A Proactive Guide to Job Repatriation

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It’s well known that President Donald Trump has made job creation one of his signature issues, with corporations already pledging to hire more people in the U.S., as well as repatriate jobs that had been shifted overseas. What is less clear is how companies will balance the costs, talent, and benefit differentials that job growth and repatriation will bring forth. What should be considered before launching a domestic hiring spree?

Many large U.S. companies have recently announced they will be driving job growth in America:
  • Sprint committed to bring back to America 5,000 jobs this year
  • Amazon promised to create 100,000 jobs in the U.S. by 2018
  • Lockheed Martin Corp. plans to add 1,800 jobs at its Fort Worth, Texas, facility over the next few months.

Although analysts have pointed out that in some cases companies already planned to create these new jobs regardless of who was in the White House, it’s the messaging that counts.

The phrase “Made in America” has taken on new meaning, especially among those who regard globalization as a threat to their job prospects and way of life. Add to that the threat of retributive tariffs (plus state tax rebates) and it’s no wonder why corporations are trying to stay ahead of the curve by highlighting their efforts to hire more U.S. workers.

Creating new jobs and bringing other jobs back to America presents numerous challenges, however, making this a compounding issue from a volume and logistical standpoint. For instance, promising to bring jobs back is a fast way to generate goodwill toward a brand, but there are a number of factors to consider. Are there complex cross-border supply chain issues that will be disrupted and is there a plan to fill such gaps? If companies are to avoid hiring migrants with the necessary skills, can they find local candidates who can fulfill these growing job requirements effectively and in a timely manner? And will policies that favor hiring low-skilled workers versus current and future investments in automation make the company less competitive?

Moreover, industries and business processes have matured. Technology innovations have changed the nature, number, and location of many jobs, as well as the skillsets required to fulfill them. Some operations that used to take place in the same building are now handled in various countries; other processes that were managed separately have been merged, requiring fewer workers. And some jobs no longer exist due to consolidation and technological advancements.

As The Economist points out, “Valuable semi-skilled manufacturing jobs are not, for the most part, going to return to America, or anywhere else, because they were not simply shipped abroad. They were eliminated or replaced by new ways of boosting productivity and reducing costs which heightened the distinction between routine labor and the rest of manufacturing.” In other words, technology and automation have reduced human errors and increased efficiencies, but it also eliminated many low-level labor needs.

Furthermore, companies will have to find an effective way to negate the obvious challenges related to this multi-faceted initiative. Repatriating jobs requires navigating myriad issues related to costs, infrastructure, real estate, talent management, enabling technologies, revised operating models, etc. Working with a seasoned partner can mitigate some of these challenges and give companies the much-needed experience and operational structure to accomplish their goals quickly, more efficiently and cost effectively, and also reduce risks.

Inevitably, though, companies can be expected to automate as many jobs as possible to remain competitive. This is especially true when automation improves accuracy and reduces error rates that directly align with improving their customer experience.

At the same time, committing to creating more jobs that drive domestic economic growth is a good thing—as long as it’s done strategically and is sustainable. The companies that are proactive about hiring and training workers with the right skills and investing in their development will have the best chance of outperforming their competition. We are in a highly competitive, ever-changing marketplace, where customer loyalty is never a given. Companies that are reactive and slow to change may find themselves on their heels regarding their ability to keep up with customer expectations.

Business leaders must continually reinvent themselves and be willing to alter their operating model, as with this new surge to repatriate, based on political and social pressures. Whether businesses manage to thrive despite these headwinds remains to be seen but there is no replacement for being PROACTIVE!

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