As told by founder and CEO Tony Seminary, June 2021
(Note: this article is for the tech sector and not necessarily advocating for other sectors or industries).
Now that people are getting vaccinated, one of the biggest narratives in the corporate world is employers trying to determine what their work from home (WFH) policy will be going forward.
Like many recruiters out there I’m not particularly shy and not afraid to provide my opinion solicited or otherwise. I do not believe employers should require their employees to return to the office. If you do, one the risks will be that it’ll make it more difficult for you to attract and hire talent. What I would suggest is to give employees the option that if they want to come to the office they can. But make it be if they want to, not that they have to.
If you are hiring, I’m sure you are feeling some pain at the moment. And one of the things that will hurt your chances of landing a candidate is requiring them to work in an office every day.
I’ve been in recruiting for nearly 25 years now and it’s one of the hottest hiring markets I’ve seen in a very long time. How hot is it to hire in tech at the moment? It’s not red hot but rather white hot.
Besides being the founder and CEO of IT Motives I’m also a real estate investor as my side hustle. When it comes to hiring in technology, think of your local real estate market as the closest analogy I could draw. Currently, if you want to buy a house in Portland, Oregon (where I live) once the house hits the market on a Friday, you need to make an offer of bare minimum 10-15 percent over the asking price with no contingencies, and do so two days later by that Sunday or the house you’re interested in will be sold.
Our current tech market has me feeling like it’s 1999 again. Remember the dot-com craze and the hiring madness back then? Active server pages (ASP) was the hottest thing going. The running joke was that you could be selling shoes one day and six months later making $50/hour if you could spell ASP. You didn’t need code schools back then to call yourself a web developer. You just started coding, acted as if, and the money rolled in. And if not a web developer, you wanted to be a Cobol programmer as mainframers made a ton of cash by helping companies get ready for Y2K. It was like a gold rush to the tech market and everyone seemingly wanted in. The hiring pace of the dot-com era of 1999-2000 was one I’d hoped I’ve never see again. I know that seems odd to hear a recruiter say that, but it was fiercely competitive to hire back then.
It’s hard to think that COVID-19 has only been a thing for 15 months. It seems like a lot longer. Prior to March 2020, tech hiring was humming right along and had been since around 2011. One of my friends is a VP of Engineering in the Portland software community. When I’d talk with him pre-Covid, the topic of hiring inevitably would come up and he used to quip that it was less than 1 percent unemployment rate for the tech market in Portland.
Fast forward to June 2021 and it seems like history is repeating itself if you compare present day to the dot-com era around the turn of the century. Hiring is happening at an absolutely dizzying pace in our tech field. In our local market of Portland, you need to look no further than visiting our friends at Silicon Forest that is proof positive of the huge need to hire in tech.
I guess we really shouldn’t be surprised by all this hiring in the tech market. Think about how much humanity collectively leaned on technology to survive 2020. Could we have made it through the pandemic without tech? I highly doubt it.
The pandemic taught us a lot of things and one of them is that you do not need to be butt-in-seat at a company desk to do your job. And do it well. Employers discovered what us recruiters have been trying to advocate for years. Let your workers work wherever they want. Trust them. And they will deliver. In some cases way more productivity than you could have imagined. That’s what happened in 2020. We at IT Motives did not have a single client say that productivity went down and in many cases, productivity significantly went up.
Employers such as Navis and Echobind have long ago decided that they are going to be a remote-first company and to that end, they will hire the best talent wherever they are living for the most part. They realize that top talent in the tech field is insisting on being able to fully WFH and have the flexibility that comes with that (full disclosure: Navis and Echobind are IT Motives clients).
If you employ people in a metro area such as Portland, Oregon, eliminating commute time for workers is a key benefit especially as the population in Portland has grown by over 20 percent since 2000. People reside farther out from where the jobs are (which is typically the downtown core and Beaverton) because homes tend to be cheaper in metro-area cities such as Gresham, Canby, and Woodburn. When I first moved to the Portland area 20+ years ago, the commute from Vancouver to Wilsonville for example was totally doable. Now? It’s at least two hours round trip to make that drive, and that’s an ugly stressful two hour commute. All the while the real estate market prices in Portland have skyrocketed. As of March 2021 in Portland the median home price was $542,000 and that is up nearly 30 percent from two years ago.
Simply put, longer commutes are hard on people and they reduce productivity. With more hiring comes more choices for workers. If you don’t offer your employees the fully WFH option, believe me other companies will. The companies that do not require their employees come to the office every day will also have employees who are more refreshed because they are not spending idle unproductive time in their vehicles.
Lowering carbon emission is another reason to allow your employees to WFH and be environmentally conscious. That should especially resonate with employers in Portland because we tout our community as eco-friendly. We can instead keep those vehicles parked at home and be good stewards for the environment and our future generations to come.
Employers you will really help yourself if you allow your employees to work anywhere and don’t require them to come into an office. Will it be the only reason a candidate joins your organization because you allow them to fully WFH? No, of course not. But it will increase the chances for you to hire candidates that you couldn’t otherwise–especially in this white-hot job market.