Major tech companies like Google, Microsoft and Facebook continue to fight for the best tech talent in the country, but they’re not the only one’s looking for help. The demand for software engineers, systems administrators, security professionals, app developers and so on is also prevalent from old school members of your local Chamber of Commerce.
While a non-tech company’s focus may not be technically minded, they need technology to run their business and it is important that their infrastructure is sound and supported by a strong technical staff.
The Occupational Employment Statistics program, a joint federal-state effort that examines the structure of the nation’s workforce, notes that nearly 4 million workers are part of “core” tech occupations.
That translates into a lot of opportunities for tech job seekers, but they aren’t always at the companies or in the field they might expect. Sure, there are plenty of jobs at Google or Yahoo, but tech workers can also find employment in companies one wouldn’t think about as being “tech” friendly, such as in blue collar fields.
For instance, R.J. Morris, director of recruiting for McCarthy Building Companies, says the demand for technology has created a new position in the construction industry, which at their firm it is called “manager of field technologies and processes.” The responsibilities of the job are to ensure the seamless integration and use of technology on the job site and in the building itself.
“These kinds of positions are attracting people to the industry who might never have thought of a job in construction,” he says. “Today, some people interested in technology as a career are looking at construction as a primary career choice.”
Yasser Salem, professor in engineering technology at California State Polytechnic University, says that the new required skill set in technology has actually caused a shift at the university level.
“Engineering and manufacturing schools are integrating the new technologies into their curricula, increasing the capabilities of those graduating and seeking positions at the management level in construction firms,” he says.
“For example, graduates of top engineering schools as early as five years ago had a basic working knowledge of BIM (Building Information Modeling) tools, but had no real experience using the technology,” Salem continues. “Today, however, candidates are leaving college with deep knowledge and experience and can demonstrate how they’ve engaged the technology during interviews right out of school.”
It’s not just the major tech companies looking for talent today — even the old school companies need to find strong workers. Here are some tips:
- Understand the needs and wants of potential candidates.
- Highlight the benefits of working for a “non-tech” company.
- Offer perks to attract top talent.
Jennifer Bensusen, technology lead and senior technology recruitment partner at Decision Toolbox, notes there is a huge need for tech talent that spans multiple industries.
“It’s likely that tech companies are more invested in the latest and greatest in terms of technology and those skill sets are often very hot and in high demand,” she says. “However, if a company is highly invested in staying current in the latest technology, the skill set still remains difficult to find. Software engineers, particularly those in open source technology, are very challenging to find.”
Bensusen recently ran a report for a client in Berkeley who is looking for a software architect for mobile and cloud technology. Within a 30-mile radius for the last 6 months, there were about 850 active job seekers for over 21,000 roles available. This demonstrates, she says, that the candidate is back in the driver seat with more options than they know what to do with.
Dino Grigorakakis, vice president, recruiting and direct hire for Randstad Technologies — a leading provider of IT staffing and recruitment — says with the economy expected to improve following positive trends in 2014, employers and employees alike are experiencing heightened confidence levels and are growing more concerned about marketplace competition than economic shortfalls.
“This convergence of improved employer outlook and heightened employee confidence is creating what we are calling the ‘talent reality,’” he says. “The reality of having fewer qualified workers for more open positions will be a major challenge for employers to address during 2015, as well as developing strategies to help alleviate these skills gaps.”
For tech savvy professionals, innovation and remaining cutting edge is fundamental to career growth, so if these skilled employees aren’t confident their current employer holds a competitive edge, they will likely seek employment elsewhere.
Therefore, in an increasingly competitive labor market, Grigorakakis says employers will need to thoroughly understand the range of factors that influence employee attraction and retention, and ensure their strategies are aligned with these objectives.
“In our research, we have not found the desire to work within a ‘techy environment’ to be a primary driver for the majority of the U.S. workforce when making employment decisions,” he explains. “Therefore, non-tech companies can employ a number of strategies to attract candidates to their business.”
“Our 2014 Randstad Employer Branding Study, which surveyed potential employees aged between 18 and 65 regarding key factors that drive employment decisions, revealed that candidates over the age of 35 ranked competitive salary and job security as the as the top criteria when choosing an employer,” Grigorakakis adds.
The takeaway for companies who want to attract and retain skilled tech talent in today’s competitive environment is that they must understand the needs and wants of potential candidates, and then tailor both their benefits packages and company culture to foster those needs.
The benefits of “non-tech” companies
There are many pros to working at a non-tech company, starting with you tend to have the opportunity of working on smaller teams.
“The beauty of working in smaller teams is that you are one of few highly talented tech consultants and you can make a bigger impact within that team,” Grigorakakis says. “Additionally, this gives a better opportunity to grow professionally as you are competing against fewer for that promotion.”
“Another pro is that non-tech companies value industry experience,” he continues. “When working for a non-tech company, you have the ability to establish yourself as a niche tech professional while gaining extensive knowledge in the company’s field (i.e. financial services, healthcare, retail, etc.)”
Another pro, Bensusen opinions, is a better life balance. Plus working for multiple industries makes a candidate well-rounded and provides experiences that could translate to any company, hi-tech or otherwise.
“Non-tech companies might not be as fast paced as a tech start-up that requires working very long hours,” she says. “An industry such as healthcare could appeal to someone who is passionate about helping others and increasing patient care outcomes. Job requirements may be less stringent with a non-tech company as it might be more open to skill set versus skill set plus industry experience.”
Pat Petitti, co-founder of HourlyNerd — an online marketplace connecting freelance business consultants with small and medium sized companies — feels it’s particularly difficult for non-tech companies to find top talent. She says this is because the very best talent want to go to companies with the most exciting growth potential and those solving the most intriguing and impactful problems — the majority of which are being solved with technology solutions.
“We hear it again and again when we recruit that even when larger, traditionally successful non-tech companies are able to hire great talent, they are struggling to retain it,” she says. “In many cases, the best talent is no longer choosing to work full-time at all. In fact, we regularly see that some of the most talented folks are opting to work as freelancers.”
Bensusen says candidates want to believe in a company and its product, and feel they are making an impact. If a company can’t articulate that, they are going to have difficulty finding top talent.
“By offering perks such as flexible work schedules, telecommuting options, product discounts, sabbaticals, more vacation time, higher salaries, performance/project bonuses, sign on bonuses, group events, training, certifications and educational reimbursements and a defined career path, top talent will be attracted to your company,” she says.
Randstad and Millennial Branding recently conducted a survey to learn how to attract Gen Y’s (21 to 32 year olds), as well as the new generation of incoming workers known as Gen Z (16 to 20 year olds) and found that healthcare coverage is the single most important benefit to both generations. However, both generations also value paid vacation time and work flexibility. Additionally, one-third of both generations rate a corporate wellness program as extremely important.
The demand for tech jobs doesn’t seem like it will be slowing down anytime soon, and companies who want the best and the brightest are going to need to offer some incentives to fill their open slots — especially if it’s at a company not known for its tech. An attractive amenity package for its incoming employees can go a long way in beefing up any company’s tech department.