I was in the situation back in the mid 90s where qualified employees were hard to find. My company was a startup - we had to get our product sold, that was first priority. I had to hire ten people over a one year time frame, manage them, manage my direct accounts, and grow the business. I picked two people on H1-Bs and I only got one of them - and they were not cheaper. A startup has no time to train, and startups are where the growth and jobs are during an economic recovery. So its a no brainer - hire the most qualified people who can hit the ground running in a tight employment market and pay market wages! Hopefully we will see this kind of growth and tight employment in tech. I believe we will. But its up to the prospective employees to keep their skills sharp.
"change the culture...that is a painful...process"
Omigod! Heaven forbid that we create a situation that would require the CORPORATION to know anything about PAIN! Certainly we "interchangeable... workers" would know nothing about that entire concept!... sorry Larry, I mean you got it right, just seemed like it needed a little emphasis...
@Bert, this is the most reality-based post that I see in this thread. It's interesting that the subject involves worker retraining, but in a sense it is the companies that need to be retrained. The practices described in other posts have been doable because employers have been so firmly in the driver's seat for so long. Now they are beginning to gear back up enough that demand is beginning to exhaust supply. The easiest way around that is to increase supply, because the alternative is to change the culture that considers engineers and other workers as interchangeable parts, and that is a painful and expensive process.
Is it a wonder, then, that H-1B visas are so controversial and that corporate executives so distrusted? Hardly.
But the truth is, the US has always been at the forefront of innovation BECAUSE of enterpreneurial immigrants, right? It's just that in the past, there was enough growth to go around for US and immigrant smart guys. The cause of the malaise now is really simple: globalization. US workers didn't so much have to compete against Chinese workers living in dormitories before, so there was considerably less downward pressure on the wages of highly skilled people in the US.
It should be obvious to any engineer. Globalization is a negative feedback loop, working to stabilize global salaries. It creates downward pressure on salaries in developed countries, and puts upward pressure on salaries in developing countries. Just like any self-regulating machine would do. The only real problem here is that today, we are living in that transitional phase.
We created the Internet, which is probably THE most important tool to enable globalization. The well-known law of unintended consequences rears its ugly head again.
As to motivated smart guys, I have a hard time accepting any generalities on that score. I have worked with plenty of immigrant engineers who are not so motivated or so bright, or indispensable, and the same applies to US engineers. And by the way, the same applies to women. Generalities I keep hearing on this, in my experience anyway, are generally wrong.
Wow, what an excellent post. It made me want to stand up, wave flags and cheer--really. I comment you and your company, its board, and any investors that have appreciated this company to date. I'm so glad you landed in this company.
Sounds like you should consider writing a book. Thanks for resposnding.
As one who has worked for many years in engineering and who is now a CTO, I can speak to some of these issues.
I'm employed by the board of a small company. My contract says I have to do what they tell me. The board is comprised of several people with considerable experience running small to medium-sized companies but who have no technical skills whatsoever, along with three more who have both technical and non-technical experience. The non-tech contingent outnumbers the tech contingent, 3:2. The Chairperson is, however, a very technically-competent former Software Engineer with considerable PMP experience, who also happens to be an MBA.
My contract says I have to do what the board says. When the board says, cut costs any way possible, I must comply. Usually, this means cutting budgets. This is nothing new. However, the policies which drive this effort to save costs vary greatly from company to company. It is possible to do it whilst preserving an entrepreneurial spirit and keeping people's morale high. But is is not easy.
Companies for which I've worked in the past have had some policies, well, let's just say, immoral bordering on illegal. I won't name any names, but I've seen things like the following:
Informally, have a "cut-off" level at which if you haven't made management, you are out the door. It's a way of cutting payroll (like sports teams do). How you fill the empty positions doesn't matter, as long as you keep the cost of new-hires as low as possible. I suspect that this runs counter to labor law.
