Sourcing Talent For Your Growing Tech Team In Colorado Is Getting Harder, Here’s Why
There are many reasons to be proud of Colorado’s evolution as a viable tech and startup community over the last 10-15 years. SendGrid had a giant IPO success and it looks like PopSockects has the same fate in its near future. Denver Startup Week has evolved into a truly impactful driver of world-recognized startup thought leadership. This evolution, the growth of venture capital presence in the Front Range, and the amazing lifestyle perks make Colorado an ideal tech candidate’s haven; music to our ears for sourcing talent. And it’s true, we’ve been in the team-building business since 2001 and the last few years have been a hockey-stick growth curve of the quality and volume of tech candidates. So, you ask…
“Why is sourcing talent going to get harder and not easier?… I thought Denver was attracting lots of tech talent and has a highly educated younger population? We should be flush with candidates.”
This is true, Denver is attracting lots of new talent looking for a refuge from the cost of living in the main tech hubs of San Fran, New York, and Boston. We even have a state-funded campaign, Pivot to Colorado, that’s sole purpose is to recruit talent directly from the Bay Area. But candidates are not the only ones targeting Colorado, many of the bigger venture funded and/or already successful startups are looking at Denver as a potential headquarters location.
From the Google campus in Boulder to Slack eyeing a 50K SF space in downtown Denver, 22 tech companies either opened satellite offices or moved their HQ to the Denver Metro Area in the past year – BizNow
This might initially sound amazing, but it spells hard times coming for tech businesses who are Colorado-based and Colorado-founded.
Here is why sourcing talent in the Front Range is going to get worse before it gets better:
1) Companies based in SF/NY/Boston who are already successful there can leverage capital and revenue drawn from these mega tech/capital hubs to entice talent as cost of living continues to rise.
- According to Glassdoor the average salary for a software engineer in Boulder, CO is $98K. Compare this to the average salary for a software engineer working at Google in Boulder, $121K. Now, we aren’t particularly beholden to those exact numbers as doctrine, it’s just used to illustrate the point that a ~25%+ difference in average salary is very hard for top talent to ignore. This is compounded by the increase in the cost of living in the area, see CO Springs and Denver on this “top-20 cities where the cost of living is increasing the fastest” article from Forbes.
- Google, Slack, Maxar Technologies, and Twitter are just a few that have already landed in the Front Range in a big way. Some other big Bay Area names that are (supposedly) in the satellite phase or looking are Netflix (Boulder), Amazon (Denver), and more…
- These companies will also be able to out-compete on the benefits and perks front. Take a look at some of these crazy perks that big tech players are offering.
2) Candidates relocating from SF/NY/LA/Boston are going to continue to drive up home prices in Colorado front range causing more focus on higher salaries.
- In 2015 alone, more than 4500 people moved from Los Angeles to Denver. The 2019 median home value in LA is right around $700K, whereas Denver’s is right around $430K.
- Us Denver/Boulder locals might think it’s getting too expensive, but California transplants still think it’s a bargain.
Fear not, here are a few opportunities you can lean in to and keep that candidate pipeline full of exceptional talent despite the competition:
1) Share your vulnerabilities as a company, be forthright with your threats and weaknesses, what’s missing, and even what’s broken, etc. Exceptional candidates see these as greenfield opportunities for the application of their skillsets.
- Although this may be counter-intuitive, this sets a standard of transparency. It also shows the candidate that you want the candidate to be a part of the fabric of the company, not adjacent and serving. This shows the candidate they can make an impact, which Google recently showed to be one of the five core tenants of a successful tech team. Impact as they define it is – “Team members think their work matters and creates change.”
2) Focus on mission alignment with Colorado cultural values.
- Candidates chose Colorado for the lifestyle, align the mission of the company with Colorado values and promote that mission in the local tech communities.
- With CO Springs and Denver ranked 2nd & 3rd best place to live, people love the live/work balance, take a unique stance on this that is not just “Unlimited Vacation.” Really empower the “always working, always playing, always available to do what you love” mentality. The master is he or she who makes no distinction between what is work and what is play, but some employees need more handholding. Take a strong stance on your lifestyle culture and how it aligns with Colorado.
3) Encourage and advocate for the latest tech stacks and offer skillset improvements around these technologies.
- Software engineers are dedicated lifelong-learners, empower this trait of who they are. This provides value that benefits the company and the employee; win-win. Make it known that your company has employee growth as a core tenant.
4) Here are some other thoughts and notes put together by our team here based on the thousands of candidates we work with:
- Expectations of end-clients and customers are rising… We don’t lower our expectations for new friends when we mature, we raise them. Same goes with tech hires. Even as it gets harder, don’t compromise, hold the line and your mission will come through for the candidate. They will respect your company.
- Qualify candidates heavily, but with a process. Show that candidates are evaluated on a level playing field. Word does get around in the Colorado tech community if a hiring process is arbitrary, be aware and be fair.
- Move fast, if you’re committed to hiring, have approved headcount, etc., then commit to striking on top talent.
- Be mindful of coding test time commitments. Code tests show not just skill, but resolve and sincerity, but expecting a candidate to carve out a weekend can be a non-starter.
- Engage your team to hire. They can be recruiters too. Getting them involved to build the product is one thing, building a team should always be a parallel focus. Together they help to support long term buy-in and retention.
- Consider exposing your product roadmap, share the vision of the future of the product and the impact it will create. Give them a lens to see the causal connection of their skillset, the product’s future, and the impact it will have.
Things are going to get harder, but it is time to lean into what makes Colorado awesome and be truthful with the situation. Many smaller Colorado companies will not be able to compete directly with the sheer cash backing that the SF based companies bring to the table. If you lean into what it means to be Coloradan and your company’s mission/impact alignment, you can compete on a totally different playing field.
Here at BWBacon Group, we know and live what you are experiencing as an employer or job seeker in Denver, Boulder, Dallas, San Francisco, New York City or any of the other cities we work in. We believe great recruiting starts and ends with understanding people.
If you have any questions about living, working or playing any of the areas we serve, please contact us. We are happy to help. Seize the day, every day, that’s what we say!