Move over, remote jobs. CEOs say borderless talent is the future of tech work

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  • Experts say borderless hiring for technology jobs is stealing the conversation from remote work.
  • Much like services such as Uber increased access to what is essentially a private driver on demand, talent marketplaces and a digitized workforce make global hiring more than just a pricey C-suite search.
  • "Remote is like the gateway drug to borderless," said one tech talent marketplace CEO whose customers include Goldman Sachs, Github and Coursera.

To work remotely or not is no longer the question. Experts say it's borderless hiring for technology roles that is stealing the conversation.

"Remote is like the gateway drug to borderless," said Jeremy Johnson, CEO of AI-enabled tech talent marketplace Andela, whose customers include Goldman Sachs, Github and Coursera. "Once you realize that you don't have to all be in the same office five days a week in order to build a compelling culture and feel connected to the mission and solve complex problems, you then start thinking there are great people all over the world."

With tech leaders focusing concurrently on innovation and value-driven efficiency, tech hiring that eclipses national or even global time zone delineation is a growing phenomenon. Borderless tech hiring has doubled in the last three years, according to Gartner's 2023 CEO Survey. By 2022, the tech talent workforce in cities like Beijing and Delhi far outweighed that of U.S. powerhouses like San Francisco and New York, reports CBRE Global Tech Talent Guidebook 2024. The report cites burgeoning tech talent markets like Bucharest, Romania; Cape Town, South Africa; Cebu City, Philippines; Nairobi, Kenya and more.

Global hiring is an example of a luxury that's moving down the value chain, Johnson said. Much like services such as Uber increased access to what is essentially a private driver on demand, talent marketplaces and a digitized workforce make global hiring more than just a pricey C-suite search.

Global payment processing platform Payoneer has its hands in the borderless hiring world from an internal perspective (with about 2,200 employees in 50 countries and more than 25 offices globally), but it also benefits from and drives the borderless trend with its clients.

"The rhetoric about the globalized opportunity is powerful, but it doesn't make any difference to the business you're doing unless you actually have the utilities and tools to do it," said Payoneer CEO John Caplan.

Pockets of talent worldwide

Adam Jackson, CEO of decentralized tech talent platform Braintrust, does borderless differently. "We don't have a physical office," he said. "Everyone works remotely. Every engineer but one who works on Braintrust is outside of the U.S." Braintrust's clients, from NASA to Nestlé, are building borderless teams, too, Jackson says.

"It was the case maybe 20 years ago when I moved to San Francisco that the best tech, best developers, best product managers and designers all lived here in Silicon Valley," Jackson added. "That's just not true anymore. There are still many here, but there are pockets all over the world."

Some leaders, like Johnson, believe time zone coordination is still important to provide certain employees with the opportunity to work synchronously. Jackson, however, has the viewpoint that global innovation with an asynchronous workforce is a chance to create a company "where the sun never sets."

While there are questions about work-life balance, Jackson says that doesn't exist in startup culture anyway, but that asynchronous work can increase clarity in documentation and minimize the endless treadmill of meetings, leaving more time for creative thinking and deep work.

Johnson says local labor laws, compliance and payroll are all factors at play in global operations, which is why many organizations have opened centers in specific countries. But even these obstacles aren't insurmountable.

AI and future of work geographies

One thing these experts agree on is that there's no one-size-fits-all approach to borderless hiring. "Every company has to find their own bespoke solution," Caplan said. "You have to design your office footprint, your future-of-work philosophy to the business you're building."

Thinking about artificial intelligence innovation and, on the flip side of the same coin, AI regulation, Johnson says the European Union's standard-setting regulatory framework will make it tough for tech operations to thrive. As more regulatory and case law settles around the globe surrounding AI and data, cross-border employment trends will shift like puzzle pieces.

"I think Europe is going to have a really tough time over the next few years," he said. "They're pushing a lot of data innovation out of the continent, and I think that's an opportunity for Africa and Latin America and other parts of the world."

Regardless of where organizations hire, Jackson emphasizes the importance of managing risk and hiring good people. "Quality still matters," he said. "The old adage is when you're building software, do you want to be fast, good quality, or cheap? Pick two. Now, I reject that. You can have all three, but quality still matters, no matter where you are."

Caplan relishes in the more altruistic potential of borderless employment, namely its ability to "lift up communities around the globe." This may be true, but at the very least, its benefits for expanded talent reach and cost effectiveness are enough for leaders in all kinds of industries to take it on. With applications for standard work-sponsored visas in the U.S. up 263% in 2023 compared to the year prior, according to Deel's latest Tech Migration Report, and U.S. cities accounting for the top five average monthly apartment rent costs, borderless hiring could ease the burden for employment seekers and employment providers in one

"If you could make your single biggest expense, which is talent, 10% more efficient, you have a dramatic advantage," Johnson said. Borderless hiring, it seems, will continue to infiltrate the growth playbook at all levels.

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