In 2019, Brian Gifford, president and founder of BluePeak Technology Solutions, made a change to his company’s paid time off policy.
He got rid of it.
“About two years ago, we rolled out unlimited PTO for our staff, which was a big differentiator,” said Gifford, whose Reno-based firm designs, deploys and manages enterprise information technology systems for companies, big and small. “We told people up front that, ‘we want to make this available to you as long as you’re getting your work done and the company can absorb your absence.’ And it hasn’t been abused.”
Pausing, he added: “We’ve had to become really, really competitive with our benefits packages.”
The demand for tech talent and IT services has surged in the past two years, Gifford said, accelerated by the pandemic-related push toward digital initiatives such as e-commerce and the need for tightly secure wireless and remote systems amid the work-from-home movement.
Brian Gifford, founder of BluePeak Technology Solutions, says his company is pivoting to embrace the remote work shift driven by COVID.“Technology has come to the forefront for pretty much every business as a growth driver for them,” said Gifford, who’s currently looking to hire multiple positions. “They need technology, they have compliance requirements, and cybersecurity is only getting tougher and more critical. So, I think finally companies are starting to see the need for greater investment.”
As a result, the demand for IT professionals is greater than ever, creating an ultra-competitive job market for tech talent.
The IT job market in the U.S. has added an average of 14,000 positions a month since August 2020, according to IT employment consulting firm Janco Associates, which analyzes data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Meanwhile, August 2021 saw the addition of 25,400 positions, the most in a single month since the pandemic started. And businesses would have filled more IT positions had they found enough qualified candidates, according to Janco Associates.
In other words, the IT job situation in the U.S. continues to look like it did pre-COVID: there are more open positions than qualified candidates.
This, Gifford said, is why BluePeak is continually making efforts to not only attract skilled IT professionals, but also retain existing employees. Along with the PTO change, BluePeak has embraced the remote work shift driven by COVID, offering current staff and new hires flexible work options, such as a combination of in-person and WFH, or fully remote, as well as competitive pay.
“Workers are looking to be heard and have flexibility,” Gifford said. “And we’ve tried to accommodate.”
John Zink, president at IT Avalon, says companies hesitant to hire remote staff may find themselves losing out on top talent.John Zink, president of IT Avalon, a recruiting agency that specializes in contract-to-hire and full-time IT staffing, said companies that are apprehensive about hiring remote technologists are “going to lose out” to firms that are accommodating to candidates in the COVID age.
“I really think all the companies have to keep up with the fact they’re going to have to be flexible if they want to have the best technologists on their team,” Zink said. “They have to let these people work remote either part of the time or all the time.”
Before the pandemic, IT Avalon — which relocated this summer to Reno from Silicon Valley — only saw about 10% of its clients hiring remote workers. That’s changed “substantially” over the past 18 months, Zink said.
“Now, it’s about 90%,” he added.
SHIFTING IT LANDSCAPE
Some companies, whether because of accelerated growth or turnover, are choosing to forgo the recruiting and hiring process altogether, and instead hire consulting groups that can manage their IT.
Brandon App, co-owner and partner at IT consulting company Sierra Miles Group, said the Reno-based firm has been hired by a number of clients who have either experienced too much growth to handle or been hit with high IT turnover during the pandemic.
Brandon App, co-owner of Sierra Miles Group, said employees work a hybrid of remote and in-person hours.“We’re seeing a lot of people churn through employees because they’re demanding higher pay, they’re demanding remote work,” App said. “Or even healthcare (benefits). There might be scenarios where healthcare wasn’t offered, and now it’s more important than ever.”
App said Sierra Miles is not currently hiring, but he and co-owner Tim Miles are already trying to anticipate what their hiring needs might be next year — and how to attract talent when the time comes.
“Before, if we needed somebody, we would think about it maybe a month or two out,” App said. “And now, we’re looking at it more from a quarterly standpoint — as in, what are we going to need next quarter from an employee standpoint? We’re thinking a lot farther down the line.”
App said Sierra Miles has been a remote-first company since it launched in 2015. The company moved into a new Reno office in February 2020, only to go fully remote a month later when the pandemic hit.
Now, most of the firm’s employees work a hybrid of remote and in-person hours, said App, noting that anyone is allowed to work fully remote if they want.
“If you can get your job done at home or you can securely do it at a coffee shop, we really don’t care,” App said. “We just want to make sure that the job is done.”
The combination of a remote work boom and IT talent shortage has also put pressure on companies in Reno-Sparks and across the country to increase salaries.
According to Janco Associates, the median salary for IT professionals in the U.S. is expected to grow to up to $97,000 by the end of the year, up from $94,600 in January.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re in Reno, Nevada, or if your company is in Silicon Valley,” Zink said. “You’re paying almost the same amount of money for that person, because they can work from anywhere in the U.S. They can get hired by a Silicon Valley company just as easily as they can get hired by a Reno or Minneapolis or Des Moines company.
“So, it’s really leveled the playing field as far as what these people are able to make.”