For companies to innovate and scale as quickly as the current tech ecosystem demands, a stellar team is priority number one. If you’re a CEO and you want to hire the best talent in the world –– and I do mean the world –– then you need to understand the political climate, the bureaucratic red tape, and the financial impact of hiring immigrants.
As my guest Dick Burke, President and CEO of Envoy Global, points out, we’re in a perfect storm of demand for 4 percent GDP, negative unemployment in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, math), and a chronic imbalance in the supply of US STEM talent and the demand for it.
But the process of securing work authorizations like H-1B visas and complying with ever-shifting immigration regulations is challenging, to put it mildly. For many companies, especially smaller startups, it’s a deterrent.
Envoy Global has a suite of software solutions and 20-plus years of industry experience that helps businesses navigate all that red tape, making it possible for more of them to hire without borders.
“Imagine if the Notre Dame football team said, we’re only going to take kids who played high school football in Indiana,” says Dick. “Why would they do that? It would be very limiting.
“Envoy democratizes the process of accessing foreign national talent and retaining them. It’s all about easing administrative burden.”
Dick’s background is in building online marketplaces, as one of the original leaders at Classified Ventures (Cars.com, Apartments.com and HomeGain.com). That company was acquired in 2014, and he joined Envoy the next year. “I love Chicago. I’m from here and wanted to stay,” he says. “This was a chance to marry my background as a lawyer –– that’s how I started out –– with my experience running technology businesses.”
Volatility with a side of optimism
How does Dick deal with the a business that is, as he says, “subject to the winds” of politics and policy? He sees the opportunities regardless of which way it blows.
“Is our business subject to macro-economic trends? Yes,” he says. “However, is every business subject to macro trends of one form or another? Without a doubt.”
He points out that over $3 billion is spent by employers bringing people into the US on employment-based work authorization every year. Envoy also helps companies seeking to get work authorization overseas, which is another multibillion-dollar pursuit. “We have a very large addressable market,” he says.
When Trump was elected, Dick says that he was initially unsure how it would affect the business. However, he reports that the need to manage compliance is more important than ever.
“Weirdly, it’s been very helpful for us. It’s as if there’s a new sheriff in town, and if you’re going 57 in a 55, you’re going to be pulled over now. We can help companies make sure they’re not going 57 unwittingly.”
Access to talent is among CEOs’ top concerns, he says. “The immigration landscape and the rise of nativism has elevated the question of getting foreign national talent.”
The increased urgency in the C-suite pales in comparison, however, to the affect the current landscape has on foreign nationals themselves as they consider US-based opportunities.
“Their anxiety is through the roof,” says Dick. “Can they work here? Can they live here? Can they transfer to a better job here? Can their spouse work here? Can they ultimately get a green card?”
Meanwhile, he notes, the US is in danger of falling behind as other countries embrace the world’s best and brightest.
“Canada is putting out the welcome mat. China is putting out the welcome mat. What’s the wisdom of making it so perilous for the foreign national and uncertain for the employer? That’s the thing we keep hearing over and over from those we serve.”
Even so, Dick advises that US companies persist –– with help. “Denials [of visas] are up dramatically under the current administration. So are requests for evidence to support applications. Site visits are up exponentially. You need to have a professional,” he says. “This is not one of these things to scrimp on. You need help. It’s not terribly expensive.
“But don’t close the door to hiring foreign national talent. Don’t limit the pool of candidates that can help you grow.”