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Omaha Magazine

Vying For an A Team

Mar 26, 2021 04:19PM ● By J.D. Avant
todd murphy in office

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

Omaha’s hiring landscape has evolved into an employee-friendly market. Boasting a nationwide low unemployment rate (around 3% as of February) and an abundance of well-qualified workers, businesses wanting to secure top talent in the Metro area need to work harder than ever.

Skilled workers frequently receive offers from a host of recruiters and well-paying prospects. Todd Murphy, CEO of Universal Information Services, recognized the hiring renaissance around 10 years ago while directing operations as the company’s president. He became exasperated by the old-fashioned process his father, the former owner, used.

“My father would go to the window and watch potential employees leave to see how fast they walked to their car,” Murphy told B2B from his office in downtown Omaha. “He felt if they walked with determination and speed they would probably work with determination and speed, but those voodoo practices didn’t help him know who YOU are.” 

Hiring methods used for the past 20 years didn’t appeal to Murphy, so he applied his own philosophy to this important task, focusing more on the individual’s personality and skills. His philosophy asked, will I be lucky having that person on my team? rather than telling them they’d be lucky to work for his company.

“If you want A-players on your team you got to hire for A-players,” Murphy said. 

Murphy knows that hiring is, in many ways, a competitive activity, and thinks the key is to gain the enthusiasm of the candidates. Employees are the best ambassadors for any company, and they are the ones who can help attract those coveted prospects who will push a company to the next level. In reviewing hiring processes, he discovered three dated and/or inefficient practices frequently used by companies. The first is sending cold, lifeless responses to potential employees via email or phone.

“When an application comes in, respond with enthusiasm,” Murphy advised.

The second is waiting two or three weeks to set up an interview with a desired employee, giving rival companies a chance to snatch them away; and the third is carrying out a detached, impersonal, routine interview.

The method is different than a traditional job hire that goes through a human resources person, who often works by a rule book set up by the government or the previous company head. This method involves those with whom the employee will work from the beginning of the hiring process in order to create enthusiasm about the company and position.

“That [potential hire] may have wanted to work for a large company, but my ad is my enthusiasm...I answer emails myself,” Murphy said. “Next thing you know, that person is in my interview.”

Murphy encourages businesses in Omaha to renew their hiring methods. He thinks Volano Software and FNBO have implemented successful, contemporary hiring practices.

“Any business wants to attract the best talent,” Murphy said. “To do that you have to be enthusiastic when you’re interviewing people.”

Volano Software’s hiring procedures progressed over their 14-year tenure. They first published technical ads on Careerlink and paid handsome referral fees to anyone introducing them to qualified prospects.

“Hiring software developers is terribly tough because of the attention they receive,” said Rod Smith of Volano. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the jobless rate in the IT sector hovered around 3% even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. 

In order to encourage their versions of A-players to seek out Volano, cofounders Smith and Don Stavneak learned to encapsulate the company’s personality in job posts.

Smith refers to the redesign of their company’s website in 2020 as a great way to show job-seekers what it’s like to work at Volano. The new culture section of the “about us” page highlights benefits, perks, and current beers on tap in office.

“Part of our hiring process is to bring potential hires in during Friday afternoon events to get the vibe of what they’re walking into,” Stavneak said. “Letting you know that we have a jukebox usually playing in the office. Working shoulder-to-shoulder with high caliber peers. For the right person, it’s the right fit.”

“When you’re hiring, people want to know what [they’re] going to get paid and what it’s like to work here,” Smith said. “That second question is very much related to culture.”

Turnover ratios for software development jobs are high, according to LinkedIn (13.2%), so Smith and Stavneak focus on portraying an environment made for software developers. The website says that 47% of their employees have worked at Volano for more than five years.

“Volano is by developers, for developers,” Stavneak said.

An outstanding company culture is an advantage in any company. Members of FNBO’s public relations, human resources, and brand promotive teams are eager to explain why Omaha’s big small bank is a fantastic place to work. They proudly present modern ways to promote themselves as a great employer.

“Online and offline, word of mouth is huge,” said Regina DeMars, director of content marketing and social media. “What are employees saying? How are FNBO’s values coming to life and how are other people talking about them?”

Tammy Williams, managing director of brand promotion and creative, believes platforms such as FNBO’s brand ambassador program, employee-run podcasts, and YouTube channels give workers the chance to talk about the company’s culture and share content on social media.

“That’s the beauty of familiarity; it breeds favorability,” Williams said.

Kevin Langin, the senior director of public relations, stresses that these social media friendly efforts weren’t easy choices for the company’s leadership.

“It was a dedicated decision for a time-honored, conservative company to allow its employees the freedom to utilize social media about their work and the things they do here,” Langin said.

He continued, “It’s important we continue to build and become more innovative and open. That allows us to attract top-level people to come and work here.”

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