Hiring Skilled Labour Tough for Small Rural Web Companies

 

This is a topic that has recently intrigued me. I will be gearing this post towards the web industry but I believe it extends to many industries out there.  

http://www.developer4lease.com

The Backstory

The other day I was asked if I knew of any talented web people that would be interested in joining a company.  This is a question I have gotten a few times, and usually respond in a similar fashion.  Do you need contract work or in-house?  They stated that it was for an in-house position.  My immediate thought usually is ‘Good luck with that’.  There are plenty of challenges that you have to overcome as a small rural company to get skilled labour, especially in-house.  I’m not talking about your standard content entry or junior level designers; I’m talking about your senior designers/developers, and project managers.  Below I have broken down a few of the challenges that I have seen from experience.

What are the challenges?

Skilled Labour Availability

The problem that all rural companies cannot avoid is the limited number of workers nearby.  In a big urban center you just simply have more people to choose from.  People generally want to live close to where they work if they can.  

The other factor is the skill level of those workers around you.  In a rural setting you don’t have universities, and colleges to train your bright local talent.  The problem isn’t that there is no talent locally, they just generally move onto the urban centers.  This is another reason why there are so many local self-taught junior designers available, but very few with any experience.

One other note I want to make here is about the web industry as a whole (at least in my local area). There seems to be a lack of young people pursuing our industry. This seems strange given the fact that technology is so integrated into our daily lives (iPhones, iPods, game consoles, computers). Why is it that students don’t think our industry is viable? Seems that it is still being perceived as a hobby and not a job. This could be a blog post on its own, so I will stop the rambling here.

The Freelancer Mindset / Commuting To Work

In this industry we have the freedom to work wherever we want, as we are constantly connected. We can work at a coffee shop, a buddies place, at home as well as many other places. This makes travelling to a confined office all the more difficult. All companies no matter where they are located have this “freelancer mindset” to fight against.

I believe this mindset is what separates industrial businesses from the web business. People understand that going to the shop is a necessity for physical labour, but a web company will always be pushed to allow the employee to work from home.

I know where these people are coming from, because I am of the same mindset.  Even if a company was a 5 minute drive away, would I really want to give up my freedom of working from home?  That makes me think of how all the more difficult it would be to attract someone from further away.

Offering Competitive Salaries

Often times negotiations come down to money. It is a known fact that city companies usually charge more than rural companies.  This is for good reason as cost of living is a lot higher.  This is why it would almost seem backwards for someone to live in the city and commute outside of it for work; their cost of living would be higher and generally their salary would be lower.  A lot of city companies can offer “base” salaries at the same level as rural companies can hire “senior” positions.

Overcoming these challenges

Now that I have outlined some of the many challenges that hiring poses to rural companies; I have made a list of a few things you can do to attract these high quality workers.

  1. Create a positive team atmosphere that freelancers can’t get on their own
  2. Put your business on the map (win awards, sponsor events, network with other business/members of your industry)
  3. Train young local designers/developers and bring them up in your system.  This will help build some loyalty so they don’t move on quite as quickly.
  4. Kidnap all the talented developers/designers and force them to work for you – well not really, that might be frowned upon.

Being a Rural Company Isn’t All Doom and Gloom

Frankly, rural companies have one big thing going for them that city companies don’t.  This is a lack of competition in their local area.  I know personally in my area there are maybe 2-3 other rural companies that I know about, but we are all very spread out and tend to not overlap too much in the work we do.

Take this as opposed to an urban center where you have a lot of big companies pitching for the same work.

Wrap Up

I don’t want this post to come across as negative.  We all make choices about where we work/live. The point of this article is to help other companies that face the same challenges, and see what suggestions are out there.

I want rural companies to succeed, and attract the highest quality workers.  The web is not limited to geography, and that is one of its strengths.  There is nothing stopping anyone from being the next big web shop, or the next big freelancer.  You just have to know what challenges you face, and how to overcome them.

Please use the following questions to start a discussion below, and hopefully we can improve this industry for all of us!

Freelancers

  1. Would you ever commute outside of the city for work?
  2. If you would, what would be the number one thing you would look for?
  3. Did you originally perceive web design/development as a hobby? If so, what made you realize this could be a job?

Companies

  1. What is the biggest obstacle you face in hiring new skilled people?
  2. Do you find there is lots of local talent. If so, are they staying local or moving on?
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Written by brenelz

Hello everyone, I'm Brenley Dueck or better known as Brenelz. I currently run my own business called Brenelz Web Solutions which focuses primary on winnipeg website design. The web technologies I most specialize in are CSS, jQuery, AJAX, PHP, and the MySQL database. Please make sure to follow me on twitter.

 

One Response to “Hiring Skilled Labour Tough for Small Rural Web Companies”

  1. Laurence Running Says:

    February 24th, 2013 at 10:30 am

    Thank you for this post! I am in between jobs and trying to build a portfolio of web design and front-end development projects, while upgrading my skillset. I have designed my own self-study program, using Lynda.com courses and purchasing ebooks from O’Reilly Media to use as textbooks to accompany the courses. I frequently study job postings online, and every time I turn around there is more to learn. I’m creating all of the web sites in my portfolio with HTML5 and CSS3, using responsive design techniques. I’m trying to learn Canvas and JavaScript, and I want to begin learning about Mobile design in the near future. Now I find out I need to learn PHP and MY SQL. Sometimes I become frantic, because the job ads give the impression that they want each of us to produce the work of three people!
    Besides all of this, I have been told that I need build a brand and become a leading authority, using Social Media, which itself could be a full-time job. I have been working very hard, for many weeks, to start a blog. Using various Lynda.com courses, I downloaded and installed the BitNami WordPress stack, created a comp in Photoshop, created the static HTML5 and CSS3 version, and moved it over to the BitNami stack. Unfortunately, this is my first experience with PHP and MY SQL, so I have had to fight problem after problem trying to get everything to work properly, and I’m still having minor problems, so I still don’t have my blog up and running. I’ve had acquaintances tell me that I analyze everything too much or I have “paralysis analysis”, which is no help at all when I already know I have bills to pay! Your post shows me that I’m not the only one who runs into this problem. Thank you!

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