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How can Businesses Successfully Recruit and Retain Top Technical Talent?

Howard Malloy

Howard Malloy
SVP, Managing Director

We are living through a time of extraordinary change. The COVID-19 pandemic reshaped our world. In the first few months of the pandemic, demand for talent fell off a cliff. Understandably, businesses went into survival mode, focusing on protecting the bottom line and keeping the company afloat as the crisis raged on. But then something changed. After several months demand began to soar, and it has not abated. Businesses began to embrace digital transformation and were willing to spend big on investing in tech projects in areas like cloud computing, helping their organisation create new, innovative experiences for customers – fit to survive the disruption and beyond. And this meant more jobs.

This high growth environment has created an unprecedented situation where for the first time the number of graduate roles has exceeded the number of graduates. Explanations vary. For tech companies, there is a particular struggle to find candidates with appropriate technical qualifications: McKinsey research found 87% of companies worldwide are aware that they either already have a skills gap or will have one within a few years.

Alongside the skills crisis, we are seeing a far bigger shift in how candidates think about the world of work. Dubbed ‘The Great Resignation’, this shift has seen candidates reassess their relationship with their job and become more willing to look around for a role that delivers on what matters to them if their current job won’t – it might be a question of finding more meaningful work, better office culture, or improved work-life balance.

The stakes are high for organisations, but the reward is great. Businesses need talented people to ensure they make the most of what technology has to offer, and ultimately deliver better outcomes for their organisation.

We were delighted to recently hold an Ensono Client Advisory Board event in London to unpack this topic in more detail, helmed by our panel of experts from fields including recruitment, venture capital, and mentoring.

How to become a destination employer

In a competitive market, it can be difficult for businesses to stand out and attract candidates. With many organisations willing to pay high salaries to secure talented personnel, other features of a job can have an outsize impact on swaying a candidate one way or the other. For one candidate this might be the organisation’s approach to D&I. For another it might be policies around hybrid working – or even the increasingly popular 4-day week.

“It’s about making the individual number one. Too many businesses still have the mentality that a candidate is lucky to work with them. They need to realise it is not about the organisation now, it’s about the candidate. If you position yourself right as a business, you can still hire, and if anything, operate more flexibly than your competitors. Fundamentally, employees want a company that cares for them so if you have good values, a good candidate message, and a good people team as your USP, you will be set up for success.”

Tim Threshie, Talent Lead at Amido, an Ensono company

When thinking about talent, organisations should remember that they do not operate in a vacuum. The way staff are treated internally will echo out into the market. Today candidates will vet employers themselves to see if they align with their values and needs from a job – whether on websites like Glassdoor or through cross-industry networks where experiences are shared.

“Every business should be asking themselves: what can I do to make someone feel fundamentally part of this company? Retention is a crucial part of the picture, building a good company culture will help encourage talent to stay, and set the tone you want to send out to prospective candidates. For attraction, businesses need to then understand what works for the individual and tailor their approach to suit.”

Chris Adcock, Managing Director at Reed Technology

Finding a purpose for the office

As we shift towards a post-pandemic world, many organisations are wrestling with the question about how best to use the office. Some have sought a return to office policy, others have a hybrid model, and a rising number have abandoned the office entirely. What can businesses do to navigate this difficult terrain?

Successfully making the most of the office comes down to recognising that it needs to serve a purpose. The appropriate strategy will differ dependent on a range of factors like company size or industry. A particularly powerful use of the office is for the nurturing of new talent. One approach might be to encourage managers to come into the office for part of the week, allowing them to be there to support new starters as they begin their journey with an organisation.

“Organisations need to wake up to the fact that remote working, in some form, is here to stay. In the space of a few months, we have gone through a huge transformation in the nature of work. What matters now is how businesses take this experience forward. Organisations need to be innovative in their use of the office. Keep in person meetings for the free exchange of ideas or decisions to be made on actions. To keep teams motivated and engaged, in-person meetings need to have a purpose – not just return as a session for managers to hand out orders.”

Ezechi Britton MBE, CEO and Co-Founder of Code Untapped

Creating a candidate strategy fit for the long-term

Above all, recruiting and retaining top technical talent requires a business to think for the long-term. Right across the panel, the consensus was that employers need an end-to-end approach to recruitment. This process begins at grassroots investment in STEM education, through to nurturing skills development in your organisation, and then hiring the appropriate number of people to lead the business to future success.

“A business’ long-term success relies on investment in the talent pipeline. For someone from an underrepresented background, a role in technology can seem shut off or inaccessible to them. Organisations need to invest in connecting with these young people, helping them understand what you do and what a career path looks like. This work will pay huge dividends in inspiring the next generation and encouraging them to think of your business when they enter the workplace. When someone joins your organisation, a business must then send a clear signal they take responsibility for an individual’s career success. A mentoring programme is a powerful way to achieve this goal.”

Maria McDowell Founder of Lollipop Mentoring

What was clear from our session was that the path to success in retaining and recruiting technical talent today is far from certain. However, by thinking innovatively and – above all – putting the individual first, businesses have a fighting chance to win over candidates and ensure long-term business success.

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