Borderless Work: Our Best Hope of Remedying the Tech Skills Shortage

Published: Mar 17, 2022  |  

Head of Estonia’s e-Residency programme

It is no longer surprising to hear that there is a huge shortage of skilled tech workers across the world. In November last year, global recruitment firm Harvey Nash reported that the shortage had risen by a quarter in just 12 months

Technology has evolved at such a pace that we were already struggling to keep up. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, came the pandemic, changing all of our lives dramatically. Far heavier use of technology to support remote working, healthcare, hiring, firing, schooling and more created a huge tech skills vacuum, where demand far outstripped supply.

This is having a profound effect on a number of markets, not least those where technology is used in mission critical applications. Access to an experienced workforce is becoming much harder to come across, and decision-makers across the globe are brainstorming on how to tackle this issue.

It’s not just the tech sector, however, that is seeing changing work trends. The mass departure of Americans from their jobs, coined ‘The Great Resignation’, and people’s general reluctance to return to the office, indicates that expectations have shifted, and the workforce are rethinking work-life balance. Countless commentators believe remote working is here for good, and I join them willingly. I propose that we can mitigate the tech skills crisis (and ‘The Great Resignation’, for that matter) by thinking further outside of the box.

At the moment, we’re seeing wages rising up dramatically in certain regions, and staff churn becoming incredibly high, since workers (tech workers in particular) have the pick of the crop—this is not sustainable. Recruiters are left with no choice but to make their offering more competitive whilst the world scrambles to train up the next generation of professionals to fill empty roles. This competitive element is, one might argue, natural.

However, we need to recognise that retaining staff ultimately comes down to giving workers more flexibility and freedom, and that finding staff requires broadening the pool of applicants being considered. I believe that borderless work models can help us to achieve both of these things—let’s explore why.

More Choice for Business and Talent

The key benefit of borderless remote working for business is that it widens talent pools. When broadening the scope of their hiring practices, recruiters suddenly have access to a whole world of talent, rather than those who are based in one particular region, or even within a few miles of the office. This not only gives them access to the best talent out there, but it also has important implications for other initiatives such as diversity, since there are more opportunities to hire people from all backgrounds from around the world.

Borderless working creates more choice for workers, too; we have seen throughout the pandemic how remote working has been particularly beneficial for women, since they are disproportionately impacted by childcare responsibilities among other things, and borderless helps a whole range of workers seeking more flexibility. Providing options for workers beyond borders gives more autonomy to those who want the best deal for providing their skills, and workers are more likely to find a company that suits their needs and has a company vision in line with their own.

Increasing the pool of workers businesses have to choose from, while increasing the diversity of workforces in the process, also has a marked impact on the real-time success of businesses. Bringing more voices and perspectives into the boardroom inspires more creativity and allows companies to diversify their business models, ultimately making them more robust and prepared for new challenges.

So, the benefits are far-reaching. But how can we achieve this?

From Theory to Practice

My home country, Estonia, has attracted nearly 100,000 Estonian e-Residents from abroad over the last 7 years, and the government likes us to think of ourselves as a digital society.

By all intents and purposes, we really are one; 99.9% of government services are online, and e-Residency essentially extends this digital ecosystem beyond Estonia’s borders. It allows businesses to set up an Estonian business and sell services from there—entirely remotely.

The result of this lateral thinking is a booming economy. Estonia actually has the 6th fastest growing start-up ecosystem in the world, and Estonian companies founded by e-Residents’ from abroad are driving up the average, having established 30% of Estonian start-ups.

This is just a start, but other countries can start to broaden their horizons by following Estonia’s lead and trying to imagine life without borders. Doing so unlocks our ability to innovate and start to solve any number of problems, with the tech skills shortage first in line.

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