Aside from legal and moral arguments around President Trump’s executive order on immigration, L&D leaders will also have to consider how the US is now viewed by some of the world’s top talent. In the short term, companies have been scrambling to re-assure and support vulnerable staff from targeted Middle Eastern countries. Longer term, all firms—but the tech sector in particular—may have to reconsider how they attract the global talent they need.
There’s also the company brand to consider. Gillian Tett points out that ‘not a single executive expressed any significant criticism of the president and his policies during the quarterly earnings calls…’ Fear, she adds, may explain some of this reluctance—President Trump’s tweets can dramatically affect a company’s fortunes. But failure to speak out could adversely affect the company’s international image and employee loyalty. Howard Schultz, executive chairman of Starbucks, was one of very few outside the tech sector to see this, warning that civility and human rights were “under attack”.
US tech companies have been most vocal. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Apple CEO Tim Cooke and executives at Google and Microsoft, have all expressed strong opposition. Mr Cooke said: ‘Apple would not exist without immigration.’ Elon Musk, chief executive of Tesla and SpaceX, and Travis Kalanick, Uber CEO who both sit on President Trump’s strategic advisory group, have called for changes to the executive order. Heads of Netflix, Twitter, Airbnb and Lyft have also spoken out, while Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin was seen at a San Francisco international airport demonstration. Other tech leaders are helping to finance legal challenges.
Longer term, Mr Trump’s hardline stance may be undercutting recruitment from overseas. Amit Kumar of software group Trimian told the FT that, “People are thinking what is the right country to base their operations in.” He notes that many start-ups are increasing the size of offices outside the US. This is part of a bigger battle for high skilled immigrants, especially software engineers from India.