Enterprise Executive — May June 2014
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ATTRACTING TALENT
Melisa Bockrath


Change Your Hiring Strategy

As an expert in IT staffing, I tend obviously to focus on the technology job market and the unique challenges we face finding talent for one of the most important and fast changing industries in the world.

But like employees in any work environment, those who work in IT experience the same on-the-job problems as anyone else.

Consider the worker who accepts a job based on salary alone, but with little knowledge of the workplace culture or what his or her coworkers are like. The result can be pleasant or disastrous. If the worker likes her colleagues, chances are the work—no matter what the industry or salary—will be satisfying on many levels. But if the worker doesn’t like her coworkers, going to the office every day could turn out to be a miserable proposition.

It’s these kinds of classic challenges that every employer must continue to face in today’s rapidly changing job market to attract good employees, keep them happy and convince them to stay on the job.

With IT, however, the mandate carries special weight precisely because of continued tightness in the labor market for IT. With an unemployment rate ranging between 2 and 3 percent, there are many more jobs than qualified applicants. This scenario is made worse by the fact that science, technology, engineering and mathemetics (STEM) graduates are still hard to come by; today, there are 35 percent fewer graduates specifically in IT and computer science compared with a decade ago while employment has increased more than 20 percent over the last decade.

Clearly, IT employers can approach things differently if they want to attract and retain top talent with specialized technical skills. If the best IT talent doesn’t like a particular work environment, they can easily find a job elsewhere. So perhaps the question, “What can IT managers do to attract talent?” isn’t really the most important question anymore. Rather, I’d argue that it’s what IT managers can do differently to attract talent that’s the most important step they can take to get—and keep—the right people on the job.

Surprisingly, there’s a lot more to it than just offering a competitive salary and a decent work environment. Sure, a prospective employee’s top priority will probably always be to secure the best salary and compatible work environment. But these things are a given, and every employer out there knows they must offer competitive pay and interesting projects to work on right out of the gate to even start a conversation with a potential recruit.

To go beyond these standard measures of employee satisfaction, however, IT organizations must start to examine how they can differentiate themselves in the hiring process to demonstrate an evolved approach to their overall employment strategy.

Why? According to the latest Kelly Global Workforce Index (KGWI), which measures opinions about work and the workplace, job satisfaction on a yearly basis across the globe and across all industries, one thing stands out when it comes to the hiring process: 50 percent of workers come away feeling very dissatisfied whether or not they get the job. This proves that, in general, the steps HR and managers tend to put candidates through end up not being a positive experience. Lack of communication throughout the process, for example, is widespread across most organizations, making candidates feel like they’re “in the dark” and contributing heavily to that feeling of dissatisfaction when the process is complete.

The good news is, if IT employers in particular can turn this around—reverse the “poor communication” trend in hiring—it’s an excellent way to differentiate themselves and attract candidates who will be lured by their ability to more creatively approach the process and give the kind of timely feedback candidates expect in today’s job market.

IT companies have this ability right at their fingertips. Giving job candidates the ability to use technology and online portals to maintain communication is one route to take. This allows both parties to more easily manage the hiring process. The employer can give updates and feedback with more ease—and the job candidate can more easily access this information. Seventy percent of job seekers today expect to hear back within five days after the hiring process starts. Using the latest technology to follow up can make it easier for all involved, especially when an employer is dealing with multiple applicants and resumes.

Another key way to differentiate the hiring process is to personalize it for the most sought-after candidates. Of course, this won’t be possible for every applicant and for every open position. But it’s worth an employer’s time to make an exception when it comes to the most valuable positions within an organization—and the most valuable talent who are crucial and in high demand. This will make candidates understand that you value what they bring to the table—and that can go a long way toward endearing yourself to a good prospect, especially if other companies aren’t taking those kinds of steps.

Candidates today also value social interaction not just with a potential boss, but the people they will actually be working with. For example, give the best candidates opportunities to speak directly to the people they will be interacting with on a regular basis. Expose them to the team, and try to give them a sense of how the team works together. Also consider letting them meet the people who would be reporting to them, if applicable. Getting candidates as knowledgeable as possible before they start a job makes the process more efficient and signals that you care about their success. It also allows them to determine if they will work well with their colleagues and start building those relationships. Most companies are so fixated on vetting someone for their technical skills, it overshadows communication around alignment to corporate culture and ability to build relationships, which are very important factors in someone’s success.

As the IT labor market continues to be constrained, these “differentiators” will be more important than ever in finding the right people for the most critical IT jobs in your organization. Differentiating in the hiring process—and beyond—will give IT organizations the power they need to move forward with today’s best IT talent.

Melisa Bockrath is vice president, Americas Information Technology (IT) product group leader for Kelly Services, Inc., a leader in providing workforce solutions, headquartered in Troy, MI. She oversees operations and management of the IT product group that provides services to clients in such industries as manufacturing, consumer products, pharmaceutical, energy and financial services. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Marketing Communication from Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI. She is also a member of the Michigan Council of Women in Technology and volunteers with Bizdom U, a not-for-profit organization that helps entrepreneurs develop their business concepts and provides funding to launch new businesses in Detroit. Email: bockrme@kellyservices.com
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