Amazon in “Your Town”: Awesome or Apprehensive?

How Will You Compete for Tech Talent? Most people’s first response to the prospect of Amazon coming to "Your Town" is awesome. Amazon is considering twenty top-tier cities as the site of its HQ2, which will inject 50,000 high paying tech jobs into the local market. The construction of offices, facilities, and infrastructure can be expected to provide more jobs. Finally, the projected growth in support businesses results in, guess what? Yes, even more, jobs. The question for established companies already operating in the community is this: How are you going to recruit new hires and retain tech employees when they're all flocking to Amazon? For employers in all industries, the war for talent, especially technology talent, is difficult – considering as US employment continues to grow with payroll employment up by 261,000 in October alone. According to UPP Technology, the high-tech employment rate in the US is approximately 97%. This information is not new news for most. There's a shortage of high tech talent and has been for some time. The prospect of Amazon showing up in your town seems intuitively attractive. Everyone wants to get behind it – at least publicly. So much so that 238 cities submitted proposals to become the next Amazon HQ2. Now that 20 cities have made Amazon’s short list, fear and trepidation about hiring in a new competitive landscape have begun to set in. Corporate headquarters already located in the 20 cities under consideration are reevaluating their hiring plans, knowing that they will be competing head-to-head with a new corporate citizen with as many as 50,000 six-figure jobs to fill. Employers are asking, “What are the unintended consequences of the inevitable imbalance of that much demand on a local technology labor market?” As Amazon contemplates its potential HQ2 sites, the local availability of talent is a critical factor driving site selection. Amazon may be a pioneering retailer, but it is not alone in this strategy to chase the talent pool. Companies, such as McDonald's, Aetna, GE, and Marriot, are abandoning their suburban offices in favor of millennial-friendly locations in large urban centers as market leaders embrace this relocation trend. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel pointed to technology’s growing influence on nearly every industry as the driving force behind urban offices. Highly sought-after technology-skilled employees often prefer the convenience of a live/work/play environment in or near an urban center to a time-consuming and expensive commute. The appeal of urban offices signals a reversal of company executives’ previous preference for offices located near their homes. Today, the ease of recruiting and retaining technology workers is driving top-level corporate decisions. "It used to be the IT division was in a back office somewhere," Emanuel said. "The IT division and software, computer and data mining, et cetera, is now (located) next to the CEO. Otherwise, that company is gone." While Emanuel’s words are strong, we get the point. Long ago, many organizations paused their on-campus recruiting of Computer Science majors in favor of outsourcing their technology work overseas. These companies now realize that re-engaging that corporate recruiting muscle is easier said than done particularly when targeting highly discerning millennials who are as interested in what you stand for as what you pay. The pervasive digital adaptation of business means that not all companies will compete and win in the war for technology talent. Once you add to this uber-competitive race for tech talent the allure of Amazon’s 50,000 positions, then the competitive landscape becomes downright daunting. To increase your company’s chances of prevailing in this complex hiring environment, consider enacting some or all of the following recommendations: Implement effective strategies to reactivate your on-campus recruitment program. Consider bringing recruitment back in-house or taking a more “hands-on” approach rather than delegating this important function to an outside recruiting firm. Closely examine your retention rate. It'll take more than increasing a few salaries and throwing in a ping-pong table to win the talent retention war. Take a long, hard look at what your competitors are doing and consider doing more than matching them step-for-step. Survey your current employees to understand why they stay and interview millennials to understand how they make their employment decisions. Look at the models you can use to manage the risks of an overheating local labor market better. Understand which skills you absolutely, positively, must keep close to the center and which you can distribute. Take a critical look at those remote or dispersed models such as remote onshore development. Can you manage remote software development yourself or do you need an expert partner who might not be in the building but is situated in-country? To learn more on how you can create mitigating strategies for tech talent in a highly competitive market, contact us today.

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