Migration- Why should firms consider migrants

Why is it that more employers don’t actively look at migrants? With good quality candidates as hard to find as ever lets look at the pros and cons of including them within your recruitment mix
I have been meaning to pen a post on the topic of migration, especially looking at migration from the likes of the UK to Australia and New Zealand, for a while now. As a recent migrant myself (I arrived from the UK with my Kiwi wife to New Zealand just over 2 years ago) I should be fairly well placed to comment from personal experience. Working in IT and specialising in recruitment and staffing systems have of course given a further a professional dimension. It does seem to me that with many employers we speak to in Australia and NZ struggling to get good staff locally that the migrant market could be made more use of.

Why is it that more employers don’t actively look at migrants? Lets look at the possible downsides and how the arguments pan out i.e. are they real and true:
  • First the obvious one; migrants are either not here currently or have just arrived. If they are not yet here then you have the worry about will they fit in, be happy in their new country and crucially will they adapt to working here. Getting them over here can also involve costs such a relocation allowances, help with visa costs and possible even immigration/employment guarantees.
    Yes there may be costs getting them over – although you might be surprised to hear that most migrants come over paying their own way. Will they adapt and fit in? There is a fair bit of evidence to suggest migrants tend to be the more adaptable types (see also the upsides below). Migrants from western type counties especially are likely to be relatively familiar with how business works here. From a skilled professional point of view standards and work practices in this more global world will be likely very similar to what they were used to.
  • Provence – background checks etc. Migrants are much less likely to come personally recommended of course as they don’t have the local network. However in this online age useful checks and scans can be done online and most developed countries offer local background checking services for fairly cheap fees. We have done work with quite a few US tech companies and for them LinkedIn is the essential provenance tool. Some of these clients will even not look at any candidate who has not got a solid LinkedIn profiles supporting professional experience. A bit extreme perhaps but it does illustrate an example that the tools and services are there to offset this risk .

Now lets look at the upsides from actively including migrants as part of your recruitment mix:
  • Additional choice. Lets face it, if there were lots of good qualified / experienced and motivated people available for all your roles then there would be no reason to look further. However increasingly there is not a lot of choice locally for high quality candidates for skilled professional roles. Despite the unemployment rates (5.2% in Australia and 7.3% in NZ currently) most businesses we speak to say they struggle to get much choice when recruiting for professional high skill/experience type roles.
  • Overseas market experience. Depending on the nature of the role this can be am important consideration. Many business organisations do business overseas and having people familiar with local markets on your team makes dealing with these markets easier and less risky. Professionally it can also be useful. Depending where they come from migrants may have been exposed to e.g. faster moving more innovative markets, be experienced in newer techniques, ways of working etc.
  • Motivation, work ethic. We come across a lot of market anecdotes about employers and their experiences with migrants. Most commentaries we have seen suggest that migrants tend to have very high levels of work motivation in the work place. By way of academic support a study by the UK home office into migration found: “Employers cited advantages of migrant workers in terms of their general attitude and work ethic. They tended to be more motivated, reliable and committed than domestic workers. For example, migrants were said to be more likely to: demonstrate lower turnover and absenteeism; be prepared to work longer and flexible hours; be satisfied with their duties and hours of work; and work harder in terms of productivity and speed.”
    Local experiences in Australia and NZ tend be similar and support this from what we have picked up. For me it was perhaps best expressed by Tony Alexander Chief Economist of the BNZ whom I heard talk on this subject: “those with get up and go – go”. Migrants are people who have get up and go and this translates to the workplace as well as in moving country. Smart employers know that getting motivated staff is more than half the battle. From what we have seen migrants tend to have high levels of motivation and work ethic – thus are well worth considering.

Do let me know your own experiences of migrants. Have you had similar or different experiences? We are currently working on a big project for a client in this area delivering services to migrants and employer looking for migrants so your views will be appreciated.