You Don’t Have to Be a Tech Company to Recruit Tech Talent

Eightfold
Eightfold

All companies need tech skills. The financial sector is a great example of how technology has become essential to its survival and prosperity in the modern economy. Banks are still in the business of managing people’s money, and now they are dependent on tech talent to make this viable. 

“The growth of the tech industry is emblematic of the growth of our nation’s economy – every company today is, or needs to be a tech company,” says Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association.

Still, it’s not always easy to lure tech talent away from tech-first employers. Indeed, many aspire to work inside tech hubs such as Silicon Valley; increasingly, however, other areas are finding ways to lure tech workers.There are important lessons that non-tech organizations can learn from these geographical case studies.

In this post, we explore what non-tech organizations can do to attract the best tech talent to their businesses.

Remember: It’s Opportunity That Primarily Attracts Tech Candidates

Between 1940 and 1980, the wage gap between rich and poor U.S. cities got smaller. In the past four decades, however, college graduates began to move to cities already filled with skilled workers. With the growth in digital tech, these skilled professionals still found work, so wages in cities boomed, Daniel Oberhaus at Wired explains.

Cities that have not historically been regarded as tech hubs are trying to reposition themselves to attract workers with tech skills. Toronto is a great example. Yung Wu, head of startup hub MaRS Discovery District, tells the Financial Times that affordability and the University of Toronto’s work on artificial intelligence make the city especially attractive for tech workers. 

New York City is also a magnet for tech talent (as well as city-bound people in most industries). New York Times reporter Steve Lohr notes that non-tech companies that work in finance, advertising, and media offer twice as many tech jobs as tech companies do. JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and KPMG all hire for more machine learning roles than do Amazon or Google, Lohr writes.

Note how finance companies dominate that list. Perhaps more so than in any other sector, financial companies understand the need to position themselves as tech employers. They need tech talent, says Jenny Darmody, former careers editor at Silicon Republic. But finance companies have an uphill battle to fight on the employer brand-recognition front, Darmody argues. While finance firms may offer great pay, flexible work, and fun challenges, they still aren’t the first or second organizations that come to mind for tech workers seeking new employers.

Darmody says non-tech companies like financial organizations should play to their strengths. For instance, the finance sector has much to boast about in that it is in the business of transforming an industry that has always been rule- and process-bound. The best tech talent working in finance today will be responsible for helping reinvent the entire sector. That’s a major opportunity.

businessman working on accounts using a calculator and laptop computer and documents in modern office; recruiting tech talent concept

Provide the Right Working Environment

Tech workers want a challenge. This is true even of entry-level candidates, argues Jeff Mazur, executive director at LaunchCode. Provide a role that is varied, complex, and laden with problem-solving possibilities. Doing so will be key to convincing tech workers of the opportunities beyond tech companies.

But non-tech organizations should also focus on providing benefits, perks, engagement through employee events, and a comfortable workplace. Lim Teck Yong, regional head of people at e-commerce business Shopee, says these factors have been key to the organization’s recruitment of tech talent. 

Shopee’s workplace has a large central café filled with free snacks, drinks, coffee, and fruit, as well as breakfasts and on-demand dinners for those working late. There are even napping pods and a massage room. Yong says the late-working software engineers have really embraced the offerings. 

While many companies won’t have the luxuries of a massage room, the message is consistent: Look after your staff. Companies lighter on resources resources can still offer perks through flexible and remote working opportunities, says Joanne Skilton, chief commercial officer at intranet company Unily.

Computer programmer in start-up company coding, co-worker is looking over his shoulder; recruiting tech talent concept

Tap Into the Student Population

Another option for non-tech companies is to attract students to work for them once they graduate. This can help attract enthusiastic workers eager to apply what they know and learn new skills along the way. 

Indeed, many employers are seeing the value of this approach. They are setting up boot camps, internships, and after-school programs to engage students, Angus Loten at The Wall Street Journal explains. 

Ashley Pettit, CIO at State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., tells Loten that a recent career fair attracted 3,000 job seekers. The company employs double that number. 

Manjit Singh, CIO of Toyota North American, tells Loten about how the car manufacturer has used outreach programs and activities with universities to attract young talent.

Beat Tech Companies on Ethics

Tech giants have been in the news frequently the past few years for questionable practices. Non-tech companies with a track record of strong ethical practices should leverage that when recruiting candidates, explains Rishon Blumberg, co-founder of 10x Ascend. 

“We’ve seen some FAANG companies lacking in what we call Tethics (tech ethics),” Blumberg says. “When any company displays unethical behavior, it’s going to have a negative impact on the desire and willingness for talent to align with them.” 

But don’t rely on ethics alone, Blumberg adds. Candidates will still seek high compensation in cash, equity, or even through a generous vacation allowance. He says tech workers are looking for well-paid alternatives to the big tech companies that have strong ethics and attractive values. 

Rethink Your Current Roles

Definitions of what constitutes a tech company or even a tech role aren’t static. And the future of work is evolving. 

Indeed, much has changed in recent years, Outside Insight Marketing Director Thea Sokolowski says. Tech and data — the need for and availability of — have changed the tech workforce in meaningful ways. 

Sokolowski gives the example of how the marketer’s role was once a “pure creative” but is now more focused on and driven by ROI. Further, many companies have chief information officers, chief data officers, and chief data scientists. These roles are booming in numbers. Even fast-food companies are hiring data scientists, for example.

“These trends point to a confluence of what were previously viewed as very siloed roles and responsibilities,” Sokolowski says. “If you look at job descriptions today, we’re beginning to see overlap in the experience, capabilities, and responsibilities required for different roles.” 

Big tech companies will remain sought-after destinations for many technology professionals. But non-tech organizations have plenty to offer to attract tech workers. Overcoming the issue of brand recognition will be key, but so too will be offering the best opportunity — including salary, working environment, and perks. 

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