December 26, 2000, 9:55 AM

To reward and keep top-notch online personnel, the rewards must be financial and personal

In order for an e-commerce company to succeed, one of the most important ingredients is qualified and experienced technical personnel. Today’s recruitment market is a virtual battlefield on which human resources departments from competing companies use benefits packages, salaries, signing bonuses and stock options to lure the people that make things tick.

This is by no means a simple procedure. Budgets have to be considered and at the end of the day, bringing the right person to a company is only the start of a job-retention is an ongoing battle. And the lack of qualified people at the highest levels of e-commerce and the fact that these people will be more instrumental in producing results for the company also means that companies are willing to go to great extremes to fill a position.

The job market for Internet retailing is booming, and in many cases, potential employees can pick and choose the companies they want to work for. This is especially true of positions requiring high levels of technical expertise, mainly because there are often small numbers of qualified individuals that can fill these positions. Yet qualifications and experience are not enough. A recruit must fit into the team and be able to adapt to the company’s working culture-and that requires both social and technical skills.

Who is having the most trouble in finding qualified people? Certainly small enterprises are more likely to be handicapped by budget, albeit these same companies provide an arena for the most exciting and rapid growth. Stock options are a great tool for start-up or turnaround organizations, with the high-risk, high-reward environment offering an enticing lure.

Big businesses may offer more security, but their larger size may diminish an individual’s contribution to a project. Fast change and growth are arenas that professionals seeking to prove their abilities look for. They are more likely to find such arenas in small or start-up companies, rather than larger businesses that are battling to retain their status quo.

Back to school

There’s no doubt that sophisticated management of recruitment and retention is crucial to success in today’s Internet commerce market-place. As the competition for Web space continues to grow and more merchants implement Web sites, the demands for qualified technical employees will continue to grow. Egghead.com has begun to develop partnerships with higher education organizations and is exploring internship opportunities. This relationship will benefit the industry as colleges and universities will provide the learning necessary to support the industry’s emerging needs.

At Egghead.com, which employs 365 people, we have implemented a multi-faceted approach to recruiting. We utilize our Web site as well as live and online career fairs, employee referrals, direct sourcing and Web advertising. We have a compelling turnaround plan (our transition to an online-only company) and the compelling Northwest environment.

Although developing and implementing the right recruitment plan for a company is necessary for the process to get under way, a comprehensive plan to retain the talent is paramount for success. Retention is achieved by providing the right incentives to employees and that includes financial as well as personal rewards. Cash is by no means a panacea for obtaining and retaining technical personnel. Egghead has upgraded its benefits to reflect more of an Internet company than a retailer, and perquisites such as free health club memberships for employees and their families and subsidized public transportation have been especially well received.

The e-commerce industry is by far the most exciting new technical frontier. The people who are attracted to e-commerce are entrepreneurs who thrive on high-risk, high-reward environments. The same could be said for the companies that will succeed.

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