This article was first published by Oliver Wyman here.
Hiring and, as importantly, holding onto top tech talent can have a huge impact on how companies grow, thrive, and innovate. Business leaders are increasingly recognizing the firm correlation between their organization’s ability to compete and also attract top tech talent in order to retain capabilities in critical areas such as data science, software engineering, cloud, cyber, and AI/ML. For many, the struggle with turnover is very real as about 25% of employees have already left their jobs causing leaders to reconsider their retention strategies.
As the talent market continues to grow, companies must revisit their employee value proposition in order to attract top tech talent. As business leaders, it’s important to invest in and convey your differentiators to ensure your candidates can create an emotional connection with your business and feel they would have purpose in your organization. While market leading pay might entice talent to take an interview, it is not enough to get them in the door or retain them in the long run. Here are three things top tech talent candidates will want to align on when interviewing so that they want to come on board and stay on board:
Technologists want to fit in and grow
So much about recruiting and having offers accepted depends on clear communication between hiring managers and candidates from the start. Your job postings should not be a laundry list of skills that candidates should bring or a generic company boilerplate. Competition for technical skills is fierce, so your recruiting process needs to be a two-way conversation that sells your organization and what it can offer, rather than a one-sided process of vetting applicants.
Use every touchpoint during the interview process to reinforce that they will be cared for, inspired, valued, and can forge their own paths as individuals. It’s also important to think about how your tech talent is represented in your recruitment marketing strategy. Help build a strong employer brand by featuring your tech people in blogs and social media posts to show their voices count and how they contribute to the success of the business.
When it comes to interviewing, first impressions are critical. For example, how diverse is your interview panel, and does your selection process reflect that you are committed to hiring a diverse and inclusive workforce? How engaged and visible is senior leadership in the interview process? How well does the business communicate with candidates about their hiring decisions? The overall experience of how a candidate feels during these initial conversations is crucial to whether they’ll want to continue the process or not.
One leading company in Silicon Valley redesigned its end-to-end process with the candidate in mind when it realized it was not attracting the talent it needed. The new process was informed by input from candidates who were made offers and joined, those who received offers who declined, and those who did not receive offers. The company wanted to ensure that every recruit walked away with a positive opinion of the company, no matter the outcome.
Technologists want companies that invest in modern skills and resources
Technologists aren’t just looking for a job, they are looking to gain the skills and experiences necessary to advance their careers and they want their efforts to matter. An enticing role would allow them to work with interesting technologies, keep pace with the constantly transformative technical environment, and see and be appreciated for the impact of their efforts.
The choices a company makes around technologies, tools, and architectures have a significant impact on its ability to attract talent. No one wants to work on a legacy platform that is burdened with tech debt and never seems to be prioritized for modernization, code in an ancient or obscure language that has fallen out of favor and adoption in the tech community, or have a CIO who doesn’t “believe in public cloud”.
For example, in 2021, a large regional bank sent its entire risk department, both business and IT staff to cloud camp to learn about public cloud technology and how it would help them meet and accelerate their goals for better risk management. This investment demonstrated the value the organization placed on innovation by leadership.
Technologists want to see their companies investing in the latest platforms, tools, and technologies to ensure their skill sets continue to be relevant, but even more so because it is fun! Modernizing legacy technologies, tools, and ways of working is not only good for the company’s bottom line, but it is also critical to impressing incoming top technical candidates.
Technologists want to feel they’ll be accepted in the larger organization
In today’s ever evolving hybrid work models, it is essential to listen to both the preferences and the lifestyle of your candidates when it comes to their working environments. Today’s tech talent will want to visualize themselves as best they can in not only their direct function, but in the overall organization whether that’s remotely or in person. To do this, be transparent about the culture, non-working opportunities, and don’t conflate work life balance with work life quality.
Take this opportunity to discuss the personality of the organization and even use personal anecdotes of what is culturally working for you. Tell candidates about the wide range of employee resource groups available and how your teams can connect through them. Explain the time that is encouraged for teams to serve as cultural ambassadors, the cross-pollination opportunities for them between their teams and others, and areas where they can showcase their skills to teams and leadership. Allow dedicated time during the initial interview to discuss a variety of ways candidates can interact socially with the organization as comradery preferences for those distributed and in-person can be different.
Hiring managers who talk about their work life quality are more likely to pique a candidate’s interest over those who simply focus on work life balance. Work life balance can mean different things to different people, and the way you balance the two may not be how a candidate plans to. However, highlighting positive work life quality such as working relationships or the output being impactful, can help tech talent connect themselves better to the role. As many teams are hiring across continents and time zones, activating on asynchronous working styles allow technical teams to get their work done within the boundaries of time they set themselves. Discussing how this works early in the process lays the foundation of an environment of psychological safety and communicates to your prospect that trust is a core value of your organization.
The way forward
While it’s tempting to just match market leading monetary compensation, money alone is rarely the reason technologists decide to take a new position. Their sense of value, growth, and belonging play an immeasurable part in both a candidate’s and employee’s reason to work at a company.
The relatively seamless transition to remote working in 2020, and the lack of any measurable productivity drop as a result, has demonstrated that the old model wasn’t the only way to design and build great technology. Like many people, technologists en masse are reconsidering traditional working models, so businesses must find a way to communicate ways they’ve adapted to alternative work environments, hours, and remove the tie between geographic location and pay. Likewise, it’s important to focus on what employees want with regards to flexible leave of absence policies that allow time for training and upskilling, and support for active career planning. When it comes to attracting top tech talent, there’s no silver bullet. But listening to what technologists really want is a step in the right direction.