How To Compete Against the Big Boys for Tech Employees?

I read a lot of blogs, newsletters, books and articles, and every now and then I come across a really great one. What makes one great is not always some mind-blowing new idea or concept, but just the simplicity and relevance of the message – like the one I got this week in PMSI’s (Personnel Management Systems, Inc.) newsletter. PMSI is a great HR outsourcing company that I’ve personally had experience of working with. Thanks to them for letting me reprint the following:

You have probably heard the news. For tech employers there is a labor shortage. And to make it worse, the Big Boys (Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook, etc.) are hiring – seriously hiring.

What is a small company to do?

Don’t panic. The good news is not everyone wants to work for giant companies. In fact, just the opposite – many people prefer to work for smaller companies. The trick is how do you position your organization so that you can attract and retain these highly sought-after employees?

Here are some ideas. Not all will work for every organization but give each of them some thought. Perhaps a tweak or two and you might end up with an idea that no one has yet thought of.

  1. Make a difference.  Many people want to “make a difference” and be a part of an organization that really improves people’s lives.  Many “mission driven” non-profits have this advantage over the private sector.
  2. Make it fun.  People want to work in organizations that are fun.  And, I don’t mean, go out and buy a foosball table.  Instead, create an engaging, interesting work environment where people embrace humor and enjoy being around one another.  If you think your work environment can’t be fun, read Fish! by Stephen Lundin.
  3. Work Life Balance.  The truth is many people don’t want to work 12 hour days.  They want to be home for dinner and spend time with friends and family.
  4. Work Environment.  Look around.  Do people look comfortable?  Are your break rooms and restrooms clean and well stocked?  Is it too loud, too cold, too crowded?
  5. Technology.  Has your organization embraced the newest technology?  Tech workers want access to the latest software and equipment.
  6. Quality of Management. It is a buyer’s market. Tech workers have choices and oftentimes will leave a job because of bad management.
  7. Open communication and collaboration.  We have been in business for almost 30 years.  In that time period we have surveyed thousands of employees.  Lack of communication is always one of the top complaints.  Employees expect a high level of communication and collaboration between themselves and management.
  8. Continuous Learning.  Tech workers want to be in an environment where continuous learning is part of the culture.  This could mean a strong mentor program, in-house speakers and reimbursement for course work and certifications.
  9. Pay and Benefits.  Yes, pay and benefits are important but that doesn’t mean as a small company you have to pay more than the Big Boys.  You just have to be competitive and “fair” to at least neutralize this issue.  Some tech workers will chase pay, and you may just have to accept this and let them go.  Others will look at the whole package.  This is how you can compete and win!

If you want to attract and retain your tech workers, then pay competitively, turn the job into something fun and meaningful and provide the best tools and work environment that you can afford.  Have a management team in place that truly understands the value of communication and understands and respects people’s desire to have balance in their lives.

Me again (Ross, that is): I think these tips apply to more than just tech employees…

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