Talent is everywhere these days. All over the world, people have access to technologies that are helping them become experts in many different fields. Never before have we had the capability to be so intelligent on so many different levels.
And while the pool of talent is ever growing, so is the challenge of assembling people to collaborate in a way that is meaningful to them and the work they do. That’s why it’s important to engage remote workers.
In most of the major cities where talented and creative people congregate, housing prices have risen. Many people can’t afford to pay monthly rent the size of a mortgage in cities like San Francisco, New York, and Seattle, and thus, opt to live in less costly locations. It is also these same cities where unemployment rates are among the lowest in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For example, San Francisco recorded a 3.3 percent jobless rate in July, while nationally the rate was 5.3 percent.
However, just because a person chooses a more affordable place to live doesn’t mean he or she shouldn’t be afforded the same work opportunities as those in San Francisco, New York, and Seattle—especially if they are well-qualified. By investing in new technology, businesses can attract, retain, and benefit from the valuable talent that is out there.
Here’s how to better attract and engage remote workers:
Location, Location, Location
The demand for qualified people is going to continue to rise. By 2030, the economies of the developed world will require more than 70 million new employees to sustain their growth rates—including a projected 26 million in the U.S. and another 46 million in Europe, according to the World Economic Forum.
The problem is that location limits access to talent; too often when searching the workforce pool, employers are limited to the talent and knowledge base within their geographical area.The traditional answer to this problem has been for corporations to set up regional offices around the world, in addition to their centralized headquarters, to access qualified employees.
But this approach has its limits. The talent businesses need may still live far from those regional offices. It is expensive financially to businesses, and potentially disruptive socially to workers, to relocate employees from where they live, or from headquarters, to be near a regional office so the operation can grow.
There is a better method: have one central hub of activity where remote employees from around the world have the option to telecommute instead of de-centralizing activity across a network of regional offices.
There are many technologies that help bridge the communications gap amongst global companies. Skype helped pave the way by allowing users to voice and video chat when it launched 11 years ago. Slack is a popular team collaboration tool that offers persistent chat rooms by topic and group.
And then there’s Suitable Technologies (my company). Our Beam® Smart Presence Systems™ are telepresence devices that facilitate face-to-face interaction regardless of location. By having access to all of these technologies, companies can have the “cream of the crop” in talent because location no longer matters.
The Value of Diversification
Using technology to employ skilled people regardless of location has another business benefit—diversifying a company’s talent pool. Talented employees come from many backgrounds and all knowledge domains. And diversity in the workplace is valuable in its own right.
According to McKinsey & Company, “Companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians.” Employing workers from many backgrounds, the report adds, “is probably a competitive differentiator that shifts market share toward more diverse companies over time.”
A more diverse workforce provides a talent pool from which to draw a wide range of ideas and skill sets. This is not just an advantage for big firms. Small and large businesses alike can use these qualified and skilled workers to build better businesses.
What’s needed, then, is a solution to connect workers around the world with employers who are looking for them.
Connecting Workers Face-to-Face
The Internet has been able to connect talent with companies for many straightforward tasks.
Video conferencing, meanwhile, can engage remote workers and link spaces from across the world to each other, during a set time and from set places. For a dynamic workplace, however, technology has struggled to connect roles—such as services jobs, advanced roles that require specialty knowledge, and managers—which require face-to-face interaction beyond the conference room.
A technology like a telepresence device provides the ability for users in one location to not only be present in another location, where they can see colleagues and colleagues can see them, but more importantly, they also can move as they interact. Through the system, a user can go from one space to another, participating in office conversations, attending meetings, monitoring the performance of employees, sharing a lunch table, and appearing available for collaborative chats with colleagues passing by.
In these ways, Suitable Technologies helps advance careers by giving knowledge workers an ability to work remotely from anywhere in the world, and still be available in the office, through their computer and the Beam telepresence device.
The workforce of today is changing. As a Deloitte study on Global Human Capital Trends notes, the Millennial generation, comfortable with technology, “want to work for organizations that provide flexibility, and are purpose-driven.” Workers are increasingly mobile. The typical office space, once dominated by cubicle farms, is expanding to an age of virtual offices.
In a global economy where talent lives everywhere, businesses need to be able to tap into a global workforce to be competitive. Corporations need solutions to employing a more technical, skilled labor force or they will be left behind. Through telepresence technology, they can bring talent to the office, no matter where the office or the talent resides.
Erin is the director of marketing at Suitable Technologies, the maker of the Beam+ and BeamPro telepresence devices. Beam combines user-controlled mobility with video conferencing for teammates, guests, family, and friends who wish to interact from afar. Erin takes a vested interest in finding ways to catalyze the robotics market by identifying unique value propositions for new robotic products, and by creating community and cooperation between companies and thought leaders. Erin has her master’s in mechanical engineering from UMass Lowell and a BS in industrial engineering from Northeastern University.