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Utah's low unemployment may not be good news for everyone

Business people shake hands. Utah's unemployment rate is 3.5 percent, but virtually 0 percent for technology professionals.
Business people shake hands. Utah's unemployment rate is 3.5 percent, but virtually 0 percent for technology professionals.
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When we take a look at the latest employment data released from the Utah Department of Workforce Services, Utah ended 2015 with a low 3.5 percent unemployment rate in the month of December, among the lowest rates nationally.

We typically consider this good news, as it’s a key indicator for the strength of our economy. However, as with most scenarios, there’s also a downside. Many growing Utah companies are finding it harder to locate and hire new employees. With more people employed, fewer are actively searching for jobs, creating a workers' market where companies are being forced to pay higher wages and to search significantly longer for the right hire.

For Utah tech companies, which represent one of the fastest growing segments of our economy that supports some of the highest paying jobs in the state, the unemployment rate is virtually zero — yes, you read that correctly, 0 percent.

Today’s hiring managers at Utah technology companies are facing the most competitive job market in our history. Finding talent with the necessary skills, attracting them to join your company and ensuring they stay is harder than it’s ever been. This impacts company growth as projects are delayed and deadlines are missed, creating an undesired slowing of high growth.

Utah companies, especially technology companies, are facing perhaps the harshest job climate in our state’s history. These companies will only continue to grow by being innovative and systematic in the ways hiring managers are finding and retaining top talent that lasts. But what are some of the leading Utah companies doing to solve this problem?

Addressing the three pillars to a long-term, high-performance employee

The cost of hiring the wrong person can be in the tens of thousands of dollars to as high as hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Knowing the high stakes of finding the right person who will stay in the position, it's important to take into account three success factors. Dubbed the Predictive Placement Method, or PPM, the system provides a guide to evaluating three critical success factors: technical skills validation, motivational assessment and cultural sync.

Technical skills validation dives deeper to ensure a candidate possesses the skills proclaimed on his or her resume. It can include a timed skills test as well as an interview with a technical screener. A key to long-term employment is finding employees who are excited about the technology they use, and believe in the company they work for, which is addressed in the motivatal assesment.

Finally, leading companies take team and company culture seriously and work to hire someone who will work well. Company culture can include values such as diversity, being hard-working and competitive, and having life balance.

PPM goes well beyond typical hiring practices such as salary, geography and the experience listed on a resume, which is a reason it leads to long-term employment and performance.

Leveraging technology instead of relying on it

In today’s world of software automation, social media and shiny new customer relationship managements promising to fix everything, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that software can be the answer. Quite simply, these are all tools that enable hiring managers to more effectively locate prospective employees. But without a proven system or method, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with the big data that comes with modern-day software. For example, many companies go well beyond reviewing a resume and in-person interviews by implementing a formal recruiting process, such as a PPM, to attract, select and hire the right candidate.

Working with a staffing company for hard-to-find skill sets

It’s no secret that a staffing company can help companies more quickly find the right person, especially for a job position that requires a unique skill set. Just like any industry, all staffing companies aren’t built the same. Hiring companies need to do their homework and look for a staffing firm that will work as a partner in the long term (you don’t want them poaching your staff for another client) and does more than rely on a fancy database. Look for a firm with people who are willing to roll up their sleeves to understand your business and the position at a deep level.

So although Utah’s low unemployment rate has created some challenges, innovative hiring managers can still be successful at growing their teams in this competitive job market by using some new approaches and, in many instances, some reinforcements.

Spencer Shaffer is co-founder and CEO of Utah-based Myelin Resources, a technical staffing, IT consulting and technology project solutions firm. EMAIL: spencer@myelinresources.com