Dimitri Otis | Stone | Getty Images
Recent layoff announcements in the tech sector from Meta Platforms to Palantir and Eventbrite are further proof that tech companies are still shedding workers. According to Crunchbase, the tech industry cut 234,000 workers last year and 94,000 since January.
Even so, it’s harder to find and retain tech talent, according to a survey of 1,000 human resources professionals by General Assembly, a professional placement and talent recruitment firm.
The data backs this up: though a January job report showed tech unemployment slowed, a concurrent report from consulting firm Janco found 109,000 unfilled jobs in IT due to a lack of “qualified candidates.”
“I think traditional hiring methods aren’t working because they’re so reactive,” said Lupe Colangelo, interim head of talent and operations at GA. Nearly 90% of hiring teams were worried they could not find talent, she said.
“One of the reasons that employers are struggling is because they don’t have the right approaches to recruitment,” Colangelo added.
She believes the mismatch is two-fold: the time it takes to hire is too long, and hiring overlooks underrepresented groups. For example, Colangelo said only half of GenZ workers plan to achieve a four-year degree. Companies that continue to insist on four-year college degrees are therefore narrowing the pool of talent they can recruit from.
“Hiring for tech roles takes seven weeks on average, and by the time the role is posted, a company has needed that candidate for months,” she said.
‘Every company is a tech company’
The picture gets more complicated when you consider that the demand for tech talent is coming from nearly every sector of the economy. Colangelo said a company like John Deere, long-known for farm equipment, has incorporated a fair amount of software and other technology into its tractors and therefore needs to hire tech talent to discern the data it’s collecting.
As a result, Colangelo said that tech workers are moving into roles at companies in industries that are not traditionally “tech,” from food to fashion. The most competitive recruiters at these companies set up outreach events during industry conferences to find talent long before the need becomes acute.
“I think it’s better for tech talent because they are not confined to looking for a job at a ‘tech company,'” she said. “It means that every company is a tech company.”
Head hunters without borders
In the post-Covid era, employees may have relocated far beyond commuting distance, but country borders and time zones are still an issue, said Louis Demetroulakos, head of partnerships at Playroll, a company that specializes in cross-border hiring. He said there needs to be a major mindset change toward opening the talent pool.
“Companies don’t want to fully offshore because, with sensitive information, there are lots of potential liabilities,” he said. “They want to hire people in a different country at lower cost but have operationally and legally full-time employees.”
Playroll can hire across 170 countries, fielding legal, benefits, and tax liabilities for companies that want to take advantage of worldwide talent.
For instance, if a company wants to hire a software engineer in Brazil but has never done business there, Playroll can find that talent and onboard them on behalf of the company in need. The offshore employee is virtually in-house, while Payroll handles the administrative work.
Create a vision, not just a job
Particularly when it comes to specialized talent, companies have to be intentional. Owen Healy, a recruiter who focuses on finding blockchain skills, says Web3 talent has always been used to working remotely and is consistently in demand. For top developers, salary expectations are the same worldwide, Healy said.
When the entire industry is remote, there is little in the way of perks to keep developers on board. Healy said 80% of open positions are highly technical, and hiring teams compete for only a few thousand highly experienced coders.
He said an inspiring mission is the only way to get them on the team.
“These developers are gurus in their space,” he said. “They want to buy into a vision. For the top class of developers in particular, it’s about legacy.”
It’s about listening
Colangelo said success in hiring tech talent comes down to listening well. Finding out what the team needs leads to more accurate hiring. And attracting more diverse talent begins with revamping job descriptions, checking biases during interviews, and listening to employees.
“For example, do certain teams love the office culture, are they getting valuable mentorship?” she said. “Is there great in-person networking or a culture for incoming nontraditional talent?”
Healy said retaining skilled remote talent means keeping them connected to other members of the team.
“It could be as simple as having a monthly meeting with your manager saying, ‘How are you, are things alright,'” he said. “Companies are trying to scale their projects but need to scale human capital elements as well.”
As for the overall tech talent market, Colangelo said the supply and demand equation may be coming back into better balance.
“We saw companies maybe get a little bit too ambitious with hiring and growth, and they went for volume rather than strategy,” she said. ” It’s not ‘you need 100 developers.’ It’s figuring out what you actually need.”
Demetroulakos said many firms still believe that they can only hire within their culture or geography, such as only hiring within the U.K. Companies that are getting access to the best talent are hiring across time zones but setting work hours within a range to keep projects in order with a team spread thousands of miles apart.
“Companies are letting people work remotely in the U.S.,” Demetroulakos said. “If it’s just as easy to have people work remotely across Central and South America, why not?”