CEO at Aleph Integrated. Building a world where talent and hard work can transcend borders. Connect on LinkedIn.
When talking about outsourcing jobs to foreign countries, people often think back-office operations, call centers, customer support, IT, even textiles. But I’ve found few think of skilled positions like tax accountants and auditors—full-time, professional functions that keep key company operations running. In my experience, that’s not because these roles can’t be effectively filled by foreign employees, but rather because employers simply don’t know there is a pool of professional talent ready and willing to take on these high-demand, hard-to-fill roles or how to tap that talent.
As CEO of a staffing firm that connects companies with professionals in Mexico, every day I speak with accounting firms, CFOs and other executives looking to hire accountants and other financial professionals in the U.S. The narrative is always similar: They have jobs to fill but they can’t attract the employees they need.
Just last month, I was contacted by a mid-size CPA firm that had won a slew of new business and was looking to hire 16 auditors and a high-level manager to run the audit team. And they needed this team fast. Despite their best efforts, they couldn’t recruit the talent they needed. They were exasperated by the lack of qualified candidates. What’s more, the applicants they did consider hiring, even entry-level candidates, had salary expectations that often exceeded those of highly experienced staff who have been with the firm for years.
The hiring challenge faced by U.S. firms is as unprecedented as it is systemic. In the final months of 2022, reports show there were 10.5 million job openings in the U.S. and 5.7 million unemployed workers. The U.S. also faces a dwindling number of accounting graduates each year—a trend that is likely to only get worse in the future. It should come as no surprise, then, that employers are having such difficulty getting their needs met.
The U.S. isn’t the only country in the world with talent. For example, our neighbor to the south is rife with bright, bilingual individuals often with the same (if not better) qualifications as their U.S. counterparts. As of the second quarter of 2022, there were more than 466,000 accountants and auditors in Mexico while the U.S., despite having more than double the population, has just over 665,000 actively licensed CPAs. With a shared border, strong cultural familiarity and other benefits, I’ve noticed many multinational accounting firms have begun to see Mexico as a goldmine for accounting and finance talent.
While Mexico represents a large and culturally compatible foreign talent pool for U.S. companies, there are unique challenges as well. One of these challenges is the highly complex and ever-changing labor laws, which govern the relationship between employees and the companies which they work for.
In starting up operations in Mexico, it is vital to carefully navigate the setup of business operations and the negotiation of labor contracts. While this can be a challenge, and can take time to get right, I have found that Mexican labor law and the benefits it offers employees contribute substantially to a healthy company culture and long-term business success.
So then comes the question: “If we hire abroad, then aren’t we taking jobs away from Americans?” Yes, and no. Yes, in the literal sense that jobs may go to foreign workers. But no when you consider that few opportunities are being taken away from domestic talent. There are plenty of open jobs in the U.S., but many American candidates simply aren’t intrigued enough by, or aren’t accepting, the jobs and salaries currently on offer.
In many industries, it’s an employees’ market right now, and candidates are shopping around and leveraging offers more than I’ve ever seen in my 30 years as an employer and now in my role as a CEO.
We’re living in new times. And from my perspective, these new times demand a redrawing of borders when it comes to conscripting professional talent. If you’re ready to start looking a little further afield, here’s what I humbly suggest:
First, consider what kind of positions you really need.
How often does the employee need to interact in person with potential clients versus doing their job in office via phone or video call?
Second, be open to new sources of talent.
Outsourcing to talent hubs around the world may greatly widen your pool of candidates and simultaneously lower bottom-line costs as salary expectations can vary drastically from the U.S. From my experience, companies can save as much as 60% on staffing costs for a higher caliber professional than is currently available in the U.S.
Third, understand new employee expectations, including remote work.
Companies are grappling with in-person, flexible or hybrid work models. This is often driven by the high cost of living in major metro areas and long commuting distances from more affordable locales. Transferring departments to lower-cost U.S. metro offices or nearshoring offices can help companies create both in-office and hybrid work hubs with a high level of team collaboration and synergy.
Fourth, offer fulfilling careers, not just jobs.
The accounting profession comes with a certain stigma and isn’t always seen as the fun, technologically advanced field it is. Help individuals see the excitement in a role and where it can take them. Employees want to be fulfilled by their position and also the prospects on the horizon within a firm, whether they are foreign or domestic talent.
Finally, ensure connectivity and culture.
Staying connected and instilling corporate culture in a remote environment is a challenge, but virtual connectivity, in-person gatherings, networking and relationship building are critical to creating a workplace culture people want to be a part of.
When bringing on professional foreign talent, integrate them fully. Some high-level professionals even have long-term U.S. travel visas and can fly in for client meetings, company trainings or networking events. With this practice, a nearshore office can serve just as an out-of-state location in the U.S. would.
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