Setting up a skilled migration program

by 07 Aug 2007

Q: Management in my firm has decided to endorse the recruitment of overseas staff. We are in the formative stages of setting up a ‘skilled migration program’ and want to have all the bases covered. What elements/framework can you suggest for such a program?

A: My observation is that the HR industry understands better than any other the urgency required in developing a strong recruiting capacity overseas. However, many people haven’t yet thought through the cultural and logistical challenge this means for their specific business.

Businesses planning to incorporate skilled migration into their HR strategy should allow 12 months to develop a sustainable program that provides a reliable source of overseas talent when needed. This should include the development of established supplier relationships, making operational changes within the business, creating systems for screening and interviewing international talent, establishing efficient visa application processes, and developing an employee settlement strategy.

The search for international talent comes from a number of sources. The companies in the strongest position in the short terms are those with international offices. However, the competition for international talent among most western countries doesn’t guarantee Australia will get a look in if the Australian division isn’t out there flying the flag.

Recruitment companies need to locate services that act as a hub for overseas talent. This could include establishing a partnership with overseas recruitment agencies, or working with Australian firms that have access to overseas skilled talent. At the entry-level end of the market, companies can also look at building relationships with universities located overseas, or with the international student office of local universities.

Operational changes within businesses must also be made. If the business plan of the company indicates that skilled migration will be a growing part of the business’ revenues, a dedicated person for the role may make sense. Processes and timelines will need to be developed for both anticipated lead times for individual talent and the time to an achieve equilibrium point where total supply of workers is meeting the productivity demands of the business.

Creating efficient and effective methods for filtering, screening, and interviewing international candidates is at the crux of making skilled migration work for any given business. Without this level of control, companies can literally work for years to find the right candidate. The filtering process must determine whether a candidate is eligible to come to Australia in the first place. Screening international talent determines just how suitable the candidate is for a given job and must be able to ultimately produce a shortlist of candidates ready for the interview stage. The interview assessment should include not just technical capability but assessment of cultural and social fit to ensure a successful transition to the Australian workplace.

Australia has some of the most complex migration laws in the world, and it changes on a regular basis. Companies can minimise delays and maximise the chance of successful application by having a specialist in this area. Our own experience indicates that migration is most effective when processed online, particularly where international candidates are involved. It is also valuable in supporting timelines set out by the HR manager, who needs information on the status of overseas candidate applications in as close to real-time as possible.

Finally, developing a settlement strategy for overseas recruits will make a positive impact on the success of the candidate’s transition. Having an HR person responsible for this area ensures it is not overlooked under the weight of general business demands. Write a policy that addresses critical aspects of settling new overseas workers and their families, including:the establishment of social networks (for both employee and spouse), cultural familiarity, induction to the local area, developing an understanding of interests and talents, children’s education, and ensuring participation in corporate and social events that provide emotional support to minimise the initial sense of isolation.

By Assyl Haidar, CEO of LIVE IN australia.com. Tel: (03) 9691 7777