RUSSELL DALGLEISH says remote working has given local talent a chance to prosper
The press and social media are awash with polls and articles discussing the merits of home working. The discussion is focused on those in the “knowledge economy” ie. those employed in sectors such as technology and professional services where employees, enabled by technology, can work remotely. The debate appears to favour a blended working environment where so many hours a week are spent at the home desk and the remainder in the office.
But when this subject was raised as part of a recent panel discussion held as part of the SBN’s North American TartanDay commemoration an alternate theme developed.
The panel theme was entitled “US ingenuity meets Scottish talent” and consisted of David Pierce of GPS Capital markets in Salt Lake City, Utah; Alison Wilson of the University of Highlands and Islands; Michael Young on MBN Solutions, Jane Sloan of AAI Employability and Grant Murray of GPS in the UK.
Mr Pierce explained that in the US as in the UK companies have now become used to supporting staff to work from home. He went further, explaining that, accelerated by COVID, non-traditional tech clusters are growing quickly across the US in cities such as Salt Lake City, Raleigh Durham, Austin Texas, Greenville South Carolina, Miami Florida, etc has resulted in increased demand for tech talent that cannot be delivered locally. Hence new solutions are required.
As company culture has adapted to support remote workers then these workers are potentially no longer required to be based in the US, he said. With a highly skilled workforce and widely distributed broadband access the panel agreed that Scotland was perfectly placed to provide this home based talent.
This point was echoed by a recent interview with Phil Liben CEO of Evernote, one of the US tech sector’s first StartUp unicorns. He has recently relocated to the southern state of Arkansas. Previously an opponent to home based working, Mr Liben explained that he had now embraced this way of working following his experience through COVID. In an interview, he stated that “our job listings now state global”. He also hinted at uniform salary structures unaffected by where in the world the individual is based.
The panel agreed that time difference and language provide Scotland with a competitive edge over many countries for the source of this talent. Mr Pierce emphasised that the deep emotional connectivity between many in the US and Scotland should not be undervalued and this would certainly be a positive factor if this way of working was to be adopted.
An additional benefit from this freedom to work anywhere could address a key current limitation – that if someone moves their family to Scotland to accept a position and the role does not work out there may not be another suitable position for them locally. Hence, they would need to move again to places such as London or New York where there are more opportunities.
Mr Pierce is currently putting this to the test by seeking to take on an intern from Scotland who – because of current travel restrictions – could be based primarily in Scotland and line-managed out of GPS HQ in Salt Lake City.
So could one of the unexpected consequences of COVID and lockdown be a rise in the number of tech workers living in Scotland but working for clients across the globe?
I believe this is a real possibility, particularly as Scotland builds out a vibrant tech ecosystem in accordance with recommendations in the Logan Report and we nurture and develop a supportive global diaspora to champion this project.
You can review the panel discussion here
Russell Dalgleish is co-founder and chairman of Scottish Business Network