Last week we sat down with John Staup, the Divisional Director of Enterprise Talent Strategies at West Corporation, to talk about best practices for recruiting and retaining talent for and within the Silicon Prairie.
AIM: What are a few of your best practices and biggest motivators for recruiting talent to the Silicon Prairie, besides the low cost of living?
JS: At West, we look for the technologist who gets excited about waking up for the opportunity of revolutionizing an entire industry. I think one of the biggest motivators for people thinking about moving here is the ability to innovate.
It kind of goes into the analogy of being a bigger fish in a small pond compared to the Silicon Valley. I think it’s easy for people to get lost in the shuffle out there. In places like Omaha, if you really want to make something happen, it’s a lot easier because there are more available resources.
AIM: Why do you think it’s important to bring in outside resources, when we are trying to mold and create something by utilizing talent that is already here?
JS: Some of our best talent is right here in the Midwest and we do want to capture them. A big part of my job is showing [local talent] the huge opportunities that are right here in the Silicon Prairie.
At the same time, I really think it takes all kinds to be able to innovate and serve the worldwide clientele that use our products. We need people with very diverse backgrounds and skill sets to make sure that we are always moving forward.
AIM: Why do you think people decide to leave the Midwest?
JS: Some of our most targeted campaigns for recruiting are reaching out to people that moved out to the Silicon Valley from the Midwest.
Silicon Valley did a fantastic job branding what they do and making it the mecca of where to be if you’re interested in tech innovation. However, we found that once these innovators moved out there and got that six figure salary, they ran into trouble supporting themselves, and they got lost in the competition.
On the other hand, Omaha offers a reason to come back if they want a great place to raise a family and a place to innovate within a very supportive community.
AIM: Have you run into any major lessons learned when it comes to recruiting into or within the Silicon Prairie?
JS: What we’ve learned is to be completely transparent. We need to effectively explain to them what they are getting into. Not just from a cultural standpoint, but also that [West Corporation] looks for people that can work in a high-speed environment.
Some folks just aren’t wired to work at a breakneck pace, and we have to figure that out before we make that deal.
AIM: What are the most common questions you’re asked from people thinking about moving here?
JS: There are still huge stigmas when it comes to places like Omaha. I still get people who ask in all seriousness, “How close am I going to be to a farm?” Or, “Is my milk going to be delivered fresh from the cow every morning?”
The stigma is what it is. All we can do is educate the people we are talking to, whether it’s one on one or in the masses. The Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce has also been a great resource for us to promote Omaha.
West Corporation is a telecom company headquartered in Omaha that mainly focuses on helping small to medium-sized companies communicate more efficiently through a variety of platforms.