Want to save the US economy? Hire remote!

I was talking to my boss the other day on his drive into work. He was complaining about how bad the traffic was getting in the South Bay area over the past few weeks during rush hour, and corolating this to how much ecomonic growth is going on in the valley right now. People are hiring like crazy, and as a result it’s becoming harder and harder to find talented developers. I contrast this to the rest of the country, especially where I live in Ohio, where the slowdown in the ecomony and the impending recession are hot button issues and very noticeable.

It’s as huge of a disconnect as I’ve ever seen. But how could we “connect” them back up?

I ran across a great article the other day, which talked about a trend called “Rural Sourcing”. What this does is look into the vast rural sections of the country to build virtual teams and a remote workforce. This allows companies to cut costs by hiring Americans ( gasp! ) that live in areas of the country that have a lower cost of living, where even 20% paycut on the salary earned in those high cost markets will let you live quite comfortably. Plus, employers don’t have the added overhead cost of office space that is becoming harder and harder to come by in many areas, like the Bay Area.

But why not offsource to a far away location like India, China, Eastern Europe, or Africa, where the costs are even lower? Here’s a few good reasons:

  • There isn’t a language barrier to overcome. While English is the defacto language in tech, it doesn’t mean that those in areas of the world where it’s not the predominant language are fluent at it. This is one reason why call centers are moving back to North America in droves.
  • Time difference. It’s quite difficult to work agile with a team when there is little to no overlap in your daily work schedule. In the US, worst case there is a 3 hour time difference between team members, which is quite easy to deal with an enables a team to easily work as one with great visibility. Try that with a 14 hour time difference ( hint: it doesn’t work as well ).
  • Quality of product. This isn’t to say that other countries can’t build something as good as an American, but it’s quite difficult to be agile when there is a time and language barrier to overcome. Offshore teams have to often fall back to building things to spec, since that gives them the best guidance on how to produce what is wanted. But conveying the idea of innovation, thinking outside of the box, or just experimenting tends to not to happen because of the disconnect that happens between developers and product owners. If your team is all on a similar schedule, and can work more agile and less waterfall, the end product will turn out better.

So if you are a company in San Francisco, New York, Boston, or some other high cost market with a shrinking talent pool, try looking else where in the US for talent. By doing it you are saving the US economy, one new hire at a time.

Written on September 30, 2011
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