Hiring around Southeast Asia has become difficult in recent months as economies reopen only to find that the distribution and preferences of the workforce have changed. Some businesses are having it harder than others - tech companies, for example, face an ongoing talent shortage, and small businesses, especially startups, are at a disadvantage against their larger and more established competitors.
What does the situation look like on the ground, and what can these smaller tech companies do to address the challenges they face? People Matters asked Sundeep Sahi, co-founder and CEO of remote hiring and payroll management platform Skuad, to share some of his observations and recommendations on the hiring challenges around the region and how businesses can get an edge in the war for talent.
Businesses in Southeast Asia have been talking about a major talent crunch, especially in tech. Tell us what you're seeing in the region?
The South-East Asian region has become a heavily talent-driven market. It is experiencing a talent crunch as businesses adapt to the easing of pandemic restrictions. While the demand for talent is surging, jobs are going unfilled. A recent report by PersolKelly (APAC Workforce Insights Report September 2021) states that over 55% of companies in APAC are facing challenges hiring locally and are open to engaging overseas talent remotely.
Let’s look at Indonesia as an example — we have clients who have partnered with Skuad to build remote tech teams outside of Indonesia. They have seen firsthand how traditional hiring and recruiting methods have been inefficient in generating the right applicants and successfully matching them with suitable roles in the current economy. To scale their businesses and products, these companies now want to hire the best available talent regardless of boundaries.
They want to hire people for what they bring to an organisation — unique capabilities, relevant experience as well as diverse perspectives and cultures.
Hiring across borders has helped startups and other companies build sustainable distributed teams, something they were not able to do earlier within their own geographies.
What are some hiring challenges unique to the smaller tech startups?
I think the biggest challenge will be when they begin hiring in a new geography — there is usually a lack of awareness of the company in new markets. And, with early-stage startups, there is always a risk of the company not doing well. In such cases, candidates often prefer to join larger startups with a regional presence or are in the later stages of funding.
Acquisition and retention of top talent is a delicate task. Companies will require speed in backfilling roles and retention will take on greater importance. The larger the access to talent (locally or overseas), the higher the success rate for a smaller startup when scaling its organisation.
What are some proven solutions to the above challenges?
An early-stage startup’s immediate priority should be to create awareness and credibility about itself and its products. They can do so by partnering with a recruitment agency that can help provide a more objective view of the company to potential candidates. They can also leverage the various aspects of talent access and management by partnering with companies like Skuad.
At Skuad, we provide not only the network but also the infrastructure to hire, onboard, manage and pay remote employees and contractors on behalf of startups. Time is the most valuable asset for early-stage startups. Finding a partner that enables this process significantly improves the odds of the startup finding suitable talent to build towards its goals.
It is also important to share additional relevant information about the company’s growth plans, mention how they are doing financially and map out a clear career progression for the candidates.
Going a step beyond hiring, when it comes to building a remote team, what should these startups be mindful of?
All companies (startups and enterprises alike) need to be aware of and aligned with the cultural differences among their teams. Since distributed teams are based in different geographies and managed remotely, it is important to set clear expectations and goals for your global team.
Startups should also invest in employee growth, not simply product growth. In a physical setting, it can be easier to access career opportunities or brainstorm quickly to tackle challenges. Founders need to invest in specific learning and training programs to empower employees to take charge of their career objectives and to operate independently in a remote environment, and
Trust is also a critical factor.
You need to trust that your remote teams can deliver as per agreed-upon targets and expectations, even if they are not sitting in the same office as you.
This requires a shift in the mindset. Companies who want to install tracking software to see how much time their employees are "logged in" to the system are not ready to onboard a remote team, I'd say. Of course, this trust is built over time but micromanaging is definitely not the way forward.
Other administrative matters to be mindful of include factors like time zone overlaps, language, communication gaps, remuneration practices, etc.
What are some talent strategies that you've seen work well in the cross-border hybrid model?
To begin with, hiring a senior employee as your first remote employee and building a team around this person. This way, it's easier for you to manage your remote team since you interact with one team leader instead of managing five different individuals.
The other strategy that is often successful is to have a self-sufficient team. For example, one of my clients has built pods of remote teams typically comprising a project manager, product manager, software engineer, and a group of developers. This way, it streamlines the workflow within the team and removes any "bottlenecks", especially if there is a huge time difference between the remote team and the main dev team.
Do you see the talent situation changing much in the near future?
Yes, more and more companies will continue to adopt a hybrid approach to hiring talent. There are quite a few reasons for this shift, such as talent crunch, globalisation and the availability of platforms like Skuad that can simplify remote workforce management. These will only make companies take a more positive view of remote working in order to stay competitive.
I think we are still a long way from having fully remote companies everywhere.
Remote work is not a mere linear shift, but more of a mindset shift.
It will increase over time as networks and processes around us get digitised, HR practices evolve to understand the needs of diverse teams and English continues to be the commonly spoken language in the professional world.
But, there is a tangible movement toward a hybrid model of working and that will continue to grow in the near future.
To find out more about remote hiring and management strategies, get in touch with the Skuad team at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.skuad.io