Talent demand in the technology sector is not just high, it is set to remain a severe challenge – even in the face of recession. Earlier this year BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT said it had recorded 64,000 vacancies for UK tech jobs in the third quarter of last year alone [https://interact.bcs.org/pdfs/bcs-state-nation-report-2022.pdf], a figure that was up by 191% on the same period the year before.
Added to this, Nash Squared’s recently launched Digital Leadership Report [https://www.nashsquared.com/dlr-2022] found that 68% of digital leaders in the UK thought that the skills shortage was preventing them from keeping up with the pace of change in their organisation. More worrying, 57% think that UK organisations will never have enough technology staff.
And yet in this high-pressure environment some organisations are missing out on tech talent unnecessarily. The problem? They don’t know what their candidates want.
This issue was highlighted by a recent LinkedIn poll run by Harvey Nash [https://www.linkedin.com/posts/harvey-nash_newjob-harveynash-technologyrecruitment-activity-6980925879409352704-sfPk?utm_source=share&utm_medium=member_desktop]. Technology professionals were asked to name their most important consideration when thinking about a new role. While 40% cited salary, this was swiftly followed by approach to flexible working at 30% and career development/progression at 26%. Some of these priorities appeared in The Harvey Nash 2021 Technology and Talent study [https://www.nashsquared.com/techandtalentstudy]. On that occasion remuneration scored 60%, work location/remote work opportunities 43% and strong culture/leadership 40%. Even from this it is evident that the balance between what aspects of work candidates value is shifting.
Now more than ever employers wanting to attract and retain technology talent need to understand these trends and act accordingly.
Of course, salary remains important – and will continue to do so in the teeth of a cost-of-living crisis – but competing on this factor alone is unsustainable. Employers cannot afford to ramp up renumeration levels indefinitely. What they need to do now is look at what others levers they can pull to give them greater appeal.
How to stand out
Candidates now have a wide choice of prospective employers. They will often be in multiple application processes at any one time. Responses alongside the LinkedIn poll shed light on how candidates now differentiate between employment opportunities. One respondent suggested that the overall employment package is now more important than any single feature within it. At the same time other participants suggested they needed “the opportunity to make a change” or simply “respect”.
Without a doubt, employees want work that satisfies them. As Gartner and many others have pointed out, the pandemic and ‘the Great Resignation’ has made this even more important (although it is worth noting no one has said salary is no longer important at all) [https://www.gartner.com/en/articles/great-resignation-or-not-money-won-t-fix-all-your-talent-problems]. Happy employees – employees who stay with an organisation – do so because they feel their values and motivations are aligned to those of their employer. Essentially, the organisation’s mission, values and culture match their own.
But while knowing what your candidates want is one thing, making sure that they – and your existing employees – know what you can deliver is another challenge altogether. Mastering today’s talent pools means ensuring your communication channels are open, effective and two-way.
Firstly, throughout the attraction and appointment process candidates must be very clear on what the job entails and what their reward will be. Employers need to give transparency in terms of what working for their organisation means, what the day-to-day experience will be, the expectations and the rewards.
If the reality doesn’t match the promise the candidate is likely to make a swift exit. This is not just bad as far as that particular appointment goes but it risks reputational damage for the employer. One bad experience shared could put off a number of potential candidates, reducing the organisation’s talent pool significantly.
The key here is communication. The organisation needs to ensure everyone is aware of the benefits available to them, the opportunities and the development resources they can access and how they can be accessed. This is equally important to tech professionals who can sometimes feel overlooked or pigeon-holed. By making these communications two-way [https://cpdonline.co.uk/knowledge-base/business/employee-retention/#why-do-people-leave-organisations] the organisation can identify candidates and employees for whom the reality isn’t living up to expectation and act to correct this as soon as possible.
Matching candidate desires to business offering has always been critical to securing talent, but companies looking to attract tech talent must be wary of bending themselves out of shape in order to impress candidates. Understanding what candidates want and being honest about what you can offer will make for the long-term recruitment of valuable talent. Making promises that can’t be fulfilled will lead to retention issues and a bad reputation among the talented candidates you badly need.
Candidates will sometimes compromise on salary [https://employeebenefits.co.uk/28-employees-reduce-salary-flexible-working/] if other aspects of the role and company align with their requirements. Given this, understanding what your candidates want and ensuring you clearly highlight those aspects will give you the leading edge in the talent market. Doing so will not just differentiate yourself from the competition - it may even reduce the need to meet ever-spiraling salaries.
What do we mean by one day they'll beat the competition. Do say 'Employers cannot afford to ramp up renumeration levels indefinitely, they need to look at what others levers they can pull to make their business stand out.
Candidates will sometimes compromise on salary if other aspects of the role and company align with theirs. This means understanding your candidates first and foremost and ensuring you clearly highlight the aspects now as important to them. Doing so will help you differentiate yourself - and may even help you avoid the current salary (need a word).
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