Kansas City isn’t unique in its high demand for talented techies.
But perhaps what is setting the area apart is its collaborative approach to creating, recruiting and retaining tech talent in the Kansas City metro. Dozens of area tech companies engaged in a panel discussion Wednesday on practical steps that companies can take to win “the battle for tech talent.”
KCnext president Ryan Weber, whose organization helps grow the area tech sector, said that the discussion aims to inspire new talent acquisition strategies among Kansas City firms.
“Today’s event was a true call to action for Kansas City employers,” Weber said. “We hope Kansas City tech employers walked away with new resources and ideas they can begin utilizing right away.”
Those leading the Lockton-hosted discussion were: Gary Beach, publisher emeritus of CIO Magazine and a columnist with the Wall Street Journal; Chris Isaacson of Bats Global Markets; Kevin McGinnis of Pinsight Media+; Mira Mdivani of Mdivani Corporate Immigration Law Firm; and Anna Welchman of LaunchCode.
The group boiled down strategies for tech firms to recruit and retain talent into five key areas.
1. Close the education gap.
Companies must engage local schools and offer support with their time, funding or both. Science, technology, engineering and math education should ideally begin before kindergarten, Beach said. Mdivani added that STEM education is even more important if Kansas City wants to compete for immigrant workers with more advanced skills.
2. Stop whining.
Kansas City needs to stop complaining about the lack of talent and get practical about the problem. There are many efforts to boost tech talent in the area, including KCnext and LaunchCode.
“Be a voice — don’t just check the box,” McGinnis said. “Your involvement is what can make Kansas City the land of opportunity.
3. Be open and progressive with hiring initiatives.
You don’t need a degree to be a proficient programmer. Be open to applicants with skills and experience, and not just a degree in computer science. McGinnis said many of his best programmers at PinSight Media+ don’t have college degrees.
4. Promote Kansas City.
If you want to attract the best techies from the East or West coasts, you’re going to have to sell more than your company. Leaders should also sell the culture of Kansas City. Discuss the area’s arts and music scene. Mention the delicious food and fun nightlife. You’d be hard pressed attracting someone to your company without first selling them on the city in which they’ll live.
5. Build a better company culture.
Organize your company culture around two cornerstones: lifelong learning and solving a big problem. Employees come to work to learn and grow as professionals. Many also want to make the world a better place by tackling big problems — and that doesn’t always mean enabling world peace.