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Local Supply of Tech Workers Running Dry

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It’s a good time to be a tech worker in Columbus. Those in the field now have their pick of the gig, they enjoy complete job security, and, if unsatisfied, they’ll likely receive about 30 new job offers within the week.

It’s a competitive industry, with tech companies finding a shortage of talent and an increasing need for it. Everything is tech now, not just IT departments. Marketing, HR, everyone within the supply chain — they all need tech workers. But, with an IT unemployment rate that’s half of the general unemployment rate (2.2 percent), and with technology changing faster than today’s grad students can keep up with, companies are resorting to some unusual tactics to take on more talent.

“The really good, really qualified workers in Columbus are all working. So, the only way for a company to find these people is to talent poach,” said Michael Kington, Account Manager for IT service and staffing company TekSystems. “Not that many people are out of work, so the only way you’re able to find qualified, highly skilled workers is to go after the ones that are already working.”

Tech workers know they’re in demand, too. They get phone calls, emails and LinkedIn notifications from local companies an average of 34 times a week, and eight out of 10 workers are open to these new opportunities.

In this climate, companies seeking tech workers — and trying to keep them — are forced to adapt to what today’s laborers value in a workplace environment. Good benefits are one thing, but more employees are prioritizing flexibility, being able to work from home, having access to the latest and greatest technologies, and taking part in projects that have a real world impact.

“We’re definitely seeing a lot more interest and a lot more passion around joining companies that have a social impact, companies that want to give back to the community and want to do things that are going to have a positive impact on the community,” Kington said.

Company culture is another big concern for the tech worker, who is more likely to stay with a business if it offers team outings, for fun or even for community service.

While it might seem that larger businesses might have the upper hand, able to provide a higher salary or a bigger benefit package, their size can actually make them slower in other ways. Company culture is easier to change when managing 10 or 20 employees than when overseeing hundreds — bureaucracy inhibits progress.

What these bigger companies can do is train their own workforce. Universities’ curricula, as up-to-date as it is now, still lags behind what will be trending when students graduate. To compensate, businesses are forced to train these new graduates in their specific technologies.

“There are different places in the market where they hire multitudes of recent grads and will put them more through a training or mentorship-type program and will retain the best of the best of those students,” said Michael Culver, also from TekSystems.

More mature companies are able to do this, but younger, smaller companies don’t have the same resources. To help these younger places keep up, companies like TekSystems are there to show them what others in the field are doing.

“They might not be fully in tune with why they’re losing people, where the people are going and why,” Kington said.

With their insight, companies can see where they can adjust salaries or where they can offer those other perks workers have been proven to prioritize.

More importantly, TekSystems helps businesses adjust how they market themselves to new employees. Kington said a lot of companies that use online recruitment have marketed themselves using the same language for the last five or more years. Many fail to use descriptions beyond what the job demands, and leave out anything that could actually engage a potential hire.

Companies are urged to display the business challenge, what projects they’re working on and why, and what technologies they offer. Equally important, “When companies tell a certain story and build out a certain expectation they have to deliver to that expectation,” said Culver, or risk losing that new employee.

“The tech community is very savvy right now,” he continued. “They understand they’re in demand. They understand, in a lot of ways, that they hold the cards; it’s their market.”

Our new technology series is presented by our partners in the City of Dublin.

Dublin is a city of more than 47,000 residents located just northwest of Columbus, Ohio. The City of Dublin Economic Development team has a vision to make Dublin a Midwest IT Magnet through business leadership and sustainable workforce development. This commitment goes beyond short-term skills training to include long-term strategic and cultural support for the entire Dublin business community. Dublin is one of America’s Top 20 Creative Class Cities and is home to more than 20 corporate headquarters, an entrepreneurial center, 3,000+ businesses, world-class events and the urban, walkable Bridge Street District.

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