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Importing skills: The impact on organisational culture

Australia’s lack of skilled personnel is the number one barrier to innovation. How importing skills impacts your organisation’s culture.

The impact of importing skills on your organisation’s culture - article image

We are behind in terms of innovation — for two years in a row, we have been listed 17th behind the likes of New Zealand and tiny countries like Luxembourg in the Global Innovation Index 2015 , across a range of measures from human capital to infrastructure and business sophistication. Worryingly, PWC also states in the same report that by 2020, 60% of the workforce will require skills held only by 20% of the current workforce.
With the Innovation Agenda now clearly laid out, it is acknowledged that much of the skills gap must continue to be filled from overseas, in addition to ramping up STEM and other education efforts on home turf.
With that said, an aggressive talent acquisition strategy solely to achieve business goals without deep consideration for culture and values fit can have devastating consequences. With national and generational cultures, along with any complexities that English as a second language may bring, there are many differences to be negotiated.

Personalities and culture are intrinsic to how we work, behave, problem-solve, and build relationships. All of which should be considered with current team and culture in mind.

“Hire an attitude, not just experience and qualification,” said Greg Savage — recruitment industry leader. Organisational culture and values being clearly defined as integral to your talent acquisition strategy is crucial to ensure that any impact on importing skills only seeks to benefit your organisation. While necessary skills are of course crucial to business success, so too is the right culture and people performing to deliver it.
Sourcing a talent pool without borders comes with many challenges and risks — there’s cost and time taken to find the right candidates. Identifying the right skills with the right cultural fit can be a difficult balance to strike. All of which can be a challenge to manage and identify from afar. Then there’s the relocation, and on-boarding time to get up to speed — all of which can take many months.
Then there’s the integration of new overseas staff from a diversity of cultures. Which can be exciting and motivating if managed carefully.

Tips on successful integration of intercultural staff

  1. Talent acquisition strategy — first and foremost, a clear outline of what is a good organisational fit. Whether this be focused on personality traits or attributes, along with competency and skills, ensure that there is clarity around what an ideal ‘fit’ looks like. How to identify and select these skills is also important. In addition to interviews, will there be a psychometric test? Setting a candidate task or presentation? Peer interviewing?
  2. Communication and transparency — being clear on values, purpose, business and role objectives — all helps to minimise ambiguity and bring certainty at what can be an unsettling time.
  3. Management training — ensuring that leadership is consistent with cultural values, and is able to integrate new staff with existing team members with clarity, is key to happy assimilation for all involved.
  4. Workforce planning — looking at long-term talent needs could help to manage any desperate recruitment choices. Sourcing talent from a distance can take time and persuasion. It may be appropriate to identify a suitable candidate pool in advance for when the need arises.
  5. Cultural training — inbound staff would benefit from a foundation understanding of intercultural differences. Also important is an overview of your organisational culture and values to abide by. Training for existing staff would be of benefit in order to build awareness of what may be challenging for newer team members during their settling in period.
  6. On-boarding process — engagement during this crucial period is key. It’s important to ensure your new staff feel involved and able to integrate easily. Clear communication on expectations, milestones and goals are important, as well as interpersonal relationships. Regular managerial contact, clarity around business goals, and social events can all help to speed up integration and overall sense of belonging.

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