It’s no secret that the post-COVID world and the current financial crisis in Australia are forcing companies, particularly startups and scale-ups, to tread carefully and be more strategic in their planning for the upcoming months when it comes to hiring and retaining talent

There are rumors floating around that leadership talent will start looking to stay put or start searching for the predictable, ‘steadier’ jobs of past times within corporate, well-established companies. So, this is the time (if you haven’t already) to evaluate and improve how you are attracting and retaining tech talent in leadership roles. 

We recently hosted events together with HiBob, in Sydney and Melbourne that focused on attracting and retaining tech talent. In these sessions, we discussed several strategies that companies can use to help them achieve this goal. As a follow-on from these insightful events, we’re sharing ideas and advice on how to attract and retain those leadership positions to steer and scale your growth. 

This blog will focus on the potential challenges and some solutions to attract and retain leadership roles in tech companies.

Challenge 1: Talent opting for another offer 

There are a few reasons why candidates jump ship, but there’s one, in particular, we’re seeing that’s easily remedied: A slow hiring process. 

A slow hiring process can occur when a business is in a rapid growth phase; there are suddenly a lot of roles to fill and few people who are able to manage the process.  

If it’s not adapted and kept flowing effectively, it can become a bumpy road with several days going by from interview scheduling to feedback. It can be slowed down even more by hiring managers and founders not being aligned, or even having clarity on the role, skill set and person they need until it’s too late. 

With the competition for tech talent growing ever higher, it’s all too easy for talent to slip through your fingers purely due to another company weaving through their hiring process faster than you did. 

Challenge 2: Talent not feeling their needs are being met by their employer  

You need to be better than just average right now when it comes to an EVP and meeting your employees’ needs, including leadership talent. They may be near the top of the business, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want career progression, personal development opportunities, or training. 

Motivating factors can stem from the basic human needs of having a sense of belonging, engagement, and connection, as well as a purpose and impact potential. If you’re not speaking to candidates about EVP or culture, then you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage.

Challenge 3: High turnover, means high cash flow 

Many companies are experiencing high turnover right now, not just in leadership roles, but many tech roles. We can expect it to reach even higher rates within the next year. 

Cash flow is obviously important at a time like this, but investors will also care about the quality of your leaders and even your candidates for leadership roles. 

Ideas for how to attract and retain talent in leadership roles 

  1. Go back to basics

Increase candidates’ confidence in your business by clearly communicating what you want. Things you should consider are: 

  • Alignment: It doesn’t have to be an exact job description, but ensure that the founder/s and hiring managers are aligned on what you need from that role and the person filling the role. What skill sets and personality traits are going to thrive and have a positive impact on the business right now? 
  • Duration: Depending on where you are in your growth phase (especially during this time), hiring a particular role for the next 12-18 months might serve you better than hiring for the next 3-5 years. You need roles and people to weather you through the imminent storm, not sail you through its aftermath. 
  • Budget: Is it realistic, and does it make sense, to hire expensive talent based on the value their experience brings to your organization? Don’t be afraid to be picky when assessing the kind of talent you need, especially if you’re looking to pay top dollar for it. 
  1. Invest in your leaders 

There are two sides to this: 

The first is EVP, bonuses, ESOP, and benefits packages. How well you construct and present these to your prospective and existing employees is key to how successful you will be in attracting and retaining them. Your leaders will be embedded in your business, making them pioneers in this space—what are you promising and delivering to them to help them prosper? 

As an example, we’ve seen companies employ a dedicated employee experience person who is purely focused on the mental health and happiness of employees. 

The second is the type and amount of support you’re offering to help your leaders become a walking and talking brand awareness campaign for your business. For example, how well do they: 

  • Understand and communicate your core values?
  • Represent your brand to the community? 
  • Interview and inspire prospective talent? 
  • Motivate, nurture and lead existing employees? 

Could any of your leaders replace you in a room and tell your story with the same impact as you can? Can they also add their own spin and perspective? 

  1. Be bold and boast about the advantages of startups 

Startups offer certain risks, learnings, challenges, and rewards. This means that only certain types of people who are looking for specific experiences are willing to sign up for them. This is mainly why we’re less inclined to believe the rumors and predictions that people will soon be searching for more predictable and corporate roles. 

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when writing comms to attract this type of talent:

  1. What can you offer them that a normal company can’t offer them? 
  2. What is it about startups that ignite that fire in them?
  3. What opportunities are here that they can’t get anywhere else? 
  4. What unique learnings will they get from their experiences here?

Answering these and looping them into everything your prospective and existing employees touch, will remind them why they’re here or why they want to be here: interviewing questions, onboarding, EVP, performance reviews, job advertisements, etc. 

In summary… 

  • Potential challenges to be aware of include talent opting for other offers (due to a slow hiring process), not feeling their needs are being met, and the business experiencing high turnover and cash flow at a difficult time in the market. 
  • Ideas for how to attract and retain talent in leadership roles include:
    • Going back to basics by becoming aligned on the role and type of person you need as well as the duration and budget allocated to the role. 
    • Investing in your leaders via EVP, ESOP, and benefits packages as well as supporting them be a pioneer in your space—championing your brand to the community. 
    • Boasting about the advantages of joining a startup to ignite that fire and prove you can offer opportunities, experiences, and learnings that they won’t get in a normal, non-startup company. 

Dan Spencer

From Dan Spencer

Dan is an executive search and talent specialist with a 20+ year career across the Digital, Technology, Advertising, and Media landscape. When not working, he is trying to keep fit and hangs out with his wife and three kids.