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Recruitment techniques for IT channel companies

Channel firms must rethink their recruitment techniques to win in today's competitive job market. Get tips for updating your channel recruitment strategy and retaining talent.

Jamison West doesn't just preach the need to develop effective recruitment techniques. He lives it.

West, former president of Microsoft cloud partner Arterian, called finding and retaining talent "the single most lasting issue and challenge I've ever had," and said one of the biggest recruitment trends he sees is offering flexibility. The flexibility perk appealed to him on a personal level when West recently accepted a new position as CEO of Teamatics, a software-as-a-service collaboration platform company, in tandem with moving from Seattle to Las Vegas. The ability to work remotely, he said, was "very attractive."

"I would have not accepted my position [at Teamatics] had I needed to be in a specific location or work specific hours to fulfill my role," West said. "As you go up the food chain to a higher-level position in a company from an hourly to salaried position, that [flexibility] requirement goes up exponentially."

As more companies expand globally and increasingly use collaboration technology, competition for workers has become more of a challenge. It is no different in the channel. West believes the most compelling soft and hard benefits that channel firms, like most companies today, can offer are work flexibility and state-of-the-art technology.

Jamison West, CEO, TeamaticsJamison West

"Everything's going to circle around more freedom and flexibility, but in terms of technology, people expect to be productive anywhere, at any time, and what that requires is technology around mobility," he said. "In other words, I can take my laptop and sit at Starbucks and be just as productive as in my cubicle or home or wherever. There's a massive trend to give people tools to be highly mobile. Millennials expect it."

Of course, salary continues to play a key role in a channel recruitment strategy. Amy Kardel, director of IT managed services firm Clever Ducks, said that "most Millennials leave school with at least $30 thousand in debt, so they often take the highest paying job they can find."

Amy Kardel, director, Clever DucksAmy Kardel

Like West, she said today, management needs to trust employees to work on their own and get the job done. "Many Millennials like to be creative and adventurous and fear being tied to a desk. They don't like being micromanaged." She added that Millennials "want to feel heard and included on decision-making processes, which we incorporate [at Clever Ducks]."

Changing recruitment techniques

Channel firms must change the ways they typically attract and recruit prospective employees to better engage Millennial candidates, Kardel said. "Millennials often did not grow up with the same strict and structured lifestyles of previous generations. Therefore, a strong, top-down, 'do-as-I-say' attitude loses younger workers' interest and depletes motivation quickly."

One of the effective recruitment techniques for targeting Millennials is to use online channels, including Social media, Kardel and West said. Millennials are also open to networking events and open houses if hosted on their college campuses.

Steve Pruden, senior vice president of human resources, AppirioSteve Pruden

Steve Pruden, senior vice president of human resources at Appirio, agreed that Millennials want to work for a company that allows them to work remotely, or to have a flexible work schedule. "They want to have access to technology that makes their work life easier and more productive," he said.

Great digital tools for improved worker experience include Google Apps for Work and Salesforce Community Cloud, Pruden said. They allow employees to collaborate in real time, finish projects quickly, produce better results and allow greater creativity.

West agreed. "If you're on really archaic systems that convolute how people work, it's really problematic and not effective at all. I've seen people lose talent over it."

Channel companies are also keenly aware that "talent today jumps ship quickly and it is getting harder and harder to entice top workers to stay," Pruden noted. Some new recruitment techniques include the elimination of annual reviews and the implementation of real time, ongoing immediate feedback, he said.

If you're on really archaic systems that convolute how people work, it's really problematic and not effective at all. I've seen people lose talent over it.
Jamison WestCEO, Teamatics

"Many industry leaders are also taking advantage of new recruiting technologies," he said. "They see the potential in digital tools that provide intuitive means of communication, easy-to-understand pre-screening assessments and screening questions, and better applicant tracking" because traditional applicant tracking systems tend to be complicated. Digitally transforming the recruitment process doesn't just help find and retain job candidates, it simplifies the process for hiring teams, he said.

West said he is seeing a lot of recruitment being done beyond where a company is based and channel firms opening more geographically dispersed call centers.

Mapping employee careers

Another perk that channel companies should think about offering is career mapping. "People want to know their path forward and upward, and not many companies do a good job of identifying where people want to go and how to get there," West explained.

Career mapping includes having dialogues with employees to understand where they want to gain stronger skill sets -- be it leadership, management or technical skills -- and then offering training. Firms should also track who wants to do what and look for opportunities to get them there, he said.

Smaller channel firms tend to provide career mapping "through osmosis," West said. But in larger firms, with hundreds of people, systems are needed to track what everyone's motivations are. This can be a complex thing to manage, he added, but well worth the trouble.

"If people feel opportunities are passing them by, they feel underappreciated and undervalued," he said, "and that can lead to turnover."

Catherine Lang, chief learning officer, AppirioCatherine Lang

Kardel agreed that younger workers in particular want to be able to track their work progress. "Millennials struggle the most with entry-level paying jobs that require five to 10 years of experience, and we've learned at Clever Ducks to grow our team with individualized growth plans." Such plans pair employees with managers to identify a "major," like in college, and then they take classes and quarterly certifications to grow their competencies, she said.

The biggest incentive that drew Clever Duck's latest Millennial hire was the professional development/certification program, she said. Kardel said the new hire told her, "Having everything mapped out clearly and all the money you invest in [the program] show that you really care about your employees and you've put a lot of thought into it."

Tips for retaining talent

Clever Ducks has 20 employees and plans to grow its staff 20% annually, Kardel said. The firm finds that Millennials want to be paid fairly and equally and receive good insurance benefits, which helps keep them satisfied.

The best tip for retention, she said, is open communication.

The ability to retain talent depends on how much a company invests in its employees, said Catherine Lang, chief learning officer at Appirio. "Building a great learning and development program is one way to retain talent," she said. "It allows workers to grow professionally and stay stimulated at work."

West believes one of the keys to retention is making sure employees feel successful. "People want to feel happy, valued and successful at work," he said. "If they can get those three things, you're much more likely to retain them." 

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