Bridging the talent gap with globally distributed teams

Barbara Matthews, Chief People Officer, Remote, highlights why hiring globally can help companies build a thriving and engaged workforce.
By: | July 13, 2023

With more companies scaling down on remote work policies that were introduced at the height of the pandemic, employers have come to realise an increase in the overall productivity outside the traditional office setting. This paradigm shift has focused on newfound appreciation for flexibility, where a positive work-life balance does not necessarily compromise a company’s growth or an individual’s career.

As the disconnect between employers mandating a return to office and employees who want to continue remote work in some capacity grows, what can organisations do to bridge the divide?

Some companies are doing so by implementing a hybrid work model, said Barbara Matthews, Chief People Officer, Remote. Speaking with HRM Asia, she explained, “This approach allows for a balance between in-person collaboration and remote work, accommodating the preferences of both employers and employees. By offering flexibility and autonomy in choosing where and when to work, companies can demonstrate a commitment to their employees’ wellbeing and job satisfaction.”

There are also companies – like Remote – who continue to champion for a remote-first model that can harness the full benefits of distributed work. This approach, said Matthews, enables companies to establish an intentional, inclusive global culture that ingrains remote work into workflows.

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“By offering flexibility and autonomy in choosing where and when to work, companies can demonstrate a commitment to their employees’ wellbeing and job satisfaction.” – Barbara Matthews, Chief People Officer, Remote

A remote culture, she added, also means that teams can leverage productivity gains that come with employees in different time zones. “Additionally, a remote-working environment tends to foster diversity and inclusion, as companies can hire talents from various countries, backgrounds, and religions. This diversity of perspectives can lead to enhanced creativity, innovation, and problem-solving within the team.”

Going beyond borders in the search for talent

For many companies, finding the right talent in the country that they operate in remains a key challenge. The answer for forward-thinking organisations, Matthews suggested, is to look beyond saturated markets.

“In today’s interconnected world, talent can be found across the globe. By going beyond borders, companies can access the talent pool from developing regions, which is untapped and full of talented and experienced professionals,” she explained.

With a global and distributed team, companies can leverage on asynchronous work to enhance communication and effectively manage multiple time zones. Additionally, global HR platforms like Remote make it possible for employers to pay employees through local currency and meet local legal standards with benefit packages.

For Matthews, there is no doubt that the greatest advantage offered by remote work in a global context is flexibility. Flexibility takes many forms, such as engaging in asynchronous work, which ensures continuous progress across different time zones, as compared to the traditional synchronous work model.

The next question for companies to ask perhaps, is how can they build a work culture that enables distributed teams to thrive and grow?

“To build a harmonious work-life balance, flexibility is the way,” Matthews offered. “From Remote’s Tech Talent Report, 57% of employees agreed that flexibility is more essential than compensation and 40% of people said they’re working more since starting to work remotely. Whether it is fully remote or hybrid working, provide your employees with the flexibility to work across time zones. By establishing flexibility as the standard within your team or organisation, you will give employees the time and space they need.”

READ: Why organisations should not dismiss Gen Zs’ desire for remote work

To strengthen a strong and supportive remote work culture, companies should also foster an environment where team communication is highly encouraged, and  where values such as trust, autonomy, and transparency are prioritised.

“Since remote-first means people-first, taking care of an employee’s mental health while also respecting diverse cultures, allows employees in different locations or time zones to work comfortably,” Matthew said.

What is keeping people leaders up at night?

Despite only assuming her role as Remote’s CPO this March, Matthew brings with her more than 20 years of Global HR experience and has witnessed in close quarters how the world of work has evolved.

Citing the example of Singapore, where many companies have reported talent shortages and hiring difficulties, she identified finding and retaining the best talent as one of the key challenges facing people leaders today.

“What’s especially important about finding individuals with the right skills is that they play a crucial role in Singapore’s future growth. Without facing this issue of hiring skilled talents and expanding beyond borders, the talent gap will continue to rise.” According to the IDC Infobrief sponsored by Remote, Bridging the Talent Gap, the Future of Hiring in The Asia-Pacific Region survey results in Singapore, the right mix of skills in target countries in a key challenge in hiring internationally.

When it comes to talent retention, companies can no longer ignore employees’ desire for flexible work. Those who continue to mandate a return to office, run the very real risk of losing their best talent, as Matthews explained, “The pandemic left a scar on those that saw the necessity for flexible work arrangements as a security for employees’ welfare and happiness.”

The financial cost can also be substantial, with turnover potentially costing companies six to nine months or more of an employees’ salary when they choose to leave. While some companies would decry the impracticality of a fully remote work model, it is perhaps in their best interest to consider what their employees want, especially high-performing ones.

“By retaining talent with the given option to work flexibly at home or hybrid working, companies can save big and keep employees happy,” Matthews concluded.