Recruiting the right tech talent has always been a challenge for technology companies and corporate IT departments alike, and there’s certainly no reason to believe it will be any different in 2015. And according to one Silicon Valley human resources professional, SMBs will face their own set of challenges.
That HR professional is Pat Schoof, vice president of human resources at Udemy, an online learning and teaching marketplace based in San Francisco. In a recent email interview, Schoof and I discussed the tech hiring outlook for 2015, and I opened the conversation by asking her what her toughest HR challenge is at the moment.
“The most profound challenge that the HR departments of small- and medium-sized tech companies face,” Schoof said, “is discerning whether the candidates are more intrigued by the allure of large companies like the Googles, Facebooks and Twitters of the world, vs. moderately-sized organizations like Udemy, where their impact could be more profound.”
Schoof added that one of the major HR challenges she’s faced throughout her career has been “communicating the importance of Day One.”
“Employees remember their first and last days, and it is vital to train managers to ensure that the experience is a good one,” she said. “Getting people to understand company values and how they are practiced in everything we do, rather than simply memorizing a mission statement, is paramount.”
I asked Schoof how tech companies and corporate IT departments can do a better job of recruiting women, and what Udemy’s experience is in that regard. She said Udemy is aggressive about recruiting and incorporating women into the company.
“In fact, we often sponsor events geared specifically toward women in tech: SF MobileBridge is one example,” Schoof said. “Our aim was to garner excitement about technology among women, while also teaching them about Udemy technology in particular. Additionally, we regularly mentor Hackbright students, recently helping three students with their final projects.”
I asked Schoof what her advice is for a young person who is weighing the options of joining a technology startup vs. an established technology company. She said an important skill for HR professionals to develop is the ability to work with applicants to discern and ensure that they understand the environment of their companies.
“When you join a large company, there is a great deal of structure and training, particularly initially,” Schoof explained. “Smaller companies require much more flexibility—people at startups must be comfortable making coffee before running to a board meeting, for example. Smaller companies require workers to wear many hats; you may not become a vice president within six months, but you have an opportunity to work on more varied projects.”
On the topic of HR mistakes that tech startups tend to make, Schoof said they need to do a better job of incorporating human resources into the fabric of their business from the very beginning.
“A major mistake tech startups make is treating HR like an afterthought,” she said. “Startups must resist the temptation to associate today’s HR people with the old-school HR stereotype, complete with rigid policies.”
I asked about the expectations young people have when they enter the technology workforce, in terms of compensation and the work demands. Are their expectations realistic, or do they tend to need a reality check? Schoof said websites like Salary.com do a disservice to young people who are new to the job market.
“While they believe this research is doing their due diligence, they end up approaching the job opportunity with false expectations about salary,” she said. “Young people also often have misguided expectations about time off—it is never a good idea to expectantly ask about vacation time when just starting a new job. Millennials, members of Gen X, and baby boomers all have vastly different expectations about job compensation and work demands.”
Schoof wrapped up the conversation by pointing out that companies with a global focus, like Udemy, have their own sets of HR challenges that are important to acknowledge.
“We manage HR and communications between three offices around the world,” she said. “Naturally, our HR needs and the needs of companies like us are inherently different—everything from onboarding new hires, managing communications, incorporating new employees into the team, and perhaps most importantly, instilling company values and culture, must all be taken into careful consideration.”
A contributing writer on IT management and career topics with IT Business Edge since 2009, Don Tennant began his technology journalism career in 1990 in Hong Kong, where he served as editor of the Hong Kong edition of Computerworld. After returning to the U.S. in 2000, he became Editor in Chief of the U.S. edition of Computerworld, and later assumed the editorial directorship of Computerworld and InfoWorld. Don was presented with the 2007 Timothy White Award for Editorial Integrity by American Business Media, and he is a recipient of the Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for editorial excellence in news coverage. Follow him on Twitter @dontennant.