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The New Alchemists

Alchemy was an old practice where people believed they could turn base metals into gold. For centuries many tried, and while some advances in the world of chemistry have been attributed to alchemists, the ultimate goal of transforming metals to gold failed.  Gold, like water and oil, is one of a few precious commodities. Many would argue that those who possess certain technical skills – software and web developers, mobile developers and systems engineers to name a few – are precious commodities that are in short supply. And they are right – except for that commodity part. These professionals are not performing work of exact science. They are artists, each unique with their own vision, angle and approach to what they are hired to do.  To prove this is an art form, choose 5 developers from your team and ask them all to build the same application. How many variations would you expect to see as a result?  Look no further than the barrage of new tools and technologies that are introduced to the market every day.

How does this art affect staffing for technology? The companies that are successful in attracting top technology talent in today’s market look at staffing in a different way – like technology itself, their staffing efforts are not an exact science, but an art form. Companies do not solicit or receive resumes the way they did just 10 years ago, so why employ the same strategies you did then?

Despite the overwhelming demand and underwhelming supply of technology professionals, many companies have continued with their “tried and true” strategies from years gone by, or implemented new ones to manage the entire process. These are today’s Alchemists – trying to turn people into a commodity that they can more easily buy and sell (interview/hire/fire).  How and why are they doing this?

Hiring in general is not easy: hiring technology talent is ten times harder. Human beings offer much talent and many uncontrollable variables. To deal with this, there are companies that robotically and systematically assemble piles of resumes, usually with a focus more on cost than actual talent or fit for their organization. Penny wise and dollar foolish has never proven a successful strategy. One such example is the proliferation of Vendor Management Systems (VMS). A promise to simplify sourcing, tracking, timekeeping and invoicing, not to mention saving the time of hiring managers from those endless calls from recruiters, sounds too good to pass up. Other companies entrust hiring technology talent to recruiters and HR professionals who lack the specific knowledge for staffing those highly skilled positions. Other companies are stuck in antiquated recruiting practices either because of the ego of executives who think they know all, adversity to change, or an unwillingness to trust (or pay) professionals in the field to help them. Would you trust your defense in a criminal case to a court reporter? No. You would seek an attorney who has experience in your area of need. Why shouldn’t you do the same for the most important part of your business?

There are many companies today that excel in hiring top technology talent. Their strategies have practically made them talent magnets. There is no single magic answer to hiring – like every resource, every company is different. In today’s thin supply market for technology professionals, there are many keys to developing and implementing a successful technology staffing strategy. Trying to turn human beings into a commodity is not one of them. Doing so may save some money, and maybe a little time, but is a short-sighted strategy in the long run as both culture and quality will suffer.

The first key to a successful technology staffing strategy is to not treat hiring for your technology team the same as you would any other department in your company. You need to develop a specific strategy that will attract and retain the top talent who help propel your company forward. Your strategy should cover everything from examining the candidate pool for your environment’s technology needs, the positions you need to fill versus the positions you would like to fill, your budget for the positions, interview plan, and perhaps most importantly, how you will go about filling the positions. And this just scrapes the surface of what you need to think about.

Another key piece of a successful staffing strategy is for you to treat your technical employees like a part of the team, select members of a special group chosen to work for a great company with a great vision. Sustain a culture that balances hard work with opportunity, achievement and fun. The technology world is a small one, and word will get out that your company is a great place to work.  Before long, people will WANT to work for you (and that alone will save money in your recruiting effort).

Flexibility is another huge factor in a strong staffing strategy. The market changes constantly. The demand of certain skill sets and the pools of talent are always fluid and difficult to predict. Therefore, companies must be able to change or shift their strategy to maximize their recruiting efforts at any given time. And often, they need help to do that – which leads to another key factor in your staffing strategy: choosing a partner to help you.

A good staffing partner often makes the difference between success and failure in companies’ staffing strategies. Partners are experts in the technology staffing industry and are truly interested in helping clients succeed and not just “filling orders.”  There is a difference between “partner” and “staffing or recruiting company.” Recruiting is what the latter does; it’s who they are. It’s a numbers and commodities game – how many job orders can they get, and how many can they fill? Quantity over quality. For staffing partners like Technical Connections, however, recruiting is simply one part of what we do to provide complete, strategic staffing services to our clients.

True staffing partners are more interested and vested in working with organizations to learn about them and help them achieve their business goals and staffing objectives. We keep our finger on the pulse of the market place so we can provide you with current, real-time information that affects your staffing strategy. We will work with you to partner on developing, implementing and/or optimizing your new or existing strategies, and will work to understand all aspects of your unique environment to find the right fit technically and culturally. We will not be afraid to tell you if a salary is too low in the market, or if expectations are unrealistic.

So, whatever you decide with respect to your staffing plan, make sure that it is proactive, realistic and achievable. But know that you need a plan and that treating strong technical professionals as commodities rather than the true gold that they are will not work.

To learn more about how we have successfully partnered with our clients and helped them realize their goals, please visit www.technicalconnections.com, or contact me directly. I would be more than happy to share our model of success with you and explore how we can help your company with its staffing strategy.

Russell Wolf

Russell Wolf is Director of Strategic Development at Technical Connections and  has over 15 years of experience in delivering effective staffing and software development solutions for the Information Technology industry throughout California. He has been an individual contributor and has led teams in business development, recruiting and project solutions using local and international resources.

Email Russ directly – rwolf@tci-la.com and follow him at twitter.com/iamthejobguy

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