Faces of HR

Sponsored Foreign National Workers: How One HR Manager Navigates the Challenges

When labor shortages or specific skill sets are required, many organizations turn to foreign nationals to build their workforce. In recent years, however, that landscape has changed. More intense vetting, longer application processes, and fewer slots for visa workers all contribute to a more challenging foreign national work arrangement.

Lindsay Dagiantis, VP of HR, Envoy

For this edition of “Faces of HR,” I recently spoke with Lindsay Dagiantis, VP of HR at Envoy, which helps organizations manage a global workforce.

What got you into HR?

Well, two things got me into HR. First, there was a little bit of destiny, as my parents were HR professionals and my grandfather was an HR representative for a steelworkers union in Ohio. The second was an HR administrative accident. I had applied for a marketing coordinator role at a staffing firm and was scheduled for an interview; I met with the team, and they liked me and made me an offer to become a recruiting coordinator. I thought, huh, that’s odd. It turned out that HR had actually scheduled me for the wrong role on the wrong team. I accepted the offer anyway, and that was the beginning of my HR and recruiting career.

Did you have an understanding of what HR was when you were a kid?

I think yes and no. I conceptually understood it. Both of my parents worked in HR at a company here in the Chicago area that manufactured printing presses and copy machines for newspapers around the world. I remember my mother telling me stories of reading the résumés of people from art directors to steelworkers.

My father started his career as an HR practitioner and then spent the majority of his career in executive compensation and management consulting. He ended up in executive positions within HR management consulting at PWC, Deloitte, and a few boutique firms in the area. I knew enough to be aware of what they did; I knew that my parents were happy in their careers, but it wasn’t like, oh wow, that’s what I want to do.

I went to college to be a high school English teacher and enjoyed interacting with students and teachers. I also enjoyed training and helping them achieve something they never thought of achieving.

Was there something that made you join Envoy specifically?

I think a couple of things were going on. I had worked in a couple of companies in the marketing and digital analytics space and really enjoyed that. I saw a company grow from about 40 employees to just under 250, which was a lot of fun. There, I built a team, and I had my first management position and was hands on in building processes and experiences, making great professional and personal relationships, and seeing careers flourish. I was empowered and motivated by a great team and got to see what it looked like in a high-growth company with very passionate and driven leadership.

I was actually a customer of Envoy, so I had used the product and saw its value. I knew the company was looking for a head of HR and met with the CEO. I had a really interesting and thoughtful conversation with our CEO, Dick Burke, and decided it was a really good space for me.

Also, I was passionate about what the technology was doing and what the company’s mission and vision were. We are in HR technology, focusing on helping HR and foreign nationals manage their workforce and going through that employment-based sponsorship process.

How have all of the restrictions concerning the number of worker visas and the entire application process affected what you do?

You have to keep positive, and you have to try to find the silver lining. I remember when the Trump administration came out with the travel ban. I think I was a couple of weeks into my role, and Trump had just been inaugurated. We kind of already knew things were going to change, but we didn’t know how.

The administrative noise, so to speak, propelled us into the best version of ourselves with both our technology and our service. It also opened up the industry to speak more frequently about what employment-based immigration means to employees and their companies. It meant making sure we had a good process and plan in place so when changes happen, we already have our ears to the ground. We would be able to rely on our affiliated law firm, GIA, or other experts in the industry to translate what’s happening so that we can be proactive and transparent with our customers.

The silver lining is that experience improved our thought process and provided a value-add so our customers can say, “I need to rely on the data in the Envoy platform, as well as its service to us.” So whether it’s talking points or helping our teams understand what’s going on, that has expedited our need to be prepared along the way. In HR, you need to prepare and plan for everything when it comes to your employees and needs the business has when it comes to talent. As long as you do that, you’ll hopefully come out well on the other side.

Has being in the field of legal immigration and working with foreign nationals offered you any unique HR challenges?

In my specific job, I use the platform and work with my team in managing our foreign national workforce. My team and I are there alongside our employees going through the processes of sponsorship or obtaining green cards and even have seen when visas are denied or there are RFEs. The platform and our service team are both our employees and our partners, but it doesn’t make us immune to the reality of the immigration process, and we take the experience and emotions of the individuals seriously. In my previous role before Envoy, we ultimately had to terminate an employee because she was no longer in status. At that time, I actually worked with Envoy team members, attorneys at our affiliated law firm, and internal experts in Canada to see if there was a loop around it, but there wasn’t. We had to terminate her, and she understood, but it’s not fun knowing that I’m losing talent because of some of the stipulations.

So it has, in some instances, slowed us down. But in other instances, it’s made us more empathetic to our customers and the foreign nationals. We know there’s someone behind every application, every visa, and every piece of mail we get, and it has an impact. There’s an expedited manner in which we need to know someone’s livelihood is in our hands. That’s something we take very seriously here—both myself and my team, as well as our service team.