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How Does a Non-Technical Company Recruit and Retain Technical Talent?

Summary: Recruiting technical talent can be difficult for a non-technical company, but it is still necessary in most companies to recruit and hire technical talent.

Hiring and retaining those with technical skills is not always easy for non-technical companies.

It has always been the case that firms require certain functions that are not at the heart of their business. Most firms need a lawyer, or an accountant, even though they are not law or accounting firms. But the problem seems more acute when it comes to technical talent. Perhaps it is because of the mystique that still surrounds technical functions, or perhaps it is because of the white-hot market for good technical candidates, but the recruiting problem does exist, and it is particularly difficult for smaller firms.

Philosophically, the question for the candidate is: What kind of company does the expert work for? An organization that utilizes technology or an organization that creates technology?

For the HR expert, this involves two distinct dilemmas:
  • What can I offer in my organization to attract and retain the right people?
  • How can I present my opportunity to a potential candidate?

The Candidate's Concerns

The entire issue is raised because candidates may have concerns about working for a company that puts them outside the technical mainstream. In a company that essentially uses technology, particularly a company that is smaller, the candidate faces these issues:

  • Will I stay on the cutting edge? Can I learn or will my talents atrophy?
  • Will I stay connected to the community?
  • Is the job challenging? Does it expand my horizon?

Obviously, an IT position in a Fortune 500 firm is a prime job and can be a wonderful citation on a resume. But jobs at a smaller firm, where there may be fewer people, can be seen as a dead end on the career development path.

What Can You Offer?

Want to make your environment attractive? Look at the question from the candidate's point of view, and create a package that addresses their concerns. Our candidates mention these points:

  • Money - It may be old fashioned, but one way to capture and retain people is to pay them more.
  • Knowledge - Back up your environment with training, certification, and as many ways for your team to augment their working knowledge as you can find. Every member of your team should have at least one scheduled learning exercise each and every year.
  • Networking - Ensure that all of your technical team members participate in local and national associations, groups, and other organizations that will keep them up to date with what is going on in the outside world.
  • Challenge - Maybe you can offer management experience, or more independent decision-making authority. The "big fish in the smaller pond" approach appeals to many.
  • Make a Difference - Instead of being one cog in the wheel, you can offer a position that truly makes a difference. As the sole source for information technology in a small company, the candidate can shape policy and procedure to their ideology-an opportunity not available in larger firms or technology firms with a larger and more structured IT bureaucracy.
  • Culture - In today's world, it may seem like everyone is shouting the same message, but culture can make a big difference. Everyone in sandals? Free Starbuck's and pretzels? Telecommuting? Make it a part of your pitch.

Common sense (and HR dogma) says that you need a complete program to train and develop your technical team. Design it and write it down; but most of all, make certain to communicate the plan, your goals, and the benefits to your technical team.

Sell It to the Candidate!

This is where HR becomes marketing. It isn't enough to design a complete package. It isn't even enough to implement it. You have to communicate the package to potential candidates in a way that lets them see how and why it is a benefit.
  • Target the Candidate - Put the posting in front of the right candidates. For technical talent, the Internet is the place, particularly if you select sites where technically competent people surf. (Click here to post your technical openings on EmploymentCrossing.)
  • Highlight the Benefits - Clearly identify what you are offering. If you will pay for certification training, mention that. Highlight management authority, networking opportunities, and your unique business role.
  • Outline the Challenges - Don't forget, of course, that the real reason for the job is to utilize technology and make the business work. Emphasize the importance of the technical function in your business.

In short, describe the job in a way that will help candidates envision themselves in your organization in a fulfilling role.

See the following articles for more information: