by Mike Russell
During the recession, everyone was fretting over jobs, and it revealed an interesting conundrum in the US job market, namely that there are plenty of jobs, just not enough skilled people to fill them, especially in the technology sector.
This critical shortage has lead to heavy demand for key skills in many companies. There’s currently a war for tech talent going on. There have even been lawsuits by the FTC against the biggest players in the tech space for mutual “non-poaching” agreements meant to not lure away one another’s talented developers, designers and engineers.
It’s not just the big players who are craving tech savvy team members, though. Small startups (not even tech startups) are growing slower than they otherwise would—or failing to get off the ground at all— due to a lack technical support to their critical business services.
Saving Your Company from Talent Starvation
So how does your startup avoid being a casualty in the war for tech talent? Here’s a hint: Big salaries, signing bonuses and other perks are just the beginning.
Sell them on your vision
Today’s brilliant minds don’t just want a paycheck; they want to be part of the next big thing. That’s where startups like yours can have an edge over the ossified, inflexible companies. A big tech fish makes more of a splash in your little startup pond. Convince them they can make a difference with your company and your idea.
Give them skin in the game
Stock options are a nice incentive, especially when IT services are such a big part of so many new startups’ mission-critical functions. (If you were the developer muscle behind Facebook or Twitter, wouldn’t you expect a piece of the pie early on?) Let them know that not just their talent, but their dedication is going to pay off.
Reform your hiring process
I’m continually amazed at the ineptitude of HR departments: recruiters who don’t have a clue about the industry they’re hiring for, hiring managers who can’t write a job description and interviewers who are more interested in asking puzzle-questions than finding out whether a prospect is a good fit. Don’t let your hiring filter out good people.
If you’re still in the early stages, you or your main tech team may have to do some of the sensitive hiring yourself. Make sure your managers are clear on what you’re really looking for, and get non-management team members in on the interview process. The personalities of their future coworkers can help you sell a candidate on your company culture.
Invest in team members you already have
A lot of firms ignore their internal talent pool because they don’t know what the full (and growing) capabilities of those people are. Find how who has aptitude for technical disciplines, and then give them the time to work on those skills. Think about tuition reimbursement, flexible schedules and telecommuting to make your firm attractive to students and adult learners.
Eliminate toxic team members
You can’t afford to have any weak links. Not only do loafers and sour attitudes hurt productivity, they drive away talented people who don’t want the hassle. If you fail to address these types of personnel problems early on, it will poison your startup culture, and your tech savvy superstars will see your organization as dysfunctional. And you can bet they have offers that will make them think the grass is greener elsewhere.
Mike Russell is a consultant and author working for MakeMillionsMakeChange.com, where you can read or download a book for small businesses and entrepreneurs. The book contains fascinating insight into the keys to success in business, philanthropy and management.