opinion

An Ethical Approach to Global Tech Staffing

An Ethical Approach to Global Tech Staffing

One thing my 24-year career as a technologist working to support the online adult entertainment industry has taught me about is the power of global staffing. Without a doubt, I have achieved significantly more business success as a direct result of hiring abroad. In fact, I honestly believe that had I not taken this leap, my company might have failed.

Leveraging the highest-quality talent from all around the world can help a startup invent itself, while the wide variance in cost of living around the globe can help companies control expenditures. With these advantages, however, come a need for cultural sensitivity and a responsibility to recognize the ethical implications of managing a diverse, international team.

Embracing a global workforce became a strategic decision that we would carry out in alignment with not only our business objectives, but also our core values.

My Long Road to Global Staffing

My initial foray into global staffing began with a chance encounter in October 2008. Rommel, a Linux systems administrator from the Philippines, was working for a hosting company whose owner had abandoned the business, actually fleeing the country and leaving employees unpaid. Rommel’s commitment to providing support to stranded customers, without compensation, struck a chord with me. Recognizing his talent and dedication, I brought him on board.

This marked the beginning of a successful professional relationship as well as a valued personal friendship, and I am proud that we are still working together today. In fact, our community recently came together to help Rommel overcome cancer. Yet for a long time, I wasn’t smart enough to recognize the potential of working with people around the world.

In fact, I spent the next nine years fighting the harsh revolving door of American labor, challenged by ever-increasing technical wages in a relentlessly competitive global business where margins are always challenged and customer needs are always great. I felt like we never had enough people.

As it turned out, we were missing two key people. One was a technical support manager, whom I later promoted, and whose vision for managing people remotely would turn things around. Today, that former technical support manager is my vice president and is in charge of all operations. The other key person was Natalie Pannon from Ukraine, whose hiring in 2017 was a stroke of luck that would bring a world of opportunity into fruition, finally opening new avenues for us.

My father had always told me to surround myself with people smarter than me. Natalie, being one such person, suggested that we place local online job ads. This led to the discovery of an entire hosting support team in Ukraine whose jobs were on the brink of termination. Hiring the most qualified people from this treasure trove of talent was a game changer, leading to a period of explosive employee growth. I remember that as a moment when I did something very right as a leader. I didn’t have much of a budget, but I had the vision to embrace this solution.

After tasting success with our first Ukrainian technical hires, I was resolute: We would hire absolutely everyone we could find who met our high standards for technical talent and communication skills. In 2018, we literally doubled our team, ahead of demand and budgetary capability. This laid an important foundation internally for things to evolve, and today more than two-thirds of the 50-plus professionals we employ are in other countries.

An Ethical Approach to Globalization

Initially, the term “globalization” carried negative connotations for me, evoking the exploitative practices I associated with large corporations. However, our early successes with international hires gradually reshaped my understanding. I realized that global staffing could bolster our capabilities significantly, and also be done ethically.

Embracing a global workforce became a strategic decision that we would carry out in alignment with not only our business objectives, but also our core values. Here’s how I break that down into action:

Don’t just hire globally; invest in your employees wherever they may live. Consistently pay above the standard rates in their markets. Extend this ethos to benefits too. Offer generous vacation days and comprehensive health insurance plans. Most countries have many more recognized work holidays than the United States, so recognize as many as possible.

Just like with a local workforce, support the needs of your employees and their families, and the results will surely pay dividends. Make your international teams feel as valued as your North American staff. This level of commitment fosters a sense of loyalty and dedication across a diverse team and will help ensure incredible retention.

If your goal is simply to maximize savings, your overall effort won’t be successful. Instead, treat global staffing as a challenge and an opportunity to be the best employer you can be, reinvesting part of your newly increased margins into supporting employees’ continued education, success and happiness.

Making the Adjustment

Adopting a hybrid workforce model was initially challenging. Letting go of traditional management styles and embracing a new, more inclusive approach required a significant shift in mindset. We created an environment where international staff managed American teams and vice versa, fostering a culture of mutual respect and collaboration. This approach has been pivotal in enabling us to continue harnessing the best talents worldwide.

Taking the time to understand cultural norms and communication styles is of the utmost importance with a diverse workforce. Also, putting forth the effort to understand all facets of your team’s work experience is key in order to coach them successfully. Inevitably, unexpected conflicts can bubble up in a diverse work environment. Be ready and willing to take a principled stand and occasionally referee those conflicts, or you’ll lose the respect of your team and results will diminish.

Navigating Legal and Tax Landscapes

When expanding a workforce globally, one of the most crucial yet often underestimated aspects is navigating the complex legal and tax implications. The digital age tempts many to rely on readily available online resources for legal documents. However, this approach is fraught with risks. Generic templates found on the internet often fall short in addressing the unique requirements and complexities of different jurisdictions, proving inadequate in real-world situations.

Engaging skilled attorneys is essential, preferably with specialized experience that applies to your sector. I have long worked with industry attorney Corey Silverstein because I know he understands special needs relating to adult content, and that this informs all documents he drafts, including independent contractor agreements and other employment documents that comply with local laws. This ensures protection for both the company and its international employees.

It is equally important to understand the tax and accounting nuances of operating across borders. Investing in professional financial advice is therefore a crucial investment in the success and future stability of any international venture. Shortcuts in these matters are ineffective and hazardous, so do things the right way and ask community members if you’re feeling stuck.

How Visiting Ukraine Changed My Life

One of my most rewarding experiences ever was visiting my team in Ukraine. Coming from Detroit, Michigan, a city with a proud manufacturing history, I related immediately to their hometown of Zaporizhzhia. Like Detroit and Flint, it is full of heart, soul and hardworking, honest people.

I felt an instant connection with this team we had built, whom I had not yet met in person. To see with my own eyes the good things that bountiful employment was doing for their families was life-changing for me. For me this was not just a business trip; it was a journey that bridged cultural gaps and made me feel proud to contribute to global employment. Exploring their city, dining with their families, playing paintball together and singing karaoke late at night revealed to me that creating a terrific job, one that is mutually beneficial to employee and employer, has value no matter where you create it.

Since then, the war in Ukraine has brought new challenges, extending our responsibility beyond business continuity to helping ensure the safety and well-being of our team, especially in regions severely impacted by the war. This continues to test our resilience and adaptability, reinforcing the importance of a supportive and flexible work environment. I am in awe of our Ukrainian team members. We have supported them 100%, but they have given us much more in return.

Reflecting on all of these experiences, I realize that global staffing has not just been a business strategy but a transformative experience, both personally and professionally. It has allowed us to tap into a vast pool of talent, create meaningful employment opportunities and build a culture that transcends geographical boundaries.

This is available to everyone, no matter the size of their business. As we continue to navigate the complexities of how the technical world intersects adult entertainment, a commitment to ethical, inclusive and diverse staffing creates a wonderful opportunity for all of us — not just to boost profits, but to enrich our experiences with one another, and those we create for our customers.

Brad Mitchell is the founder of MojoHost, which has served the industry for nearly two decades and has been named XBIZ Web Host of the Year several times. He regularly shares insights as a panelist at trade shows. Contact brad@mojohost.com to learn more about the suite of services his company offers.

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