The high-tech industry currently makes up more than 20% of the workforce in the United States. Jobs in the high-tech sector are expected to grow 63% faster than all other occupations by 2022. While there is no official government industry classification for the high-tech industry, generally it is viewed by the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) occupations. These are further divided into high-tech manufacturing industries and high-tech service industries.
No matter how they are classified, what they all have in common is that their people are the most important driver of success.
Since technology is vital to the success of almost every company in every industry to provide better service, lower prices, more flexibility to respond to changing customer preferences, and more innovation, there is fierce competition for people with the right skills to fill tech positions at high-tech companies as well as companies in other industries who just need high-tech support.
According to a 2016 PwC global survey of more than 1,000 CEOs, 61% of global chief executives and 78% of U.S. respondents from all major industries said that they were somewhat or very concerned about the speed of technological change in their industry.
Typically, when people think of high-tech states, Washington, Microsoft’s home and California, due to Silicon Valley, come to mind. With that said, currently the top three hotbeds for high-tech growth include North Dakota, Alaska, and Utah, which have all seen at least a 30% increase in the number of these positions since 2012. Alaska and Utah have seen their biggest increases in the STEM healthcare segment.
Utah’s Wasatch Front, a metropolitan region in north central Utah, is often referred to as the “Silicon Slopes” for the educational institutions and tech startups that call the region home. Five universities—Brigham Young, Utah Valley, Utah, Weber State, and Utah State—churn out more than 5,200 STEM graduates a year, while Neumont University in Salt Lake City prepares students for careers in computer science with a unique approach to IT education.
Utah’s now mature tech community also supports the number of jobs needed to keep these graduates in state and working for some of the most prolific companies in the country including Overstock, Pluralsight and Ancestry.
How High-Tech Companies Retain Talent
Not only do high-tech companies have to recruit new talent to their teams, they also need to retain talent and guard against poaching of high-level talent by non-tech companies in other industries.
With renewed focus from Salt Lake City’s Overstock.com on its platform Medici, an offering that allows Overstock and other businesses the ability to issue cryptosecurities, the company has moved beyond the exploratory phase to be a leader in crypto 2.0 technologies.
Based in Farmington, UT, Pluralsight, a creative and tech training company, has created a culture and organization that aligns with the belief that people are its most important asset. It has adopted many of the factors that other tech companies on the Best Workplaces in Technology list utilize to develop a high-performance, high-trust organization.
“It’s a culture of transparency, openness, of collaboration and continual improvement,” said Pluralsight CEO Aaron Skonnard in an interview with Beehive Startups. “I want people to feel like they have access to me.”
Employees at all levels are trusted and empowered to make decisions that are in the best interests of the company. Combine this with no dress code, no travel or expense policy, and an unlimited vacation policy, Pluralsight has created a culture that its employees love to work in without sacrificing productivity. Today, Pluralsight made the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies and is ranked as one of the top 20 businesses in Utah.
Similarly, Ancestry, based out of Lehi, Utah but with offices in San Francisco, Dublin, London, Sydney, and Munich, is recognized as a best company to work for by Utah Business magazine and San Francisco Business Times. Ancestry is the largest provider of family history and personal DNA testing with more than 2 million paying subscribers, 17 billion digitized historical records and 1.5 million DNA samples. From healthy snacks and catered lunches, flexible vacation days (“We trust you to manage you”) and more perks, Ancestry embraces a holistic approach to benefits.
Finding Executive Leadership for a High-Tech Company
Although most tech startups are founded by tech-savvy people, when business starts to boom it is common for founders to want to find other chief executives to step in to handle operations, finances, and employees so they can focus on the tech and products that originally ignited their passion. When it comes to finding a CEO or other C-suite replacement, here are some tips to make the right choice:
1. Shared Values, Goals and Work Ethic: When bringing a new executive to the team, it’s paramount that they are in sync with the established values, company goals, and work ethic that is expected. There needs to be a true partnership at the executive level.
2. Trust Among the C-Suite to Take Care of Their Business: There has to be complete trust among each of the executives to take care of their core responsibilities without meddling from the others. “If you don’t like or don’t trust someone, no matter how brilliant a leader or manager she is, it just won’t work.” – Serge Lubensky, ServiceChannel.com
3. Leverage your Advisors: Rely on experienced advisors including executive recruiters to assist in finding the right candidates for your executive team. They are able to provide objectivity that is critical.
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