LGS touts success in talent battle

Amid an almost feverish competition for talent by federal contractors, LGS Innovations may have found one way to gain its fair share of the most sought-after skilled technology workers.

The telecommunications and network infrastructure builder’s headcount was 670 people in 2014 when it was sold by Alcatel-Lucent to the pair of current private equity owners. One year later the Herndon, Virginia-based company grew to 800 workers and that uptick was helped by its acquisition of another networking technology company in Axios.

Fast forward to today and LGS has quickly swelled its roster to 1,300 and is looking to fill 300 more positions to support its growth, CEO Kevin Kelly said. Close to 1,000 of LGS’ current employees are engineers and scientists -- right in the sweet spot of talent both the company and its peers in the market seek.

Those open roles include areas such as laser and wireless engineering, research and development, program management, sciences and systems architecture.

“We have been proposing solutions for our customers… that are needing more advanced technologies to communicate at greater distances and higher bandwidths with less interference,” Kelly told me. “We’ve been very successful at pursuing those new opportunities, which has opened up a lot of new jobs inside the company.”

One of LGS’ most significant wins came in March when the company was chosen alongside Harris Corp. for a $334 million radio frequency monitoring program with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The company also booked an $81.5 million job in February to build a secure data delivery network for the Army in the Asia-Pacific region, and is also working with NASA on the use of lasers to improve communications in space.

Those are part of LGS’ effort to hone on its research-and-development core passed down through the Bell Labs heritage it draws from. “We’ve invested a lot of our own internal R&D into the development of new solutions and it’s paid off in opening new doors for us,” Kelly told me.

It is not lost on anyone in or around industry that the fight for talent and especially those with clearances is only intensifying. Government IT and professional companies have increasingly sought creative solutions such as onshoring of delivery centers across the U.S. to broaden their talent base outside of the Washington, D.C. area that is seeing inflation of both labor and real estate costs.

The issue of trying to get cleared, technical talent for sensitive projects is a whole other matter given the well-documented backlog of applicants waiting for their clearances. But as Kelly pointed out, contractors like LGS perform both unclassified and classified work for federal agencies with a technology angle.

“Most of our projects are in the cleared space, so it’s a matter of dividing the scope. Rarely is a technology ever classified, the application of that technology and the specifics are what make it classified,” Kelly told me.

That bifurcation between classified and unclassified lets LGS put employees to work almost immediately even as the company applies for their clearances, Kelly said.

By design, LGS has a “very select group of customers that don't necessarily ingest conventional marketing tactics,” Kelly said. And at the same time LGS competes with the traditional defense industrial base, large government IT integrators, professional services companies, small aerospace companies, technology startups and commercial giants like Google.

So does LGS win its fair share of talent in the battle for skilled workers? Kelly certainly believes so.

“We’re not a household name or a known brand, we’ve grown up in the shadows of large companies and have not done very much to market ourselves broadly” owing to the customer base, Kelly said.

The company relies heavily on employee referrals and developing what Kelly called “known networks of colleagues,” along with traditional approaches of using recruiters and working with universities to find and tap into future potential talent pools.

“We’re trying everything we can but I’m very pleased with the progress we’re making.”

About the Author

Ross Wilkers is a senior staff writer for Washington Technology. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @rosswilkers. Also connect with him on LinkedIn.

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