Tech companies are booming, but attracting top talent remains a major concern for businesses across the sector. As the workforce continues to shift, it’s important to address challenges quickly and effectively in order to be as competitive as possible in hiring. These are four of the biggest concerns tech companies should be keeping an eye on – and how to potentially address them:
1. Questions of flexibility
Flexibility is one of the most important issues in the corporate world today, and the tech sector is no exception. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, a 2019 survey by Buffer of 2,500 remote workers revealed that 99% of them would be happy to work remotely, part-time or full-time, for the rest of their careers. More recently, a 2021 report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce cited remote work flexibility as the second-most likely factor to convince workers to return to the workforce; a full 32% said that an appealing remote work arrangement would incentive currently-unemployed workers to take on a new full-time job.
Tech companies were among some of the first to encourage long-term work-from-home policies during the pandemic, and now, that’s become almost a must-have in order to attract top talent. It’s difficult for a company to simultaneously sell a product that promises to make remote work smooth and effective while not buying into the same philosophy in their own workplaces; such companies either appear to not believe in their own products or not value their own workers, and neither is a good look when trying to attract top talent in a competitive job market. On the flip side, having a strong plan for flexible work is likely to be a plus in the minds of potential employees at any level.
2. Alignment of personal and corporate values
“The relationship between your market brand and your employment brand should best be described with adjectives like consistent, complimentary, values-centered, relevant, and innovative. When they are not, the talent marketplace responds definitively,” says Ruben Moreno, Blue Rock’s practice leader in the Human Resources & Diversity Executive Search practice.
In the tech world, questions of culture and values often play a central role in the recruiting and hiring process. A company with a great reputation and a well-known positive culture can rise above the rest simply by being transparent and aligning its external and internal values. “Demonstrating an inviting culture early on shows that top talent will be accepted fully, something which can be a point of anxiety for many job seekers,” suggests Forbes.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly thrust these issues of culture into even sharper relief than before, concerns over culture and work environments have been building for some time now. In 2018, Linkedin’s Workplace Culture Trends report showed several ways in which employees were prioritizing a positive culture:
- 70% of professionals in the U.S. today would not work at a leading company if it meant they had to tolerate a bad workplace culture
- 65% would choose lower pay, and 26% would choose a lower title, rather than deal with a bad work environment
- 71% of professionals say they would be willing to take a pay cut to work for a company that has a mission they believe in and shared values. 39% would leave their current job if their employer were to ask them to do something they have an ethical or moral conflict with.
- 87% say having pride in the company they work for matters; 46% cite having a positive impact on society as a top factor for determining this
- 46% say a sense of belonging would keep them at their current company for five or more years; 44% would stay for great workplace benefits (healthcare, PTO, parental leave) over “perks”, and 36% cite leadership they feel has their interests in mind
3. Reworking outdated hiring practices
Tech companies trying to attract top talent ought to be cautious that the hiring process itself doesn’t result in a loss of interest from the very people they’re hoping to hire. Long interviews and even longer “test” assignments may sound like a way to weed out candidates who don’t have top qualifications or who aren’t truly passionate about the work, but in reality, they’re just more likely to turn off the candidates who know their own skills and worth.
Forbes cites the CEO of code screening platform Coderbyte, who explains that as many as 50% of candidates simply decline to participate in drawn-out, time-consuming, or just poorly designed “tests” and “projects” that are part of the interview process. True top talent already knows the market and knows their worth to a potential employer; they’re not about to spend hours working on a test project that may not even accurately reflect whether or not they’re a good fit for the job.
Instead, tech companies can improve their capabilities to attract top talent simply by improving the hiring process itself. Limit questions and tests to just the necessities – make the hiring process itself attractive. Remember, top tech talent is in high demand, and they’re interviewing companies as much as companies are interviewing them. A hiring process that is streamlined, focused, and candidate-friendly demonstrates from the start that your company values its talent, understands the competitive nature of the market as well as the true core needs of the job, and is committed to a focused, positive, human-first workplace.
4. Changing demographics in the workforce
There’s always turnover in the workforce, but the COVID-19 pandemic really accelerated some of these changes. In particular, a surge in early retirements led to a large exodus of boomers from the workforce. Pew Research reported that, between the third quarter of 2019 and the third quarter of 2020, a whopping 3.2 million more boomers reported being out of work due to retirement.
As a result, long-time, institutional employees may be leaving a bit of a void behind. For tech companies, it’s yet another major change that has to be absorbed in a year of big changes. How to address it is up to the individual company, but will require significant thought about what the future looks like. Should the company prioritize replacing those retired employees? Should they scale back the workforce? Should they promote from within or try to woo new talent? It all ties back to those questions of company culture, values, and priorities, which underly every decision made in the hiring process and beyond.
by Brian Cox
About the Author
Brian Cox is the Director, Executive Recruiting, HR Practice at Blue Rock Search, and a senior leadership team member. During his fifteen-year career, he has served in multiple roles, including an international trainer, program developer, facilitator, and executive coach. He co-authored The 3 Keys of Execution,” referenced by Inc. Magazine as a “Book that Inspires Change.” Brian has a B.A. degree in Organizational Communication Studies and Business Management from Kent State University and an MBA from Lake Erie College. He is certified as an executive coach and as a Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) administrator. Brian’s deep industry experience gives him the ability to build meaningful relationships with his clients and candidates through being able to be a trusted partner that understands their strategy and ongoing needs beyond the search.
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