Managing Employees

Should You Invest in Techies or Train Non-Technical Employees?

Should You Invest in Techies or Train Non-Technical Employees?
Image credit: Alan Rampton | Flickr
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As an entrepreneur, you want your team to be the best of the best -- the most creative, the smartest, the most skilled. But when it comes to sourcing tech talent, startups can struggle to find the best brains at an affordable price.

The talent war going on in Silicon Valley has gotten out of control. Tesla and Apple are notorious for poaching each other’s employees, and Weeby is trying to distinguish itself in the battle for engineers by offering $250,000 salaries.

With so many companies competing for talent, you may find yourself debating whether you should try to hire top-notch tech talent right out of the gate or pay to develop in-house non-technical employees. While I believe that it’s possible to build a team of tech-savvy individuals with continual education and training, the more advanced and adaptable your employees are from the outset, the better your chances of getting ahead.

Related: Mark Zuckerberg: I Would Only Hire Someone to Work For Me If I Would Work For Them

When deciding whether you’re prepared to try to teach tech smarts, the first thing to consider is whether you need technical employees or employees who are merely tech-savvy.

As a startup, you really shouldn’t consider hiring team members who don’t at least have technical adaptability. My company only hires tech-savvy individuals because 80 percent of our jobs require technical skills. But even if your company is less tech-oriented, nearly every role these days requires employees who have at least basic tech skills. Your job as a leader is to hire people who are hungry for growth and work to unlock the techie inside each of them.

Related: 5 Ways to Keep Your Female Tech Employees Around for the Long Haul

But if your business requires employees who are technical -- such as developers and software engineers -- that’s another story. While it’s possible to incorporate technical training into your company’s culture, training is expensive. According to the Association for Talent Development’s 2014 report, the cost per learning hour for training an employee in 2013 was $1,798. These costs can quickly drown your startup.

Another thing to remember is that individuals who come in with strong technical backgrounds simply bring more to the table. They can contribute from day one, bring ideas to life and understand how the technology will impact your company for the next five to 10 years. Hiring someone with technical skills is the difference between hiring someone who looks in a toolbox and doesn’t know which screwdriver to use and someone who can grab the toolbox, find what he needs and start building.

Here are a few ways you can transform your startup to attract the right people in today’s competitive market:

1. Become a tech paradise.

To attract the most brilliant technical employees, your company must invest in a strong tech backbone. A-list employees are looking for employers with the tools in place to help them succeed in their roles: state-of-the-art technology; the most up-to-date operating systems; and great tools for social media, employee engagement and operations.

Present potential employees with a cutting-edge environment that will help them succeed in their roles, and they’ll be knocking down your door.

Related: 8 Ingredients Every App and Software Business Plan Needs

2. Create workflow automation.

You can dramatically increase the efficiency of your work environment by establishing workflow automation processes. By taking advantage of the automation technology tools available, you can give employees more control over their responsibilities, create a more efficient work experience and reduce the risk of errors that can halt progress.

3. Optimize recruitment.

Finally, you need to optimize your recruitment efforts to attract technical talent. Explore networks where techies collaborate, such as GitHub, and establish a presence at local hackathons and tech meetups. Be candid and exciting in your job postings, and don’t forget to mention perks that will appeal to the tech-minded.

When building your startup dream team, it’s OK to hire employees who are merely tech-savvy to fill certain positions. However, non-technical roles are disappearing quickly, and you can’t afford to hire people who aren’t ready to adapt and learn. More tech skills equal more value, so it’s in your startup’s best interest to hire for whatever technical skills you can afford. 

Related: When Workplace 'Slackers' Derail the Cohesion of a Team