U.S. workers found to outperform offshore staffers

Interest in contracting for services in the States is 'coming back a little bit,' said research company's chief

U.S.-based workers show more initiative and are more innovative and more understanding of the business than offshore workers, according to a new study that examines sourcing services in the U.S.

These qualities are helping to boost use of domestic IT services, especially as companies move to cloud-based IT systems, said HfS Research, a business and IT services consultancy.

Domestic workers also work harder than their offshore counterparts, but not by much, according to the HfS survey of 235 "enterprise buyers" (the term HfS used to describe corporate executives who make or influence their companies' business operations and outsourcing decisions) and 270 executives from providers of outsourcing services who invest in locations around the world.

Asked if the term "hard working" described their U.S.-based and non-U.S.-based IT and business operations staff, 83% of the enterprise buyer respondents said they agreed or strongly agreed that the term could be applied to U.S.-based staffers and 79% agreed or strong agreed that it could be applied to non-U.S.-based staffers, according to the HfS report, "Around the World and Back Again: Sourcing Services in the USA."

In most areas associated with productivity, survey respondents reported that U.S.-based staffers exceeded offshore staff by wide margins. For example, asked if "cultural and communication skills" were attributes of U.S. and offshore staffers, 82% of the enterprise buyers agreed or strongly agreed that the term applied to U.S.-based staff, while just 33% said it applied to offshore staff. For the phrase "takes initiative," 77% agreed or strongly agreed that it applied to U.S. staff while 40% agreed or strongly agreed that it applied to non-U.S. staff. And for the term "innovative" the breakdown was 77% agreeing or strongly agreeing that it applied to U.S. staff and 45% responding that way in regard to non-U.S. staff.

"U.S.-based workers more often exhibit skills deemed most relevant to productivity in today's business environment," the HfS report said.

When the survey looked at specific IT services functions, the findings narrowed some, but U.S.-based workers still came out ahead.

For instance, when enterprise buyers were asked about their level of satisfaction with application development work, 77% said they satisfied or very satisfied with the work U.S.-based staffers, while 61% said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the work of offshore staffers. Regarding the work of IT help desk staffers, the "satisfied or very satisfied" response rate was 71% to 54% in favor of U.S. workers.

A number of factors influence the trends identified in the study. For instance, the cost of doing work overseas is rising as the cost of labor goes up in other countries. And while wages are still higher in the U.S. than they are overseas, the differences aren't what they used to be, said Phil Fersht, CEO of HfS Research.

As more work is shifted to the cloud, companies are finding that they need people with both business knowledge and technology skills, said Fersht.

Factors such as those are strengthening demand for U.S.-based IT services, and they're prompting IT services providers based in other countries to increase their U.S.-based staffs.

"It's coming back a little bit," said Fersht, referring to demand for U.S.-based IT services. "I wouldn't say there is a heavy swing toward using U.S. resources, but it's certainly there."

He said the trend has been helped by the H-1B visa issue in the U.S. Indeed, U.S. domestic companies have been urging Congress to tighten the rules on H-1B use.

As enterprises move IT systems to the cloud and use services such as Workday, for example, the type of expertise they need is "more of a business transformational skill," said Fersht, "so there is a shift going on."

According to HfS, 25% of all respondents are already tapping into U.S. based services delivery.

Patrick Thibodeau covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at  @DCgov, or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His email address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

See more by Patrick Thibodeau on Computerworld.com.

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