Geographical borders – a real barrier to STEM, or a mindset problem?

With businesses re-addressing hiring plans, many organisations have been forced to change. But how can adopting a new mindset unlock a world of opportunity?

Empty boardroom in a skyscraper with daytime vista

2020 has resulted in a lot of change for businesses. From overcoming practical challenges of remote working to re-structuring global strategies, various business functions have had to adapt quickly.

One of the biggest areas impacted has been hiring – within the context of a pandemic, traditional routes to hiring have needed to pivot. Challenges associated with video interviewing and issues surrounding digital onboarding have been discussed at length.

But when it comes to the long-term impact on hiring strategies, logistical issues will not be the biggest driver for change.

Opening up talent pools

When the pandemic first hit, questions were raised as to how teams could be built within a remote environment.

In June we held a #STEMSeries roundtable that explored the potential for the future of work. While the world was busy discussing the prospect of a new normal, it was clear to our panellists that we had an opportunity to build a better normal – particularly when it came to the way managers recruit their people.

With geographical barriers becoming a less critical consideration within the landscape of a virtual workplace, could this allow a more diverse and inclusive workforce to thrive?

The start of the journey

It’s too early to understand the full extent that the pandemic will impact hiring plans – the long-term effect is still to be seen. However, as the only global pure-play STEM specialist, we recently reached out to some of our clients to learn more about their plans for the future.

Across all STEM markets, our clients are telling us they’re prioritising digital acceleration and focusing on ways they can build a more flexible and resilient workforce for the future – and despite the current circumstances, 75% of our clients told us they’re still actively hiring.

Many clients are also adapting their approach to the supply chain – where efficiency used to be the number one priority, the focus is now on resilience to allow for increased sustainability in a volatile environment.

Businesses are pivoting and continuously adapting their approach. But what this does this mean when it comes to hiring out with traditional geographical restrictions? Interestingly, more than half said they’d be unwilling to adopt this approach right now.

Practical barriers to entry

It has to be noted, of course, that for many companies there are several logistical obstacles to hiring remotely. For a start, let’s look at the medical devices industry – a massive amount of work has to take place in factories and labs.

So, on a purely pragmatic level, it would be unrealistic to assume that geographical barriers will become a thing of the past within industries like this.

But what about other industries? What about organisations that aren’t restricted by these obstacles and have already enabled their teams to work remotely as a result of the pandemic?

What is it that’s preventing these industries from broadening their scope when it comes to hiring?

Adopting new mindsets

In my view, a lot of this comes down to mindset. And I don’t believe this topic is exclusive to hiring – for me, we’re dealing with wider leadership issues that govern the culture of a business.

If I put myself in the shoes of a manager with a track record of successfully leading teams of people locally, why would I want to change my approach? Moving away from a model that’s already working is a frightening prospect – particularly in the volatile job market of 2020.

But business is all about adapting. And if this year has taught us anything, it’s that businesses need to be ready to adjust in an instant. If leaders don’t adapt their approach and open their minds to new ways of hiring, I fear they risk getting left behind.

The pandemic has acted as a catalyst for global mobility - businesses have access to talent pools that simply weren’t available before. If they don’t broaden their approach and seek to engage with this wider network of skilled professionals, it could be a massively missed opportunity.

Importance of diverse and inclusive teams

Building diverse and inclusive teams from a range of backgrounds isn’t just a moral or ethical issue. It absolutely strengthens business performance.

If leaders bring together teams of people with a wider range of experiences from a varied mix of backgrounds spanning a multitude of geographies, the impact will be enormous. Diversity of thought will lead to so many new viewpoints being brought to the table.

As businesses seek to innovative and drive change within their market, different values, viewpoints, and experiences will only enhance proactive decision making across a team.

As we look to bring skilled people together to build the future, we have the opportunity to do this on a wider scale than ever before. And this should be something that’s embraced. Not feared.

Changing our approach

We’re on the verge of a cultural re-set when it comes to hiring, building, and leading teams of people. And while the pandemic may have forced a wave of acceleration in many areas, shifting mindsets isn’t going to happen overnight.

The full extent and long-term impact are yet to be seen. But as we move forward, global mobility will accelerate. And if leaders want to build a workforce fit for the future, they must open their minds and align to a new way of thinking.

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