The Great Talent Advantage

Florida’s got it all—top talent, top universities and a terrific climate.

Joe Smolarski, COO of software solutions provider Kaseya, is not afraid to say that senior leadership micromanages some aspects of talent strategy. When someone chooses to leave, for example, CEO Fred Voccola gets a report detailing the reasons. “We scrutinize those as an executive team every single week, which you don’t see in a 5,000-person company very often—but it’s our job to address those challenges,” says Smolarski, adding that if the person left because it was a poor fit, that’s one thing. “But if they’re leaving because they didn’t see opportunity, that means that we didn’t do our job.” 

Showing employees a clear path upward is a cornerstone of Kaseya’s strategy, which is to recruit externally at the entry level and then develop that talent for future leadership. It’s not an easy market to hire in, to be sure, but Smolarski feels Kaseya has an edge, thanks to location. Headquartered in Miami, the company has partnerships with multiple area colleges and universities that provide a pipeline of new recruits, as well as opportunities to collaborate on training. Kaseya is about to launch a cobranded certification program at Florida International University, with an agreed-upon curriculum and badging, to teach students real-world skills using Kaseya technology. “So they won’t be deer in the headlights when they join,” says Smolarski, adding that similar programs are in the works at University of Miami and Miami-Dade College. 

In addition to partnerships with universities, Kaseya also works with local organizations that help retired military and others seeking career change or workforce reentry—and benefits from a business-friendly local government. “We have the mayors of Miami and Orlando tweeting out when Kaseya has hiring events—we call them ‘Hire-Paloozas’—and we get hundreds of applicants in the Miami office because of the word spread. It’s made a big, big difference.” 

Navy Federal Credit Union is another company benefitting from the growing Florida talent infrastructure. Its 440-acre Pensacola campus has been able to recruit organically thanks to deep ties in the local community, strong partnerships with schools and a robust military affairs program via DOD Skillbridge, a program that begins transitioning service members when they’re 180 days out from retirement. “We have an 85 percent conversion rate there,” says Britton Bloch, vice president, talent acquisition strategy and head of recruiting at Navy Federal Credit Union. 

Bloch also has been working with Henry Mack, senior chancellor at the Florida Department of Education, on developing programs at area schools for skills-based hiring. “[The schools] are really excited to partner with us to customize their curriculum so they can deliver the high-demand technical skills that are mission critical at Navy Federal,” she says, adding that the ultimate goal is to have apprenticeship programs that serve as direct feeders. “And I’m not just talking about traditional colleges—I’m talking about technical schools, community colleges, coding academies. We’re looking for the will and the skill, and we’re wide open to any type of background. Four-year degrees aren’t for everybody, and there’s a whole brave new world out there with so many other talent channels we can partner on.” 

That early skills development is key to Navy Federal’s talent strategy because once talent is found, the company aims to give those high potentials customized development programs so they can see their career arcs clearly, says Bloch, adding that she believes what the business world has seen in recent years is less about the Great Resignation and more about the Great Re-Engagement. “The key to retention is elevating those very dynamic programs so that we can nurture the internal talent communities to elevate growth, internal mobility—a truly agile employee experience.” 

Both Kaseya and Navy Federal also recruit from outside Florida, and, thanks to the state’s burgeoning talent hubs, they now have perks in addition to the beautiful weather, beach proximity and affordable cost of living. “What had been working against us four years ago was, ‘Yeah, but it’s not really a tech area,’ and ‘Can you really get great jobs there?’” says Smolarski. “That has transformed dramatically. Downtown Miami is one of the biggest booming areas in corporate America and, in particular, the tech scene. So [candidates] know they can move here and have career opportunities if, for whatever reason, it doesn’t work out at Kaseya. We kind of have the best of all worlds to attract people.” 


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