By Peggy Smith
May. 22, 2019
Listen to an intense conversation among people-management professionals these days and there’s a good chance the discussion will include immigration.
Organizations are constantly subject to changing regulations and high-stakes political developments affecting the growing global workforce, making immigration a huge pain point, surpassing even costs as a concern in some quarters.
Global uncertainty, changes in H-1B visa availability and countless other immigration-related factors make worldwide recruiting increasingly complex. At the same time, historically low unemployment, widening skills gaps, an aging workforce and the desire to be more diverse and inclusive to compete effectively in a global economy have increased demand for foreign-born workers.
U.S. Census Bureau data show that about 17 percent of the workforce is foreign-born, and without international migration, nearly 45 percent of the nation’s population would be in shrinking regions, with economic concerns related to population decline.
Without an influx of immigrants, the total U.S. population of working-age adults is expected to decline over the next 20 years. It’s clear that HR professionals need a way to prepare for a changing immigration landscape to recruit the talent they need. Here are three tips on how to be prepared.
A Barron’s article published earlier this year cites two studies demonstrating diversity’s value. The studies found gender diversity improves investment performance from 4 to 10 percent—and diverse leadership teams outperformed peers on profitability by 21 percent, and on value creation by 27 percent.
Building broad support for a diverse workforce across the organization is critical, not only for gaining buy-in for corporate diversity and inclusion initiatives, but also to prepare for changes in immigration regulations which make recruiting more expensive and time-consuming. With a strong commitment to diversity, company leaders are more likely to allocate the necessary resources.
One way to stay up to date without investing an inordinate amount of time in research is to follow a variety of industry sources for immigration policy news. In some cases, sectors adjacent to employment-based immigration might spot trends before HR outlets identify an emerging pattern and alert their readers and followers. Immigration law associations frequently provide a roundup on the status of proposed regulations and court cases impacting employment-based immigration.
A recent National Foundation for American Policy analysis underscored the scope of the challenge HR professionals face on immigration, reporting on a recent spike in visa denials in the United States. The denial rate for visa extensions rose from 4 percent in 2016 to 18 percent in the first quarter of 2019. Over that same time, rejection rates for visa petitions rose from 10 percent to 32 percent.
These changes are happening against a backdrop of a decrease in the number of visa applicants and independent of specific changes in policies or laws. That emphasizes the need for HR professionals to proactively address employment-based immigration policies.
By building a commitment to a diverse workforce, staying informed on trends, and gaming out possible scenarios and strategies to future-proof policies, HR leaders can stay ahead of the curve in a rapidly changing environment.
Peggy Smith is president and CEO of Worldwide ERC. A frequent keynoter and panelist at mobility and HR-related conferences, Smith shares her thoughts on global workforce issues, talent and skills shortages, multigenerational workplace considerations and future mobility strategy.
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