Rising remote work and the need for hiring processes that help shape a more diverse and globally distributed team are aspects that are shaping work cultures in the new normal. But in most cases, as employers and employees navigate this uncertain time, they are building processes as they go along based on actual market conditions. How will the current pandemic impact the global workforce and HR marketplace on the whole? Ben Wright, Founder & CEO at Velocity Global weighs-in.
Tell us a little about yourself Ben …how did the idea of Velocity Global came about and could you share some of the biggest moments from your journey so far?
I founded Velocity Global for four reasons: First from a business perspective, I wanted to fill a need for growing businesses that the marketplace was not offering. And from a personal perspective it was important to me to take care of my family, provide a once-in-a-lifetime professional experience for myself and anyone else who came along for the ride, and to give back to the community in which I live and work.
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Several years ago, I was working at a company that primarily did global entity setup and compliance for U.S.-based companies. Our clients continued to say, “I don’t want to set up a company; I just need to employ this person. Can’t you just employ this person for me?” Long story short, my employer wasn’t interested in pursuing this business line, so I resigned and launched Velocity Global after my non-compete expired.
We’ve had some big moments in a short period of time. Velocity Global debuted on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies in America in 2018 at #4 with a growth rate of 39,817 percent, followed in 2019 at #185 with a three-year growth rate of 2,112 percent. I honestly never considered we’d even make the Inc 5000 let alone be #4!
As the numbers grew, so has our team. I’m now blessed to call 240 people colleagues across a dozen countries and four continents, serving clients, their teams, and each other every day.
Given the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the global workforce, we’d love to know your observations on what some of the biggest companies with largely distributed teams did during this time to ensure employee productivity and motivation.
We partner with firms to manage their staff across international locations and have tackled the needs of remote working with thousands of growing businesses. One truth proves to be clear pre-pandemic and today: communication is king.
It’s easy for people to feel disconnected from their teams in a more dispersed, remote working environment. Companies must provide the tools for communication to support workflow, but also morale. Set clear and realistic communication expectations such as response timeframes and when to use video calls versus email or chat. And schedule times for check-ins. Deskside visits aren’t happening, so managers must be deliberate about checking in on their teams to offer support.
Finally, it’s more important than ever to highlight the positive virtues and both individual and group wins across the organization. Distance can lead to distrust, so constantly reinforcing the amazing attributes and accomplishments of your teammates builds bonds rather than breaking them down.
In what ways can companies contribute more towards their society and employees during this time; what according to you should companies now focus on doing more of as the effects of the pandemic impact work cultures further for the next few months?
Recovery starts with people. Human Resource departments first focus on the safety of their employees. The economic and human impacts from the pandemic are significant, and as we emerge, safety is table stakes. A focus on employees is a focus on your business.
Know where your employees are. We’ve seen employees worldwide migrating, temporarily or permanently. Some might be returning to family members, others looking for a change of scenery. That may be moving from San Francisco to the Midwest, or it may be moving from Amsterdam to Spain. Find out where your people are for the sake of their safety and well-being – and for your business plans. A hurricane recently left millions without power on the East Coast. What can you do to help an employee that just moved there? We saw the recent tragedy in Beirut. By knowing which members of our team and partners were there at the time, we were able to check in on their wellbeing and extend our support.
Finally, get feedback from employees. Remote work and global workforces are part of the future, but the standard operating procedure is not yet fully defined. Employers and employees navigate it together, so a constant dialogue between the two is needed. This is how businesses will find out what flexibility employees want and enable them able to adapt policies to attract top talent – and retain it.
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How do you see this pandemic impact the global talent marketplace – how will changes in regulations because of the pandemic further impact the employee talent place?
Recent immigration policy shifts will greatly impact U.S. businesses and the global talent market. On June 22, President Trump signed an executive order temporarily halting access to several employment-based visas, affecting hundreds of thousands of people seeking to work in the U.S. Companies invested to identify global top talent to help their businesses grow and compete. Tens of thousands of anticipated employees are now stuck in other countries unable to come to the U.S. on an H-1B visa. Historically this represented major disruptions for companies who wanted their teams “in the action”. But suddenly companies are much more comfortable with remote workers… we must be in this environment. We’re talking with businesses ready to employ the top global workers in their home country rather than navigating uncertain immigration policy. In many ways this is actually beneficial for countries outside the United States since they can retain the top talent at home rather than them moving to and contributing to the US economy directly.
What top tips would you share with companies who are still on hiring sprees, what should they be doing more of to boost their hiring process during a pandemic, to streamline onboarding and training and expand employee engagement while being remote?
For companies experiencing growth, particularly tech companies, they are looking to new markets overseas. The world is experiencing this pandemic in remarkably similar ways. With continued uncertainty as to what will come next, businesses’ global hiring plans need to stay flexible while testing the waters of foreign markets before making a long-term commitment, and remain compliant with foreign employment laws, taxes and regulations.
We’re sitting in strategy sessions with businesses focused on responsible growth. Agility is paramount. They want to test, invest, and if they find success in a new global market, scale quickly to seize the business opportunity and foster a positive, engaged workforce. However, they stand ready to pivot if health or market conditions change.
As new technologies and innovations enable more HR tasks, what changes/predictions do you see for the HR Tech realm giving the evolving work cultures of today?
Data-driven input should be balanced by human interaction. Human Resources relies on data that can be used to make smarter, better, and faster decisions through artificial intelligence and machine learning. People analytics is a powerful tool to cull down a candidate pool based on the right skill sets, offer market standard compensation and benefits, track employee performance versus the time “on the clock,” or even monitor usage patterns in learning and development programs. But data only informs humans who make the decisions and drive your business to reduce risk and optimize operational expenditures in human resources and recruiting. We should never forget that HR must always have a “people-first” mission.
A few general thoughts / tips for businesses worldwide dealing with the current world pandemic?
We’re in the largest remote working experiment in history. Overnight, work broke away from the workplace. The result: employees are empowered to make choices they didn’t have before. At Velocity Global we implemented a two-time zone policy that enables employees to move anywhere within two time zones of their former home office to extend flexibility while remaining on a team schedule. We’re headquartered in Denver, so for U.S. employees that covers the continental United States. For our office in Amsterdam, that covers all of Europe. Chinese nationals in our Singapore office can work from their home country if they want. The experiment is working for many, accelerating the transition to a global workforce.
Velocity Global is the leading global employment solutions provider that has reinvented the way companies expand overseas. With unparalleled expertise in over 185 countries, Velocity Global delivers best-in-class service and innovative solutions that enable companies to feel confident breaking into new markets.
Ben Wright is the Founder & CEO at Velocity Global