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How Do Non-tech Companies Compete for Tech Talent?

Technology is an essential part of business, no matter what “business” you’re in. As we discussed earlier this month, even non-tech companies are finding the need to add strategic C-level technology talent to their leadership. And more and more companies are adding web developers, data analysts and other technology talent to help them become more mobile, accessible and innovative.

That being said, recruiting tech talent away from tech companies seems like an insurmountable task. But is it?

“Absolutely not,” says Clint Hawkins, director of operations at The HT Group. “If you’re a nonprofit or an established small business, you likely have a few things in your arsenal that tech companies do not. One of the most important among these is emotional reward.”


Hawkins describes emotional rewards as attributes like flexibility, passion, philanthropy and leadership, which can be the key drivers of recruiting and retention efforts.  While some tech companies also offer these emotional rewards, many still do not.

Take the recent debate on Amazon’s workplace culture as an example. In August, the New York Times alleged that “workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings, toil long and late (emails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), and are held to standards the company boasts are ‘unreasonably high.’” And then there was the news from the Los Angeles Times claiming women are leaving the tech sector in droves citing “hostile” male work cultures as the culprits.

“Plenty of tech talent is no longer satisfied with ping pong tables and beer kegs at work,” Hawkins explains. “These professionals have the same motivations as the rest of us. They want to feel valued, they want to know they’re making a difference, and they want the flexibility to leave work at work. Some are attracted to the idea of being a tech leader in a non-tech industry. If you can provide that for them, you’ve got a good chance in recruiting them away from the tech world and into yours.”

Hawkins recommends the following steps:

  • Consider the value of what your company does. Many non-profits and social enterprise companies (like TOMS Shoes, for instance) have a transcending mission tech talent can get excited about. What will make your tech talent truly be proud to work for you?  What type of work will they find meaningful? For inspiration, read our recent blog post “Innovative Perks for Small Businesses.”
  • Sell it in your job description. Too many companies write up bland job descriptions that don’t highlight what makes that company great, Hawkins says. Will the candidate have a chance to lead an integrated team? Will they get time off for volunteer work? Highlight those things that will attract candidates who have the same values your company embraces. For more tips, take a look at our blog post “Write a Winning Job Description.”
  • Focus on the human aspect. Many tech workers will tell you that employers often forget they’re human. To avoid this: Don’t overthink your value as a company, says Hawkins. Serving as a respite from the “dog eat dog” world of tech companies can be reason enough for key technology talent to switch sides. Let Dice’s “15 Ways to Attract and Repel Top Tech Talent” serve as a roadmap to get started. Among the guide’s tips is to show candidates the big important problem they’re going to solve. And, quite simply, ask candidates what they want to get out of the experience.
  • Use a staffing partner to attract talent. Whether you’re looking at direct hire/executive search, contract or contract-to-hire, an experienced technical recruiting partner can help position you and your company to find and attract top technology talent.

So while luring tech talent away from tech companies seems daunting, you already hold the key to making it work. Only it’s up to you to identify what emotional rewards you can promote authentically that will serve as a lifeline for top tech talent wanting to jump ship.


Image Copyright: christianchan / 123RF Stock Photo