Tech talent strategy has emerged as a top priority for boards of directors and C-suite leaders after the events of 2020 and 2021. But even before those eventful years, tech talent was already a major challenge, one that has since been magnified by pandemic-driven advancements in technology adoption. Today, successfully recruiting engineers, programmers, data scientists, and other advanced technical workers is more important than ever, but also more challenging.
Hiring tech workers has never been easy. Tech pros are in high demand – according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be almost a million tech job openings by 2026. This means tech companies need qualified candidates who can fill these roles quickly so they don’t miss out on growth opportunities due to a lack of skilled personnel.
With every company needing to harness the full power of technology to remain competitive, there is now a perpetual stampede to hire tech talent. Demand is growing exponentially for skills such as software engineering, data management, platform design, analytics-based automation, customer experience design, and cybersecurity. Eighty-seven percent of global senior executives surveyed by McKinsey said their companies were unprepared to address the gap in digital skills—and that was before the pandemic caused dramatic shifts toward remote work and e-commerce. The pressure is particularly acute for employers outside the tech sector.
The additional strategies companies are using to meet their tech talent needs align with broader talent initiatives, such as upskilling existing employees, hiring contingent or freelance work, and improving the hiring process. These changes have also presented new opportunities related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, both in tech and in the corporate world writ large.
With consumer, labor, and financial markets showing preferences toward companies that are diverse and socially responsible, leading companies are revising tech talent strategy with equity in mind—and boards will have a crucial role to play in aligning that strategy with their companies’ broader goals.
The “build versus buy” argument that is commonly discussed in enterprise tech is also now a reality in the space of talent strategy. If a company can’t recruit enough people with the tech skills they need, why not look within the company to find people who can be taught these critical skills?
Internal candidates for upskilling into tech roles also offer the immense benefit of already knowing the operations of the company. This makes these employees strong candidates for leadership down the road. Developing internal candidates can also help diverse candidates overcome educational barriers to advancement and get them into the leadership pipeline.
Another concept to consider in lockstep with internal upskilling is internal mobility. Often companies have policy and structural barriers that prevent employees from looking internally for new job opportunities. For a variety of reasons, people are also hesitant to look into opportunities outside their department. If companies can develop a stronger internal mobility strategy, it can create new career paths that help fill tech talent needs.
Hire smart, not hard
The increasing competition in the talent market has forced corporate leadership to increase scrutiny of the hiring process. Leaders also are looking to improve diversity among tech workers, and are rethinking their processes with this goal in mind.
“Companies are realizing that recruiting is a sales and marketing function [and] that hiring success, the ability to hire amazing talent at scale is business success,” Jerome Ternynck, CEO of SmartRecruiters, a global recruiting software provider. “They put more marketing skills into the talent attraction function.”
For tech workers, soft skills are also becoming more important given the rising prevalence of hybrid and remote teams, meaning the way developers prefer to be interviewed is changing.
Candidates also look favorably on transparency in the hiring process. This includes pay but also better guidance and communication at various stages, such as preparation for interviews or sharing company updates during the process.
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One frequently repeated solution to the shortage of tech talent is for companies to hire candidates with more unconventional backgrounds. That sounds logical in theory, but it’s hard to put into practice. Hiring managers are skittish about choosing people with learning curves to fill mission-critical roles. It’s human nature to hold out for someone who feels like a safe choice because they already perform exactly the tasks you need.
Recent research from MGI and McKinsey’s People & Organizational Performance Practice offers some reassurance that could make it easier for companies to hire for potential rather than searching for an elusive perfect fit. In addition to showing how work experience enhances the value of human capital over time, the analysis quantifies the skill differentials associated with specific job moves.
Zeroing in on the tech professionals in the data set shows that people routinely break into tech from other fields, and they make substantial shifts in skills and specialization when they do.
Many other factors are widening the talent pool for tech jobs. It helps to look outside the halls of Stanford, MIT, and other “preferred” schools for early-career talent. Also, Microsoft, Google, Verizon, Salesforce, and PwC are among the companies that have launched programs for school-age and adult learners to pivot into the industry.
These studies indicate people are capable of mastering distinctly new skills and that unconventional tech hires are not so unconventional after all. But the willingness to hire them and the commitment to help them expand their capabilities require a shift in thinking.
Attend industry events
You’ll likely never find the best talent through a job board or an employment fair. That’s because highly skilled workers don’t usually have to look far to find work. They need special attention and incentives to jump ship and join your team.
You can’t recruit and hire these professionals if you don’t have relationships with them. Visit industry meetups regularly to engage with these prospects. Meetups allow you to network with your colleagues in an informal environment, which will help you learn more about top talent so you can lure them to your organization.
Utilize social media
Social networks are more popular than ever. Considering how much time people spend using them, you must integrate them as part of your talent recruitment strategy.
For example, many tech workers, like web designers and digital marketers, use Instagram as a portfolio to showcase their abilities. You can change the way you approach potential hires by being more personal. Don’t hesitate to reach them using direct messages. Although it’s not typical, it’s an effective way to obtain an inside look at your prospects.
From the job listing to the interview process—even the social media posts and experiences shared by current and former employees—your company culture plays a key role in the way you are seen by talent. Don't shy away from online rating sites like Glassdoor and Indeed. Potential employees are looking at these sites, and they want to see you there. Instead, use them to your advantage to showcase your culture and the great employee programs you already have through positive employee reviews. We have found happy and engaged employees are your best recruitment tool.
Center culture around teamwork
Most tech jobs require teamwork and tech employees often collaborate with other professionals during projects. For that reason, if you seek to attract their attention, building an environment with integrated teams will further motivate and maintain engaged team members.
Create an open work environment that encourages new hires to learn from their senior colleagues. By utilizing mentorship, tech workers learn new techniques and strategies that produce better results, while improving on some of their soft skills.
Articulate your company culture across a multitude of channels and platforms, while ensuring that you actually walk the talk, to enhance recruitment efforts. In 2019, Glassdoor found that 77% of candidates consider company culture before even applying for a role, while 56% of employees consider company culture to be more important than salary. These are not insignificant numbers.
To stand out to top tech talent, it is worth investing in not only the development of company culture, but the communication of that culture to the outside world.
Are DEI initiatives a part of your company culture? Download our free DEI calendar to stay on top of important dates for 20234!
Focus on relationships
The best tech employees don’t want to work for just any company; they want to work for a company that is positively impacting society in some way. They also like being part of an innovative team where their contributions are appreciated and respected while working with people who share their values and interests.
In order to attract top talent, companies need to be more transparent about their culture as well as how they help employees grow professionally and personally. Tech workers aren’t going to accept an offer and stay long-term if they’re not accepted by other members of staff or feel the organization doesn’t have its priorities straight when it comes to tech talent retention.
In today’s world of ‘quiet-quitting’ and tech shortages, the demand for top talent is exploding at a time when supply is increasingly threatened. In 2018, organizational consulting firm Korn Ferry cautioned that “the United States faces one of the most alarming talent crunches of any country,” and they predicted that by 2030, the tech industry labor-skill shortage will reach 4.3 million workers, resulting in an unrealized output of $449.70 billion globally.
In short, talent is consistently becoming the primary challenge for tech leaders. Roles including software developers, data experts, hardware engineers, products managers and beyond are proving to be hot commodities now and into the future.
The battle for tech talent is not going away, but utilizing these tried-and-true methods will ensure you can stay competitive.