Location Bias: How To Fix Your Recruiting Problem

by Kevin Nakao

Blueseed will house tech talent in international waters near San Francisco to avoid immigration issues

If you go around and ask any growing Seattle area tech company what their biggest challenge is, I suspect that 100% will list hiring technical talent as one of their top problems.  Some companies are offering employees a $10k referral bonus and I received an email last week for a free dinner at El Gaucho just for introducing a candidate.  The problem is even more severe in the Bay Area.

Peter Thiel who founded PayPal and funded Facebook is building a boat filled with tech workers to work free and clear from immigration issues in international waters outside of the bay area.  When I first read about the re-purposed barge called Blueseed I thought the above photo was a photo-shopped hoax.  It’s not, they have already have over 900 entrepreneurs who want to board this ship.  I’m sure great things will happen but it won’t be the result of being a helicopter ride away from SFO.

The solution to the tech hiring issue isn’t recruiting or immigration reform but learning how to recruit, hire, and manage remote workers.

Sure, in-person teams working together are generally more effective and easier to manage,  but I have also seen remote teams and outsourced development succeed.  I worked with the Baltimore-based Intridea to quickly launch a project on time. The product never went down except for planned maintenance.  Intridea has recruited a top-notch team because they draw from a wider pool of remote employees. They also hire outstanding technical program managers to keep distributed teams organized and communicating.

We can use the web any place and on any device, yet location only seems to matter if your working on the Internets.  Trade brought people to ports, the industrial revolution brought farmers to factories,  web 2.0 brought everyone to Palo Alto.   Assembling  a car is location-dependent, building a website is not.

There is hope for our future and proof that remote works with services like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, Elance, Odesk and Media Piston that match remote workers with employers on a per job or project basis.  You can hire engineers in the Ukraine, writers in Detroit, and voice-over talent in Australia.  The long-tail of supply and demand for work is being served.  They are also distributing opportunity and the pursuit of happiness.  Joe Heitzeberg, the founder/CEO of MediaPiston told me about the heart-warming email he received from a mother who was able to bring her family to Disneyland based on the income she earned from the company.

So my call to action is to learn how to effectively work with and manage remote teams.

I’m not saying you should have a 100% remote team, but start learning when and how to use this approach.  What if you were to re-shift some of the time you spend recruiting locally to learning and figuring out how to hire remote workers.

When you figure it out, teach others your tricks and best practices from code reviews to deal structure.  One companies recruiting win is another companies turnover.  It’s in your best interest to show people how to recruit and manage remote employees.

Scrubly founder and CEO Bob Thoradson  kindly spent over 1 hour with me giving me his tips on working with remote workers on odesk.  We both live in the Seattle-area, but used Skype and screen-sharing for this helpful training session. Intridea’s multi-talented Program Manager/Designer/ Developer Patti Chan,  has shared her tips for managing remote teams.

If you have any tips and advice for managing remote teams, share your ideas in the comments below.

(By the way, we are hiring a rock star front-end developer at MeritShare for our Seattle-office and giving flat-screen TV’s away for referrals  — ok just kidding)