rest of the world is like that too. So you really have to be dealing with local experts that know how to navigate these employment contracts and then talk through all of these things with the client so there are no surprises. Generally, if you don’t surprise anybody, you’re in pretty good shape. Surprises start coming, the people are not impressed. And whether that is a delay or an extra cost, that’s our job to make sure that doesn’t happen.
I love it. Man, this has been fascinating. Thank you so much, Bill, for coming on and explaining this and just talking to us about this.
Yeah. You’re very welcome, William. My pleasure.
And thanks for everyone listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast. Until next time.
William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.