Beating Into An Offshore Breeze


Attending an AMR Research conference in Boston today.  Bruce Richardson’s (SVP Research) talk — always good — included comments on trends and implications of offshore outsourcing.


How (much) can we maintain our standard of living in a world where labor costs elsewhere for traditionally “high-end” jobs (“FOB” USA) are 20% or less of what they are here?  Especially when the “means of production” (education, tools, e.g., MIT OCW, Internet Application Workbook, OpenACS) are universally accessible?


We obviously have to find ways to improve productivity, to remain at least 5x so vs. the rest of the world.


If education and tools are universally available and therefore a wash (although arguably we are at an educational disadvantage at primary and secondary levels if we are to believe various surveys), what else is left to drive a 5x advantage?


One way is to make it easier/ more efficient for potential employers to identify and qualify talent here.  I don’t usually respond very quickly to folks who send me notes with resumes attached asking if we have any job openings.  I’m not arrogant or unmindful of what it’s like to be in their shoes, because I have been.  It’s just that those notes make it hard for me to qualify them. 


Past experience and training are necessary but insufficient elements for a hiring decision today.  To move me to the point that I’ll ask for references I also want to see some evidence of good thinking generally — an article, an application on the Web.  I’ll also want to see some initiative — an analysis of my business, and some ideas for what we should do and what the candidate might do if he or she joined us.


How much might this be worth toward the 5x target?


If it reduces the time to fill a position with a qualified candidate from six months to three (to pick a number), accelerates time to full productivity, and reduces turnover so I gain 18 months in effective tenure, that might be worth two years’ worth, or 2x (unweighted for probability, math right?).  And if I get employees whose intrinsic motivation and fit with my organization are good, the initiative they demonstrate can mean better business results at the point and lower management costs to boot.  What’s that worth? a little at minimum, to “priceless” at the extreme.


So if you’re thinking of picketing some big company you used to work at because they’re sending your jobs overseas, maybe you should start a blog too, to help future employers get a more balanced view.

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