Much of the tech industry is slowing down on hiring, but World Wide Technology is ramping up. The Missouri-based IT services firm, which now has almost 10,000 employees globally, is still actively recruiting and developing tech talent despite the sector’s current state. Its saving grace has been the supply chain arm of its business, which has upped the demand for everything from warehouse workers to network engineers.
The company can’t hire fast enough, says Ann Marr, executive vice president of human resources. Marr, who has been at the company for just shy of 26 years, explained to Fortune why the company is still recruiting and training talent despite the uncertain economy and how she’s strategically determining which roles to prioritize.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Fortune: How do you view today’s talent market, especially in tech?
Ann Marr: Last year was just an unbelievable year. You didn’t know what to expect week after week. It made the marketplace even more challenging because now you’re competing with companies throwing money at people, and we didn’t know how long that would last. We’re not a public company, so we didn’t have some things that were alluring to people, like stock options. But we were grounded and confident in what we had.
Why is World Wide Technology still recruiting as peers pull back and reverse course?
There’s always going to be competition for great talent. I don’t care if your company is laying off or not laying off—there’s always a need for good talent. And if you’re smart, even if you’re not looking, you’re going to be opportunistic when you find a great candidate you know has long-term, high-level potential. If I see a great individual, I will not pass them by. I’m going to go to my CEO and say we’ve got to look at this person. There’s always going to be an appetite for great talent.
How has WWT been able to prioritize such fervent hiring at this time?
It’s due, in part, to our global supply chain operation. There’s been a backlog in the supply chain for the last year, and with that starting to loosen up, we see the need to bring many of those individuals on board. That’s the reason for the hiring frenzy between warehouse associates, lab technicians, and other roles to help on our global supply chain side.
We’ve had two on-site career fairs at our facilities outside St. Louis, and they’ve been extremely successful. It’s allowed us to fill that need of capacity with those positions. We’re looking at leadership roles, too—being opportunistic—that may not be as much of a need as some of those other roles I mentioned, but we’re always looking for great talent.
So no hiring freeze over at World Wide Technology right now?
No, not right now. The hiring in some areas may start slow because it’s after the first of the year. But in this particular area, the supply chain, we’re moving forward. And even in some other positions. We’ve tried to be as creative as possible in our approach to recruiting—beyond the global supply chain organization. We have a great internship program for college students, do a lot of early career hiring, and look at multiple ways for people to come to World Wide Technology.
We partner with organizations that help us bring in tech talent. And it’s with organizations that train individuals who did not go to college but have a passion for technology. They start as an intern, a part-time employee, or they may be an apprentice and then have the opportunity to get hired full-time. A lot of those organizations are focused on communities of underrepresented individuals, so it allows us to also bring in diverse talent.
What is an example of a program helping to skill and source talent for the company?
One is a high school technical program called North and South Technical Academy. The program trains individuals for careers. Participants are seniors in high school who come on board via an apprenticeship program and can join us full-time. We have programs for our internal individuals as well.
Suppose someone is in a particular role and wants to move into another position within the organization for which they need a higher level of skill. Those opportunities are available for them. We will help you gain that skill to be on a different journey. We’ve had people who have gone from an intern to VP, who have been trained along the way. We very much want to focus on our internal employees and those external individuals we want to bring on board. We’re turning over every stone to ensure we capture the right talent.
Why is it so important for HR leaders to double down on reskilling internal employees?
One word: competition. You’ve got to get in front of the competition and differentiate yourself as an organization. Those programs that I mentioned are a differentiator for us as an organization.
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