Recruitment & Hiring

Employers must cash in on expatriate boom

SmartCompany /

The global financial crisis could have an unintended benefit for Australian businesses, with some of our best and brightest expatriate workers set to return home.

The global financial crisis could have an unintended benefit for Australian businesses, with some of our best and brightest expatriate workers set to return home.

Peter Jordan, CEO of consulting group act3, says he has even noticed the trend at street level. “A lot of people who are buying houses in my area seem to be returning expats,” he says.

He says businesses need to consider expatriates for employment to grab a competitive edge in the downturn.

“Australia had been a net exporter of talent, most recently to the US, and I imagine the economic crisis is going to see some of those come home.”

Jordan also argues expatriates could also help replenish companies that have been hurt by the retirements of their best people.

“The ageing of managers and executives in critical roles – such as engineers and project managers – means that many companies are facing a leadership crisis if they can’t find innovative ways to extend their involvement in the business and repatriate successors as part of their succession planning,” Jordon says.

But human resources expert Andrew Banks, who runs recruiting firm Talent2, says any influx of expatriates shouldn’t be over-estimated, and the Australian brain drain is far from over.

“I think the return of expatriate workers is anecdotal at the moment. There’s still a huge demand for Australians in engineering, construction and a whole range of other areas overseas.”

Linda Simonson, who runs recruitment firm FuturePeople, says the opportunity for businesses to take advantage of new workers is something they should consider.

“I would anticipate that it can only be a good thing given the still very low unemployment rates and shortage of talent,” she says. “But obviously whether the expats returning offer the skills and experience necessary to fill gaps, that’s another question.”

A spokesperson for recruitment firm Michael Page says the interest from expats to come back home is starting to grow.

“We’ve seen huge interest in centres like Hong Kong and Singapore, and of course for Australians working overseas there’s been a huge interest in jobs back home.

“There are a lot of jobs [being lost] because of the credit crunch… Aussie workers have a very good name in London, but it’s getting harder to find the work.”

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