Always have one really experienced engineer with a very long career on your interview list. Always get them to second-interview so you can discuss salary with them. Take a number very slightly below that and make it the upper-bound. Find your lower bound through interviews. Now eliminate everyone (regardless of how good a fit they are for the position or even if the team and hiring manager likes them) who is between the median and upper bound, pick the lowest salaried prospect who can still pass the interview and hire them. Literally, it was like clockwork. We as manager were taught how to follow this process in a 1-day training.
Just don't ever hire or re-hire anyone who has more than a certain number of years' experience in the field or who's ever worked here before. This was actually in the policy manual at one company I worked for.
And it goes on and on. So, how do we avoid this? Simple - but it has cost us potential investors over the years. Namely:
our hiring policy states explicitly (and it's also in our articles of incorporation) that we value three things most in an employee: skillset, team/social compatibility and productivity. We know that it is difficult to judge productivity based on three or four hours of face-time, so we allow for judgement calls on the part of the hiring manager and the team to which the prospect will be assigned.
our company policy states that, when we have successful, productive teams where results are proven, we will not relocate, lay-off or force-out these teams excepting as a last-resort. We have, thus far, never had to do so (however it has come close).
our policy states that all teams must have at least two experienced members: one with deep technical knowledge of the area in which said team operates, and one with deep technical management skills (includes PMP/Agile or whatever required for said area). There may be more than two, but there are always at least two. That's right - the most experienced (and often most expensive) members on any team are always the last to go. Oh, and by the way - if we lay someone off, the situation changes, and somehow they are still available - we will make extra efforts to hire them back at their departing salary/benefit level and retained seniority.
and finally, social issues are important. Which means, no arseholes. No prima-donnas. If you have extra abilities and you share them with someone else on your team who needs help, you are rewarded. If they come to you, learn something new and then use it to effect, they are rewarded also. ANd so on.
As I said, yes - it's cost us potential investors. VCs wouldn't even talk to us, neither would banks. But we believe in what we're doing. This small company is succeeding even in times of financial crisis. Why? Because we stick together and pull through, no matter what. Board members come in on weekends sometimes to help the staff. We know that if we ever have internal devisiveness, we're dead as a company.
Would I ever want to work anywhere else? Heck no. We value our experienced employees very highly and they return the favor by working their butts off to get stuff done. Because we're all on the same end of the rope.
Yes... enforce the laws, as well as allow labor to organize. Why is it corporation can collude to prevent labor competition and keep wages low, but labor organizing is somehow criminal. People in this country have been sold out by those who have theirs and don't think others deserve anything. It's immoral, to say the least. CEO's make more in the few minutes it takes for windows to load on their office computer in the morning than a factory worker in a whole week. If anyone thinks that is good, they truly need their head examined!
Calling people lazy is lazy and stupid. Americans workers are treated like garbage by a wealthy ruling class that has no sense of history or patriotism. If wages and salaries tracked productivity the way they did for all US history until the 80's, the situation would be a lot different now.
Hey.... if you want to be a workaholic that is fine; however, don't put yourself on a pedastal simply because some people, especially engineers refuse to be treated as slaves of corporate plutocrats and bought and paid for politicians!
"So why not hire H1B workers that speak your native language" because it is illegal in the USA to converse about buisness in anything but English. The law is designed to prevent companies from discriminating against USA citizens. Companies know they break the law, and the Labor dept. refuses to enforce it. For you to sue, you have to prove they are talking about buisiness and not just socializing. But if you do not speak hindu or chinese how exactly are you to do this? It is illegal to record people speeaking without thier permission!
The government should start enforcing the laws of this country, and stop biasing towards H1B workers, which companies admit to lying about needing.
So you have contracted loans to pay the huge fees of high schools and in the end, corporations prefer cheap H1B visas . So you are stuck and can't declare bankrupcy (an exception for students loans eh eh!). You are like millions of students living in parent's home and queuing for a job at McDonalds. Cool. Welcome to the wonderful New World Order where only corps and bankers rule. You see, corps deny you a job but bankers are asking for a full refund... Meanwhile high schools make big buks.