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 Written by: Mike Allan, CEO, Routeique

One of the most significant challenges we faced as a new supply chain technology company in Calgary was hiring team members specializing in AI, ML, data science, coding, DevOps, and UI/UX. 

Often, we were competing for a relatively small pool of candidates both against companies in large tech-focused markets, such as Silicon Valley, and larger companies locally. 

Instead of deciding, "there's just not a sufficient pool of candidates" or "we can't compete,” we focused on pinpointing bottlenecks in our hiring process and finding creative—and, ultimately, successful—ways to clear this hurdle.

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The Challenges of Finding Candidates in a Competitive Space

In Calgary, the competition for top tech talent can be heated. When oil and gas is booming, these companies have the budgets to attract leading candidates. At other times, tech has boomed, with some of the city's larger companies being able to offer top-of-market rates right out of the gates–understandably a big draw.

YYC is an innovative city with a vibrant tech scene that we’re proud to be part of. However, it’s not yet a hub attracting large numbers of tech workers from elsewhere. Additionally, there are not always local classes or schooling available for certain specialties we are seeking. 

Its Impact on Operations

Difficulty growing a team isn’t just a barrier to scaling, it can lower your existing team's morale and productivity. 

If your team is working shorthanded progress and scaling will be much more difficult. Training a candidate or existing employee is also an option. However, providing extensive training can become a further burden for an already overextended team. 

Finally, rushing ahead and hiring the wrong candidate can come with enormous costs and frustration for both your team and the new hire. 

Developing a Creative Hiring Strategy

To overcome this hurdle, we had to get creative and move beyond the traditional "put up an ad and hire" approach. 

We believe that when there is a problem, it's often caused by a pinch point or bottleneck. Until it's fixed, nothing will get better. So, our leadership team started looking for "pinch points" in our hiring strategy and attacked them in order from most to least significant.

We asked ourselves:
●    Is it a recruiting problem?
●    Is it a messaging problem?
●    Is it a compensation problem?
●    Can team members who are less experienced be effectively trained up?

Based on this, we began highlighting our competitive benefits and culture, set up internal training programs, and partnered with external teams when needed.

Emphasizing Strong Benefits and Culture

As a growing company, we couldn’t offer top-of-market rates, so we emphasized other benefits. These included employee share programs, flexible schedules, and bonuses.

We've embraced remote work since well before COVID-19. With many in the industry now preferring to stay remote, we have made a point to emphasize this for new hires. This has also allowed us to expand our recruiting geographically. 

We’ve had great luck in hiring team members who choose their next position based on culture and the ability to get in on the ground floor with equity in the company.

Building an In-House Training Program

We also began enhancing our support resources to provide more efficient onboarding, mentorship, and training. When we find strong candidates who might require additional upskilling, we can build that skill set and empower their growth internally. 

Partnering With External Organizations for Expertise

In some cases, partnering with external teams for small, specific projects allows us to focus on strategy while leveraging a trusted team.

For example, having our development team work with external programmers allowed us to maintain our speed while seeking new team members.

This approach also helps us grow our team internally. For example, we’ve partnered with organizations that train students, which enables us to work with candidates who would be well-equipped to join the company after completing their studies.

Going Forward

Because of this approach, concerns around hiring are no longer a barrier. And, when we’re faced with other challenges, we always begin by searching for the bottleneck.

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