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The battle for engineering talent in the Seattle market

Seattle is one of the nation’s fastest growing cities, with top tech companies moving up the coast from Silicon Valley to take advantage of the region’s deep talent pool. The battle for engineering talent continues to heat up in the area.

Software engineers - especially in the areas of AI, machine learning and data sciences - are highly sought after, and have their pick of companies to work for in the Emerald City, from Microsoft to Amazon, Facebook to Apple.

You only have to look at open positions at Apple in Seattle to see the kind of talent that companies are looking for. In fact, with Apple planning to employ more than 1,000 workers in Seattle by 2022 as part of a national expansion, it’s only going to increase the pressure on smaller tech companies to hire qualified engineers.

With so many companies competing for the same talent, can employers in Seattle find and attract the best employees?

Competition is hot, and money talks!

Thankfully, Seattle has a lot to offer its residents—from vibrant culture and trendy nightlife, to weekend getaways in nearby national parks, and mountain ranges —it’s not hard to lure people to the city for work. The challenge is, all of the major employers are using the same lures.

For residents of the city, a healthy work-life balance is important. However, it’s not the only important driver in job satisfaction. As the city grows, so do real estate prices, leaving many residents stuck in the city on weekends working a second job just to afford their mortgage. Therefore financial security - total compensation - is what matters the most for the majority of employees.

According to payscale.com, the cost of living in Seattle is 49 percent higher than the national average. Meanwhile a study from GOBankingrates.com discovered that residents of Seattle earn a median household income $4,727 less than the income needed to cover necessities, savings and additional expenses.

Employment “perks” such as flexible work weeks, remote working etc. are not even considered perks any longer in the Seattle talent market. Often these are standard in employment contracts.

For start-ups, trying to find an engineer who doesn’t want to work for Amazon, Microsoft and Google is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

How can employers attract the top talent in a tough hiring environment?

  1. Offer a very competitive salary and other financial benefits. 
    There’s no hiding from it, compensation is key to attract the best of the best.

    Amazon highlights what it does to provide financial security to their people as a central part of their publicly available Employee Value Proposition. The company offers “a full range of benefits...health care coverage, ways to save for the future, and other resources to improve your well-being”. With medical, dental and vision plans, long-term savings plans including company matching, disability and life insurance, stock options, counselling, adoption assistance, maternity and parental leave and more, all included as part of the compensation package for regular, full-time employees, clearly Amazon gets how important financial security is for its employees. 

    Apple is another company that provides unique perks for its employees, to further differentiate themselves from competitors and attract top talent.

    Ultimately, employers cannot low-ball the people they really want, and need, to join their organization. If a full-time top engineer is what is needed to help your company achieve its business goals, you have to be prepared to pay for them.  
  2. Get creative in the hunt for new employees
    Hiring managers responsible for filling the numerous empty positions need to get creative, and fill their hiring pipelines from sources other than the traditional. Take JPMorgan Chase for example. The company created Tech Connect - a recruitment program targeting non-traditional technology talent, aimed at boosting the hiring pipeline by finding emerging technology professionals when other companies may have turned them away from a lack of experience. According to JPMorgan Chase, “We recruit students whose studies focused on non-technology areas, such as math and life sciences and provide basic programming training, career development, mentoring and networking opportunities.”

    Another option is to reach out to potential future employees earlier in their education to get them informed, and excited about the options available to them upon graduation. Even get involved in high school programs to get more students interested in taking a tech-related course after leaving high-school.

    Outsourcing finding talent is another option that will ease the burden on hiring managers, and allow for a wider net to be cast when looking to find new talent. 
  3. Employee referral programs
    Your current employees are a potential untapped source of referrals. Reward employees financially who put you in touch with a new candidate for a position. New employees are more likely to be persuaded by someone who is already employed there. Amaxra has successfully used our referral program to find many great consultants/employees over the years.
  4. Involve your people, make them feel part of the organization’s success.
    Seek, and act on feedback from employees about everything from why they work for the company, what matters to them, what would make it a better place to work, what the company could start doing, and stop doing. These insights can help to stop talented people leaving, and shows employees just starting out that the company cares.  
  5. Find other ways to compete
    There’s a shift in employment practices towards hiring skilled people as and when they are needed, rather than on a full-time basis. By paying for tech talent only when needed, the individual employer can save significantly. Amaxra provides a full array of supplemental and fully-managed support services to help you identify highly capable talent that fits your requirements.

    The talent wars are only going to intensify in coming years, and the pressure on tech companies to pay top engineers the big-bucks is not going away. Smaller tech companies simply will not be able to sustain themselves if they have to compete with the six-figure salaries of the bigger companies. They have to find other ways to compete.

Feedback and comments are always welcome. If you have any questions, you are welcome to contact me at patrick.viernes@amaxra.com. You can also connect with me via LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/patrick-viernes. 

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