Recently, companies like Microsoft, Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Intel, Adobe, Oracle, and others have been shedding or planning to shed staff in unprecedented numbers. With their strong technological expertise, deep domain knowledge, and laser-like focus on innovation, these so-called “pure-play” companies are all dominant players within their specific technology sectors and undoubtedly impact the industry as a whole. So what is happening, and how is it all affecting what we can assume is the top talent in their respective fields who now find themselves seeking roles outside?
While “pure-play” companies are subject to the same economic pressures as the industry as a whole, they do seem to be experiencing significant stress from high-interest rates and the general economic turndown, though unsurprisingly, the workers they let go are finding it relatively easy to secure new roles in other sectors – 80% of those laid off find new tech jobs within three months.
However, the phenomenon has thrown additional light on how traditional organisations might capitalise on the increased availability of top tech talent by attracting and retaining new recruits.
A recent publication by McKinsey addressed this issue. The report “HR rewired: An end-to-end approach to attracting and retaining top tech talent” offers valuable insights into strategies for effectively recruiting and retaining high-quality technology talent, emphasising the need for organisations to adapt their human resources practices to address the unique challenges and demands of the tech industry. Some of its main points include:
Traditional organisations should adopt an end-to-end approach to HR that emphasises technical talent’s needs throughout the talent journey encompassing planning, attracting, onboarding, talent development and management.
HR should take the opportunity of experimenting with new approaches to sourcing and supporting talent. Skills should be more important than history, and deciding which roles are the most valuable to the organisation is essential.
The three main elements of an end-to-end approach to HR are sourcing, supporting, and scaling. While this is not a radical departure from more traditional approaches, it is worth gleaning what we can from their subtle emphasis changes. So let’s look at these three elements.
Sourcing – a skills-based approach to recruitment
When seeking talent for critical roles, businesses should focus on skills rather than what McKinsey calls “pedigree”. In other words, a skills-based approach to technical recruitment involves evaluating candidates based on their specific technical competencies and abilities rather than focusing solely on their qualifications, degrees, or work experience.
This process involves identifying which roles are the most valuable for the organisation and then determining the skills needed to fulfil these roles. Critical steps include:
Identify the specific technical skills and competencies essential for the roles for which you are hiring. This process may include programming languages, software proficiency, data analysis, system administration, network management, or other job-specific skills. These skills should be identified before starting the recruitment process.
Develop a robust assessment process to evaluate candidates’ technical competencies. This can include specialised tests, coding challenges, case studies, or simulations that measure their ability to solve real-world technical problems relevant to the role. The assessment should be tailored to the specific skills and tasks required for the position.
Provide candidates with practical assignments or projects to showcase their skills. This challenge can involve asking them to complete coding exercises, build prototypes, or analyse technical problems. This approach allows candidates to demonstrate their abilities in a real-world context and provides a more accurate assessment of their technical expertise.
Alongside technical assessments, conduct behavioural interviews to evaluate candidates’ communication skills, teamwork, problem-solving approaches, and ability to adapt to different scenarios. While the focus is on technical skills, assessing candidates holistically is important to ensure they possess the necessary soft skills for the role.
Continuous Learning and Adaptability: Assess candidates’ willingness to learn and adapt to new technologies and tools. The tech industry evolves rapidly, so finding candidates with a growth mindset and a proactive attitude towards acquiring new skills and staying current with industry trends is crucial.
While technical skills are important, evaluate candidates for fit within the organisation’s culture. Assess whether their values, work style, and collaboration approach align with the team dynamics and company culture.
Supporting – empowering people and streamlining processes
Supporting technology talent during the sourcing and onboarding processes is vital. McKinsey suggests that the most appropriate way is to streamline recruitment by leaning heavily on digital tools and processes, including generative AI and psychometrics.
These technologies should be applied during onboarding to advance new employees’ learning curve regarding critical activities. Furthermore, this approach should be equally used to assess the existing talent pool, introducing training and progression as appropriate. It could be sufficiently fine-grained to provide appropriate training before employees attend specific meetings with customers or suppliers and, when relevant, to planned process changes.
