Random Thoughts – Randosity!

The H1-B dilemma

Posted in best practices, botch, business by commorancy on April 9, 2014

I have recently heard that a common question among Silicon Valley CEOs towards government is, when is the H1-B allotment going to increase? Let’s explore exactly what this question ultimately means.

Foreign vs US Workers

The H1-B visa is a type of work visa granted to a foreign national to work within the United States for a specified period of time, that eventually expires and will need to be renewed. Asking to have more of these granted per year says only one thing: These Silicon Valley CEOs believe they cannot find domestic US talent to fill positions. Either that, or they mistakenly believe it’s for cost cutting purposes.

My problem with this situation is that someone in each of those organizations is telling the CEO that they cannot hire locally. This is a load of rubbish and the current limit on the issuance of H1-B visas is in place for a reason. If you are a company doing business in the US, the point is to …

Hire Domestically

The foreign visa limits are there to prevent hiring foreign workers over local US citizens (and thus, keep those wages inside the US to help the economy). That’s the entire point. If the US government were okay with letting companies hire foreign workers willy nilly, then there would be no limits on H1-B visas nor would this visa likely even exist. Instead, it is there for a purpose and that purpose is to limit foreign workers to force hiring of US citizens. This is exactly as it should be.

If you think you need to hire foreign workers, feel free open a foreign office and hire all of the foreign workers there. Just keep them there and do not bring them onto US soil.

H1-B Workers

One of the other problems that I have with hiring H1-B workers is that most of these worker’s wages get sent back to the country where that worker calls home. Most of the money is not spent in the US. So, in general, H1-B workers do not, for the most part, help improve the US economy. But, they do help out their own country’s economy by sending much of their paycheck there. This is, if for no other reason, a big reason to hire US workers over any other type of worker. This all assumes that you value your US based business along with the US economy.

Again, if you really need to hire cheap labor, open an office in that region and hire to your heart’s content. As a CEO, nothing is stopping you (other than perhaps the board of directors) from making that decision. Asking the government to grant more allotment of H1-B’s is not the answer and never will be.

Lack of Talent

If anyone on your hiring team is telling you that there is lack of talent, the real lack of talent is actually in your hiring team. Meaning, when they’re not finding people it’s because they’re simply not trying. There are people all over the US who are talented and willing to work. Yes, you might have to pay them more in some cases, but if you want good talent, you pay for it.

Is hiring an H1-B worker actually cheaper? Not necessarily. If your company is choosing to sponsor a foreign worker (whether or not they plan to get a green card), your company is in for a large number of fairly pricey and somewhat time consuming legal proceedings at regular intervals. In other words, expect legal fees and lawyers to manage this process. So, what you’re not spending on that worker’s wage goes to your lawyer to keep that person legally in this country (and your business in compliance with the law). Worse, if that H1-B worker chooses to leave the country before your sponsorship is over, the legal fees you’ve spent are lost. If nothing else, the proceedings can interrupt both yours and that worker’s schedule to meet legal deadlines. Even worse, an H1-B holder can work at your company just up to the point of becoming a citizen, making your company foot all of the bills and then they jump ship leaving you without a worker and a set of legal bills you still need to pay. It happens. It’s not pretty. You can simply avoid this by hiring domestic US citizens.

Silly Valley

It’s called this for a reason. If Silicon Valley CEOs are claiming they need more H1-B visas, I call hogwash. There are plenty of talented US workers. The problem is not in the talent pool, it’s in the talent acquisition process. Either the job role is too overreaching, in which case you still won’t find someone or the job role is overly tiny, neither of which a foreign worker would turn down even when they’re not qualified. Considering the unemployment rate today, your hiring managers are not even trying. Meaning, because most hiring processes are severely broken, its difficult to find talent because it’s hard to spot talent. That’s why you have a 90 day new hire grace period. Put it to use. Hire people, take chances, let those go early who don’t work out. Many job description postings are looking for the swiss-army-knife of talent. For example, a guru in networking, databases, systems administration and software development all rolled into one. If your company is a startup, you might need someone like this because your staff is so small, but chances are you’re not able to hire H1-B staff that early in the company’s life.

Still, a swiss-army-knife of talent is hard to come by no matter the size of your business. Pick the role that you really need most and train the staff for the rest. Focus on the skills you find in your candidate rather than those that are not there. If you can find a database administrator separately from the systems administrator, hire two people. You still need to have the backup. If you place all of your eggs in one job role basket, when that person leaves (and they will because they’re in demand) you have a huge hole that’s, once again, hard to replace. Choose smaller more easily replaceable roles. You’ll also end up paying a high wage to the swiss-army-knife talent versus much less for the limited role talent.

Hiring Processes Broken?

Hiring managers can sometimes create some of the most difficult interview processes leaving would-be candidates unable to show they have talent because the hiring manager asked the wrong questions. Yet, given a chance, many people would not only do well, but they would excel at the job. Hiring managers don’t see the talent and then claim they can’t find talent. The HR people pass that feedback blindly along to the CEO who wholeheartedly believes he/she needs H1-B workers for all to be right with the world.

Nope. I completely advocate that you need to exhaust all of the talent pool in the US before you jump on the H1-B bandwagon. And no, hiring one Indian worker does not mean you need to hire more Indian workers no matter how convincing that first H1-B worker may have been. However, if you promote an H1-B worker to a managerial position, you need to expect them to reach out to their friends living in India and then want to hire their friends who will also require an H1-B. Your hiring handbook should be very clear on this point. You should only hire H1-B workers after you have exhausted all domestic US workers and this is as it should be.

The point is, your company doesn’t need H1-B workers. It just needs better processes to find citizens living in the US who are willing and able to work the role. If you still think you need H1-B workers, please re-read this article again and then comment on why you think so.

All comments are encouraged under the following rules: Comments will not be posted that contain personal attacks. Personal attacks only serve to degrade your comment, make you seem like a troll, weaken your stance and undermine your points. Please choose your words carefully. Thank you for contributing!

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