Amid the current candidate-driven market and the local talent shortage, startups need to take advantage of every available avenue to stay competitive.

At a recent NextRise 2022 Seoul panel discussion, Charles Ferguson, APAC General Manager at Globalization Partners, discussed the increasing importance for South Korea-based startups to tap into the global talent pool. The panel was moderated by Gloria Lee, Head of Partnerships at Wanted Lab.

Overcoming the talent challenge

Although the South Korean market is considered one of the strongest ecosystems for startups, it is not immune to the impacts of the ongoing talent shortage, especially tech-related sectors.

According to Ferguson, it is currently an employees’ market due to the sheer range of opportunities available. Jobseekers now consider flexible work arrangements to be equally as important as attractive compensation packages.

Startups are more exposed to these recruitment challenges because of their need to grow and scale quickly. During this fast-paced stage, employees have a significant role in their organization’s future. Ferguson reiterated this sentiment, saying that the success of startups also depends on building and nurturing their teams.

Having said that, Ferguson stated that startups can view the current talent gap as an opportunity. While the war for talent is far from over, the flexibility of startups allows them to revise their approach and policies to accommodate today’s jobseekers.

Wielding agility and flexibility

Ferguson believes that the size and agility of startups give them a competitive edge as they can easily shift direction in line with the market demands. In this case, that means offering more flexibility to their employees.

In a Naver Corp. survey published on Pulse, 52.2 percent of employees said they prefer a hybrid working arrangement where they can work both at home and in an office. Another 41.7 percent of employees said they want to work from home full-time.

Given these new employee expectations, agile startups should promote flexibility to attract and retain talent. According to Ferguson, “This is a critical point in time for startups to assert their agility as a differentiator to attract talent into their ecosystem.”

As well as remote work, Ferguson added that startups can provide attractive self-development opportunities for their employees to learn and play a part in how their companies develop and grow.

In addition to attracting new talent with flexible working arrangements and self-development opportunities, larger companies will also have to implement significant changes to their infrastructure and policies.

However, startups should exercise their agility with caution. While there is the understandable drive to grow the business as successfully and as fast as possible, it must be done compliantly.

Building a strong, compliant foundation

Ferguson likened starting a company to building a house — although it is exciting to see the roof and all the walls up as soon as possible, neglecting the foundation will only result in collapse.

The same is true for startups in that there should be a strong focus on compliance early on to make sure no costly and difficult structural issues arise when scaling.

Ferguson added that compliance is fundamental to attracting investment as venture capitalists will not consider startups if they “don’t have a plan for how [they’re] going to prove [their] ability to be compliant.”

However, compliance challenges can emerge when growing your team globally. Every location and jurisdiction has a unique set of regulations that must be followed. Even cities within the same country can have vastly different employment and taxation laws.  Regulations in California, for example, require companies to pay their workforce no less than USD 15 per hour, while the law for businesses in neighboring Nevada dictate a minimum wage of USD 9.50 per hour.

Ferguson challenged startups to view compliance as a way to build a strong foundation for their long-term success. To compliantly hire and manage international talent, he recommended working with partners who have the necessary expertise and understanding of local regulations.

Another benefit of having partners on the ground is that it helps startups gain useful insights into the local market. This is incredibly advantageous for startups as they evaluate the fitness of their products and services.

Looking at the future with optimism

Lee reiterated that startups will inevitably face tough challenges as they grow, particularly around talent acquisition.

Ferguson concluded the discussion by urging startups to continue to pursue their global ambition, facing today’s challenges like the talent shortage head on. They can leverage the support and expertise of innovative solutions to overcome new obstacles as they emerge throughout their growth journey.

He encouraged startups not to fear the “dark clouds” ahead.  “You are optimists. You are bold. And you want to succeed. So, look at this time as an incredibly fortuitous gift to go out and place your bets on global expansion, on gaining access to talent in any market with no inhibition, with no border… And we’ll be there to help you get your success.”

Let Globalization Partners be your strategic ally throughout your journey to global success. Start building your international team today and schedule a demo.

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