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How to support Ukrainian tech workers

If your startup wants to help Ukrainian staff, there are lots of things you can do — but pitfalls to avoid as well. HR for Ukraine founder Sergio Caredda gives his top advice

By Anisah Osman Britton

HR for Ukraine collates resources on topics such as relocation, counselling and legals for HR teams to support the people of Ukraine following the invasion by Russia. It was started by Sergio Caredda, an experienced HR leader, who was inspired by similar initiatives set up at the beginning of the pandemic. A few days in, he’s now receiving support from volunteers across the world. We spoke to him for Startup Life newsletter about some of the steps companies can take to support Ukrainian tech workers right now.

Don’t reinvent the wheel

Companies are looking at crypto for Ukrainian employees but the Ukrainian banking system is still working — you can still transfer money in and out of the country. Yes, have a backup plan just in case banks stop working, but don’t make people have to get their heads around something new if it’s not necessary yet.

Hire temporary talent

Different working options are going to be important. Not in the first week as people are displaced, fighting or dealing with shock — but from next week, it’s likely Ukrainian refugees will start looking for work. Open up remote contractor roles. People will not want to commit to permanent, in-person positions right now. Refugees will want to return to Ukraine as soon as possible. Maybe there are specific projects that you can set aside for Ukrainian talent to work on? Ideally, these are flexible without a hard deadline.

Begin budgeting for time off

Team mates taking a couple of weeks off because of moving, supporting relatives, grieving or even fighting is not an issue for most companies. But if the war continues, what do you do? How will companies be able to afford to continue paying workers who aren’t working? If it’s not obligatory to join the armed forces, but a team member wants to volunteer, how do you deal with that? Start thinking about all of the possible consequences and plan for what you can afford. Can you set a budget for it now? Is there government support? Talk to other companies, visit the resources that people are putting together and plan.

Give people a place to work

When housing situations are not permanent, a constant and safe work environment can give people a base, a place to socialise and some semblance of “normality”. In Romania and Poland, there are already initiatives in motion to set up more coworking spaces and infrastructure for tech talent coming into the country to be able to keep working seamlessly. There will be more need for this as the number of refugees increases and private support will be needed.

Educate your HR team

It’s almost too late to be thinking about relocation packages for your team. However, give them options. They may want to permanently relocate — where does the company have contacts? Can you support with visas, a moving stipend, paid time off? Alternatively, they may want to remain close to the border so they can reenter Ukraine as soon as possible. If this is the case, your team member may now have the status of a refugee. What does this mean from an administration point of view? What does it mean for salaries and taxes? Be ahead of the game and start looking at this now, especially if you want to take on Ukrainian tech talent. Importantly, depending on the length of this war, people will change what they want and it’s important to be ready to support that.

Support Ukrainian startups

Ukrainian startups are looking for companies to partner with or to be acquired by so that they can continue to deliver work and retain their teams. This Telegram group is leading the initiative.

Don’t forget about Russia

Companies have workers in Russia — both Russians and immigrants who live there. With the sanctions, remote workers in Russia are struggling too. For example, some companies are unable to pay salaries due to SWIFT being blocked — consider cryptocurrencies or holding money in a foreign account until they’re able to access it. There are more tips here.

On the subject of… helping Ukraine

How your startup can show solidarity. Ukrainian founders have created this guide for businesses that want to “support Ukraine and help stop the war, without firing a bullet”.

Other ways the tech community can help. Here are a number of things you can do right now, from helping NGOs build digital solutions for the crisis to offering space in your home for Ukrainian refugees.

Ukrainian tech leaders to follow on Twitter. Sifted has put together a list of people from Ukraine’s global tech community who are sharing their views and experiences from both inside the country and further afield.

#TechForUkraine. Tech To The Rescue’s campaign aims to connect Ukrainian non-profits with tech companies to help them design digital solutions to coordinate humanitarian aid.

Are you a hacker? A Ukrainian cyber startup has launched a new global hackathon and is calling for volunteers to help expose Russian software vulnerabilities.

Anisah Osman Britton is coauthor of Sifted’s Startup Life newsletter, which comes out weekly on Wednesdays. Sign up here

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