The tech industry is expanding and changing faster than most, from the scaling start-up to the established giants that are still growing. For HR leaders in tech, this means that programs and practices can quickly fall out of date.
Revisiting and evaluating your strategies is imperative in every aspect of the recruitment and retention process. If you “set and forget” your HR practices and the business continues to grow, you’ll soon find yourself ill-equipped for the increasingly competitive tech talent pool.
HiBob recently teamed up with Codility for a discussion on “Building an effective HR strategy in tech.” Moderated by HiBob People and Culture Partner Alyx Gilham, the conversation featured Jeremy Schmidt, senior director of global talent acquisition at codility, and Toby Hough, people and culture director for Europe at HiBob.
The panelists shared what makes this time so challenging for HR leaders in the tech space, and how they can attract and retain top talent. Here are some best practices from their conversation.
A challenging time for HR in tech
Whether you call the ongoing talent shake-up the Great “Resignation” or “Reassessment,” one thing is clear: People in every industry are looking inward to evaluate their work lives with great care. They’re reconsidering what matters in their careers and how their work impacts other life decisions. And while the current economic climate has slowed the pace of resignations down somewhat, people remain undeterred in their resolve to prioritize work-life balance and a fulfilling career over working at just any job.
“Our workforce is doing a lot of introspection at the moment and scrutinizing things that they might have otherwise taken for granted or just been happy with,” says Toby. HR and talent leaders across every industry—not just tech—need to be aware of this collective mindset.
The tech industry, in particular, attracts dynamic individuals who expect much from their employers. They work in tech because they want a career and a calling, not just a job. They prioritize their growth and seek out development opportunities in keeping with their desired path. This reality adds greater urgency to the current employer critiques (of everything from salary and benefits to the company’s impact) on everyone’s minds—and turns up the pressure to retain people.
Jeremy explains that, on the talent acquisition side, tech companies face fierce competition. “I think we can all agree that there has never been a larger gap between the [number] of open engineering roles and qualified candidates,” Jeremy says. “The market has also never been more competitive.”
Staying competitive requires addressing the challenge of title misalignment. How do tech companies address recruitment when a senior engineer at their organization might get the title (and salary) of principal engineer elsewhere? Facing this obstacle starts with clearly defining role competencies and levels across the organization to articulate them to candidates.
From sourcing strategy to candidate engagement, HR leaders in tech need to take a more strategic approach throughout the interview process, until the offer stage and beyond.
Recruiting tech talent
As an HR leader in tech, you likely find the fierce competition for quality talent to be an uphill battle. And you’re not alone. Here is how Toby and Jeremy recommend breaking through the noise.
1. Focus on impact
When sourcing new talent, acknowledge the current focus on wanting to make a difference at work. Tell candidates up front about the difference they can make in the position you’re hiring for—through the role and as part of your organization.
“You can’t just put out jobs and advertise and expect great people to come,” Jeremy says. “You have to focus much more on impact. What is going on at your organization? … What problems are you solving, and how do you articulate that?”
This focus is an important strategy for all demographics but especially when hiring younger talent. A workplace’s values are deeply important to Gen Z and Millennials, perhaps more than other generations.
“Particularly, those [who] are new to the workplace do scrutinize the reason for the existence of the business in the first place—and their role in that reason for existence,” says Toby. Leading with the values and vision of your organization through the recruitment process is critical for standing out and gaining rapport with candidates.
Impact is no longer a nice-to-have: It’s a must-have.
2. Diversify and expand sourcing
Expanding the diversity of your talent pool is a key element of recruiting the best tech talent in the current market. This process starts with removing unconscious bias in the sourcing process.
Jeremy explains that it takes intention and focus to drive more diversity into your talent pipeline farther up the hiring funnel. “You need to be introspective and have a tough conversation. Look yourself in the mirror, and find the areas where you potentially have under-utilization—and put together a plan of attack.”
One of the best ways to do so is by tracking data on diversity in pipeline optimization. Reporting on the data will reveal gaps in your process, so you can know what problems require addressing to source more diverse talent.
Be sure that your diversity efforts, particularly as you communicate them during talent acquisition, aren’t all “fluff.” Take steps like creating employee resource groups and letting candidates speak with those at your company who can honestly share about their experiences as a woman or person of color at the organization.
By demonstrating that you’re serious about allowing diversity to drive innovation, you’ll maximize your recruitment efforts and expand your talent pool.
Keeping people for the long haul
After you’ve hired incredible talent, the challenge is to encourage them to stay with you—which is a process that never ends.
1. Lean into your company’s strengths
For both recruitment and retention, your strengths are what make you unique and set you apart from other organizations. Just like job interviewees are coached to be confident in what they bring to the table, tech companies should stand firm in the same knowledge.
Toby advises remembering what makes your business special. “Very often, we turn to wanting to solve problems, but people came to our businesses in the first place for a reason,” he explains.
No company is perfect—every one has growth opportunities or aspects where they are outperformed (and people can sense if their organization is being inauthentic about ways it could improve). Instead of only focusing on fixing those failings, turn your attention to what people would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere, and emphasize those aspects to your existing team.
Tune in to what’s fulfilling and energizing the people you have: Coming back to those strengths can remind your team they’re where they should be.
One caution: Be sure that your “nuts and bolts” of benefits and core compensation are in the right ballpark. While yes, there is always someone else in tech who could pay your people more, be sure you’re in alignment with what your people (rightfully) expect.
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2. Don’t miss out on the human element
The needs of your people will vary widely from team to team and even person to person. Some will focus on their career path, others will zero in on relationships with their managers, and still others are raising a family and have a very different picture of success.
To retain top talent in tech, don’t assume what people need—engage them in conversation about what they want from the workplace. Toby says that the companies he’s seen retain talent well are able to concentrate more on understanding people’s needs from a human level—people’s needs inform programs, rather than the other way around.
Understanding what individuals need extends to aspects of work-life including data-gathering and recognition. Preferences for sharing feedback aren’t one-size-fits-all. Offer multiple options, such as group discussions, one-on-one follow-ups for those who are more guarded, and anonymous surveys for those who are even more private.
By giving multiple options, you demonstrate concern for the needs of each person and show that you truly care about what they have to say.
Building a sustainable, supportive culture
In the fast-paced world of tech, organizations are constantly growing and evolving. That means that maintaining a strong culture requires allowing that culture to change with its people.
A sustainable and diverse culture demands celebrating what is different and what has changed. Rather than looking backward, focus on moving the company in a direction you will still be proud of, Toby says.
To attract the best people in tech and to fuel continued growth, HR leaders need to lead with company values and draw in those who won’t simply fit into an existing culture but will bring diverse insights that drive innovation.
“Know what’s important to you,” Toby says. “Know what you don’t want to sacrifice, but know what you’re welcome to be shaken up by.”
This article is based on the panel discussion “Building an effective HR strategy in tech.” Watch the full webinar to learn more about promoting diversity and inclusion, the metrics HR leaders should heed, and how to draw in tech talent.