MKE Tech Coalition Members Take Action to Fill Vacant Tech Roles

Submitted by Renee Becker-Blau, Talent Development Associate, MKE Tech Coalition ….

An employer’s most valuable assets are their people. When talent is hard to find, how do employers discover non-traditional talent?

As part of the 2020 Summerfest Tech day in September, four Milwaukee-based employers discussed the non-traditional talent sources they’ve used and/or developed to scale up their tech workforce. This insightful panelist discussion provided employers with key strategies for designing, building, and implementing a non-traditional talent pipeline to supplement existing talent sources to keep up with demand both in their organization and the community at large.

Neal Sample, Chief Information Officer at Northwestern Mutual, explained that traditional staffing routes, (including outsource providers, staffing partners, acquisitions, acqui-hires, etc.) were not providing enough talent to fill all open positions. Developing non-traditional talent sources became a critical business need for Northwestern Mutual. Starting with the community, Northwestern Mutual began making significant local investment to attract and retain talent. Key strategies and programs for finding and developing non-traditional talent included:

  • Partnering with MKE Tech Hub to double the tech workforce in southeastern Wisconsin by 2025
  • Creating their own hi, Tech outreach program to teach Milwaukee K-12 students tech-skills
  • Launching Outsource to Milwaukee to recruit second career technologists and reach people who might not have had previous tech-experience.
  • Becoming an i.c.stars employer to hire diverse and resilient young adults who participate in a rigorous technology-based workforce development and leadership program.

Sample expanded on the necessity of non-traditional sources for their organization. “The traditional sources just didn’t fill the pipeline, there wasn’t enough. We found that by using our clout and buying power in the market to create resources, we were able to do so in a way that satisfied our business need and created some community good as well.”

A diverse and overlooked non-traditional talent source, identified by Rashi Khosla, Owner of MARS Solutions Group, is women interested in returning to the technology workforce. The creation of the MARS Returnship program provides an on-ramp for women who are looking to restart their careers in technology following a gap in employment. When women attempt to return to the workforce through traditional routes the inherent bias against gaps in employment prevent women from advancing in the recruitment process. Corporate partners are struggling with gender diversity in tech, only 25% of the tech workforce is women. Creating a bridge to this untapped non-traditional talent source and removing implicit bias in the hiring process gives companies with an advantage. Khosla pointed out in the discussion, “Women returners are not only a source of strong and diverse talent they bring in a business competitive advantage for you.” Kathy Henrich, CEO of MKETech, went on to highlight the correlations found by McKinsey & Company, in their “Diversity Wins How Inclusion Matters” report published May 2020, that explained organizations in the top quartile for ethnic diversity are 36% more likely to outperform industry averages than those in the bottom quartile.

Often times unconscious bias can prevent non-traditional talent, such as those transitioning to a different career, from reaching the interview stage of a position. Interviewing and hiring someone from a non-traditional path requires a very different approach. “Employers need to be prepared for a different way of recruiting, sourcing, and engaging with talent. You’re not looking for a resume with key words and years of experiences, or how many endorsements on LinkedIn. Until you speak with somebody you don’t know when you have an unpolished gem.” – Ryan Hoyle, Program Executive for GalaxE.Solutions’ “Outsource to America” (O2A) initiative.

Tim Schilke, Delivery Manager of Corporate Solutions at West Bend Mutual, specifically looks for someone who has critical thinking skills, soft skills, motivation and “a lot of hobbies as it shows they are inquisitive and creative.”  Tim also shared that the non-traditional employees they’ve brought into their team provide an unexpected positive benefit for the other team members. Since these individuals are hard workers, intuitive, and appreciate the respect that comes with their position –the rest of the team feeds off that positivity and are more motivated.

The MKE Tech Coalition is honored to be working with member organizations that support it’s framework for a ‘Model Employer’ and are interested in hearing from others with compelling stories and best practices to inform our collective efforts in the region.  Please make sure to check out the Coalition’s Reskilling Opportunities page for a list of our preferred providers.

The Coalition would like to extend a special thank you to the panelists for sharing their successes, challenges, and lessons learned around non-traditional talent sources during the September 2nd 2020 Summerfest Tech panel discussion, “Expanding MKE’s Tech Talent Requires New Approaches”. The panel was moderated by Kathy Henrich (CEO, MKE Tech Coalition).