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Josh StephensCTO

Four Ways to Beat the Technical Talent Shortage

Let’s be honest: The pandemic challenged the way the majority of us think about work and life, and, perhaps more importantly, the intersection of the two. It has led to many rethinking what they want in their personal lives (more time with family, more time to pursue hobbies, etc.) and has encouraged many to rethink what they want in an employer. Basically, people are leaving jobs for greater flexibility, more money, and more happiness.

As a result, we have found ourselves in a global talent shortage, one that is only exacerbated by the Great Resignation. It’s happening across industries, and technology is no exception.

So how can tech companies effectively navigate the challenges of a talent shortage?

I recently hosted a webinar panel discussion on How to Beat the Global Technical Talent Shortage with three guest speakers — Alex Chubay, CTO of SoftServe, Matt Finlayson, SVP of Engineering at ActivTrak, and Mecca Robbins, People Operations Leader at Trissential — who provided unique insights into how to recruit and retain talent in today’s world.

Here are four ways organizations can beat the technical talent shortage.

1. Effective Recruiting: Define Who You Are and What You Want in an Employee

To effectively recruit the talent you’re looking for, it’s critical to be crystal clear on who you are as an organization, and what you want and need from your employees. This might seem obvious, but many organizations have lost sight of their mission and values. And it shows.

If you are unclear about your culture and your mission, you’ll quickly lose out to top talent. The recruiting world is a vastly different place than it was even a year ago. According to Finlayson, “Candidates have very specific questions about corporate culture and flexible work policies. Basically, people have a very clear idea of what they want in their companies today.”

With more clarity about what they want, candidates are quick to make a decision about whether or not a company is right for them. In fact, every panelist shared that the most attractive candidates were, on average, accepting a job within 10 days of first conversations. This is a stark difference from the more traditional 30-day hiring cycle.

“If you’re not clear on why you’re in business and what you can offer to your employees, you won’t attract the right people,” said Robbins.

2. Tap into a Bigger Pool: Get Employees Involved

Getting employees involved in the recruiting process can actually help solidify corporate culture and offer potential candidates the opportunity to get real insights into the way a company works. When this activity is incentivized, it magnifies the power of who can be uncovered.

Every panelist highlighted the value of an employee referral program, specifically that it can help open doors to networks that would otherwise have gone untapped. But take heed: There is no one-size-fits-all approach to effective recruiting.

According to Chubay, employee referral programs can lend themselves to creating greater awareness of what is considered acceptable for recruiting efforts from both a cultural and geographical perspective.

“Being a global company doesn’t mean you need, or should, apply the same referral programs in every geographical location,” he said. “It’s so important to understand the differences in employee incentives and lean into the specifics of each region.”

According to Robbins, “If you’re not doing [an employee referral program], you need to. Start one tomorrow.”

But it’s not just about attracting qualified talent. An employee referral program underscores the value a company places on individual contributions within a company and, therefore, touches on a very important part of the talent puzzle: retention.

3. Retention: Make Employees Feel Valued

Retention is done best when employees feel valued. It's about understanding what they want to get out of work, from the corporate culture to the benefits and their potential impact. And for many people, how they define what they want to get from their place of employment has changed drastically following the COVID-19 pandemic. The only way to know how expectations have evolved, however, is to increase communication.

In fact, a recent study illustrated that many employees will leave a job because of lack of communication, especially around feedback.

If you want to retain your top talent, it's about making them feel valuable and ensuring their values align to the values and mission of the company. According to Robbins, “Retention is a game now; it’s not just promotions and raises. It’s about the full picture of culture and impact. Organizations need to be relevant in what we give to employees. It’s not just a one-size-fits-all approach, anymore, and that means we need to have [more] conversations.”

Robbins encouraged every manager to connect with their individual team members at least once a week and ask three key questions:

  • What’s going great?
  • What’s not going great?
  • How can I help?

Not only does this build a rapport and a stronger working relationship, it also helps employees more effectively connect the dots to see and hear how they’re being meaningful in their jobs.

To that point, part of a great retention strategy means retaining relationships, even if an employee decides to move on.

“Even if people leave, check in on them, honestly care about them,” said Chubay. “Sometimes, they’ll come back and for those who don’t? They are more likely to refer qualified hiring leads, or possibly even new customers, and that’s invaluable.”

4. Outsourcing Talent: Both Sides of the Fence

Sometimes, it’s just not possible to get everything done in-house in the working hours we’re given. This is where outsourcing comes into play. Our panelists addressed outsourcing as impactful for the tech industry in two ways: Resourcing and Development Teams.

Outsourcing your resource strategy doesn't mean you can write it off as someone else getting the job done. In fact, the most successful outsourced resourcing efforts are hyper-focused on what an organization is looking for and communicates it clearly to the hiring resource.

“Make your recruiter your partner,” said Robbins. “Be very clear on what you’re looking for and give them specific guidelines, like ‘Only bring me qualified, interested and affordable candidates.’ And remember that recruiters do this all the time. Ask them for their thoughts on yellow flags for candidates, as well.”

For development teams, it’s easy to think of additional labor as support to existing teams. But this approach won’t do anyone any favors. Instead, think of how you can make them feel part of the team. It starts with guidance.

Finlayson explained that when looking for additional resources, he asks his team to identify what the attributes would be for someone to be successful in the role. “Get your team involved and write a 30-60-90 day role, then build the job description on this so you can really find the person that will be the best help for you.”

When you gain this level of clarity with both the project in play as well as the resources needed, you can more intentionally decide if it makes sense to outsource an entire project to a team outside your organization, or if you’re supplementing an existing project with work from outsourced talent.

“Remember, if you treat them like a contractor, they’ll engage like a contractor,” said Chubay.

Key Takeaways

The Great Resignation and corresponding global talent shortage has presented a number of challenges to organizations of all sizes and across industries. But there is a silver lining: Organizations have the opportunity to rethink their approach to culture and impact. After all, whether the talent is in-house or outsourced, we’re all still people who want to do good and make an impact.

Missed the webinar live? Watch it on demand now.


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About the Author

Josh Stephens

Josh is CTO at Elsewhere, supporting the investment pipeline and providing portfolio companies operational and domain expertise beyond capital investment. He has been an Elsewhere Operating Advisor since 2015 and advised numerous companies including Vyopta, ActivTrak, BurstIQ, and others. Hear more from Josh on his podcast CapitalGEEK and Twitter.