Some important strategies include:
Provide detailed and accurate job descriptions that outline the responsibilities, required skills, and qualifications for the role. This helps candidates understand expectations and ensures alignment between their skills and the position.
Streamline the application process making it user-friendly and efficient. Simplify the application form, minimise unnecessary steps, and provide clear instructions. This enhances the candidate experience and encourages top talent to apply.
Maintain transparent and timely communication with candidates throughout the recruitment process. Promptly acknowledge receipt of applications, provide updates on the progress, and offer feedback whenever possible. Clear and open communication helps build a positive candidate experience and fosters a good impression of your organisation.
Develop comprehensive onboarding programs specifically tailored to technology talent. Provide an orientation that introduces them to the company’s culture, values, processes, and tools.
Promote a collaborative and inclusive work environment where technology talent can collaborate with colleagues, exchange ideas, and contribute to cross-functional projects. Encourage knowledge sharing, organise team-building activities, and facilitate interactions with experienced team members to promote learning and growth.
Regularly provide constructive feedback and performance evaluations to support the growth and development of technology talent. Establish clear performance goals and guide areas of improvement. Regular check-ins and ongoing communication ensure that employees feel supported and valued.
Scaling – reskilling and upskilling individuals and teams
Arguably, the rate of technological change has significantly exceeded what most people predicted just a year ago. For instance, generative AI is changing the whole technical landscape unpredictably. Thus a proper learning infrastructure is needed to keep pace with these changes. The ability to respond rapidly to new and developing technologies is essential; otherwise, organisations will rapidly fall behind the innovative technology leaders.
As top talent relishes being at the forefront of advancing technology, they are likely to become alienated by the threat of such outcomes rapidly. They will likely take the first opportunity to move on to more exciting players.
Some steps organisations can take to stay ahead of the game include:
Evaluate the existing skill sets within the organisation and identify areas with skill gaps. Determine the skills needed to meet evolving business demands or to adapt to emerging technologies.
Assess individual and team training needs based on the identified skill gaps. This process may involve surveys, interviews, or skills assessments to gauge the specific areas that require reskilling.
Develop targeted learning and development programs to reskill employees. This can include in-house training, external workshops, online courses, mentoring programs, or cross-functional projects. Customise the programs to meet the unique needs of each individual or team.
Foster a culture of continuous learning and growth within the organisation. Encourage employees to pursue self-directed learning, provide resources such as access to learning platforms or subscriptions, and recognise and reward individuals actively engaging in reskilling efforts.
Identify employees with the potential to take on additional responsibilities and grow within the organisation. Look for individuals willing to learn, adapt, and face new challenges.
Work with employees to create personalised development plans that align with their career goals and the organisation’s needs. These plans can include a mix of formal training, on-the-job learning, stretch assignments, and mentoring opportunities.
Provide mentoring and coaching programs to support the upskilling process. Pair employees with experienced mentors who can provide guidance, share knowledge, and offer advice on career advancement.
Encourage employees to gain exposure to different teams, projects, or business units to broaden their skill set and expand their knowledge. Cross-functional collaboration enhances their understanding of different roles and perspectives.
Regularly provide feedback on employees’ performance and progress towards upskilling goals. Recognise and reward individuals who actively engage in upskilling and demonstrate growth.
This holistic approach to attracting and retaining top talent can accelerate progress in times where top technology talent is most valuable, which certainly applies to our current economic and technological situation. There is little time to delay – the vast majority of tap technical talent let go by the pure-play organisations found new and lucrative jobs within weeks or months. Competition for top talent is rarely more intense.
Of course, every organisation is different, and as McKinsey advises, experimenting with the most appropriate way for your organisation to achieve its recruitment and retention goals is a valid approach. However, powerful technologies are available that can help the process and ensure that you are not left bereft of top talent in the future.