This summer, the White House took the unprecedented step of barring many categories of foreign workers and curbing immigration visas through the end of the year, claiming it would protect U.S. workers from job losses amid the coronavirus pandemic. But without a doubt, the United States economy has historically benefited from its long tradition of welcoming immigrants.
Seen as the land of opportunity for centuries, the American economy has thrived with immigrants as a driving force of success. Immigrants are an evergreen engine of innovation that create more jobs than they take, according to a recent study. And nowhere is this more evident than the San Francisco Bay Area.
As CEO of payments company Plastiq and an immigrant myself, I’m proud that our leadership team is comprised of immigrants from around the world, including Canada, India, Bulgaria, and Hong Kong, and feel that our success is directly correlated to our company’s diverse make up.
Championing diversity and bringing in globally experienced employees enables us to strengthen our company at the core level. I believe that diversity is the key for economic recovery, and that companies should make the effort to hire team members from a wide range of backgrounds. While diversity plays out in more obvious ways within a company’s culture, many products, services and even entire lines of business can benefit from expertise and viewpoints that come from a global-first rather than just a U.S.-centric mindset. Here are a few additional benefits to hiring immigrants:
Immigrants bring unusual resourcefulness to young companies. When trying to test a product in an overseas market, for example, it helps to have someone on the team who is from that market and can provide critical early insights. Large companies can afford to hire overseas consultancies, but small start-ups need to lean on every resource they have for concept validation, acceleration and access.
A global team not only brings different perspectives and cultural understanding to better serve our customers in international business, it also brings altogether new ways of solving problems. For example, we recently launched a product and early on in development, the different perspectives of the team allowed us to speed up development and launch a more useful, relevant product ahead of schedule and more efficiently. The employees on our team from India, China, Europe and Latin America were able to provide points of view about their native countries’ local customs and preferences, and that helped us build the right support in the product and avoided costly mistakes.
Filling Skills Gaps
Diversity and immigration is important to both personal and business success. We don’t know what we haven’t seen and experienced. Diversity brings a much broader perspective into our decision making and increases the probability of success. It also expands the pool of talent that will fill the skill gaps.
A January 2020 Yahoo! Finance article pointed out that there are more than 7.5 million open jobs in the US, and a Wiley Education Services study found that nearly half of US employers are struggling to find employees with the skills they need. It is getting almost impossible to find good engineering talent in the US. Without access to a deeper pool of people that includes overseas markets, many start-ups will inevitably fail. Our expansion into overseas markets would have been severely hampered without employees with a firsthand connection to those markets.
Drivers of Innovation
Silicon Valley is a factory for global markets for which immigrants provide deep connections and critical insights. The U.S. has benefitted more than any other nation from being open to hiring skilled immigrant workers, who possess the grit required to immigrate to a new country, which they then apply to the companies they work for. It would be shortsighted to stump access to skilled foreign-born talent and doing so will handicap the U.S. economy as a whole and limit our ability to compete on a global scale.
Immigrants have always made important contributions to the United States and their comfort level with taking risks and enacting change is a direct driver of innovation. And while the current political climate has turned immigration into a hot button issue, the reality is, America will begin to fall behind without the option to hire talent from other countries.
Our President and COO Sameer Gulati, who was born in India, sums it up: “Limiting immigrant employees at businesses is shortsighted. America has always progressed faster than other countries because it has been seen as the land of opportunity and a cultural melting pot of ideas and backgrounds.”
Hiring immigrants at your company will provide more diverse perspectives, help fill skills gaps and drive innovation, resulting in success and growth. In the face of an economic slowdown and political rhetoric, it is easy to forget that America is a land of immigrants—you don’t have to go too far back in time to see that. It is what has made this country an innovation powerhouse, a champion of freedom and a leader in vibrant, blended culture and it’s important—critical, in fact—to nurture that spirit.
Eliot Buchanan is CEO and co-founder of Plastiq, the intelligent payments solutions provider enabling businesses to pay or accept payment via a credit card for virtually any expense.