A lack of workforce is one the top five challenges facing the tech sector according to a recent Forbes article. Dave Allum, partner at out Nottingham office, provides insight into the key to attracting and retaining top talent for businesses.
Those of us who grew up in the 90s will be familiar with the works of Ugly Kid Joe and today we are thinking about the closing track to their debut album, 'Mr Record Man'. For those not familiar with it, it is a ballad where a 'wannabe' band desperately hopes that the recording company is genuinely interested in them as a band and not just in it for the money. In some ways, this is reflective of the way that many of the workforce now need to feel a sense of belonging and purpose.
A Forbes article in the last quarter of 2022 set out the top 5 challenges facing the tech sector. This included the usual suspects: supply chain issues, cyber security, rate of change in innovation and demand for sustainable tech. Mostly these are external factors and mostly outside of direct control. The fifth challenge is a little more in direct control and that is a major lack of talent.
As most employers are finding post-pandemic, the workforce seems to have shrunk. This is not something confined to limited sectors or geographic areas, nor is it something that has an overall cause. One common thinking is that the amount of time people spent at home during the lockdowns has led them to evaluate their work-life balance and created a much greater focus on this balance. In a similar vein, there is a thinking that the way the workforce views work is different. Gone are the days of working to get money, having been replaced by the desire to actively contribute to a purpose generating a much deeper sense of satisfaction.
Whatever the cause, one thing is certain: there is a huge competition for talent from a small pool of people. As a business, you can have the greatest plan ever but without the right people, there is always going to be a barrier to building the successful business.
So how do you attract the very best talent?
A key purpose
It's not that long ago that pay was generally considered to be the ultimate tool to attracting talent and that the best teams could be created by simply paying the most money. If you have been recruiting recently, you will know that this simply does not hold true in a lot of cases now, particularly with the younger generations who are looking for a much wider reward system. My own experience of recruiting recently has been helped tremendously by the values that the firm hold and the way in which these are woven into our everyday work. Underpinning these is the key purpose – in our case, "helping you prosper". All our people understand what this means to our clients and each other, creating an experience that people want to be part of.
But how does this link back to your own business I hear you ask? Well, I imagine whether you are a new business in the tech world or are a long-established company, there will be one key thing that gets you and the team out of bed each morning to do what you do – but is this written down or just an unspoken understanding? If it is not written down, I would advocate spending some time with the team understanding what the common goal is and what happens in your business to create that sense of purpose. Once you understand the purpose, it becomes easier to set out the values that everyone lives up to and to embed these into the culture. Having a clearly defined and well communicated purpose and set of values is one of the key things that can help in the war to attract (and retain!) talent.
Providing self-development opportunities
Another key driver for workers is a sense of self-development – are you providing training and development opportunities for everyone? In technical roles, it is more common to see regular technical updates but don't confuse this with development training. Development training is around the soft skills that enable successful working and would be appropriate for non-technical and support roles as well. Having a clear development plan for all the team can create a great sense of reward and potentially put you ahead in the war for talent.
A final tip to think about as part of the purpose is the impact of the business on others. ESG has been a buzz phrase for a while now, but we are seeing more that this is a huge driver for attracting people to your business. Do you just have a token recycling bin, or do you have a well-defined policy and actively make choices to reduce environmental impact? Do you select suppliers based on their environmental impact as well giving preference to those that might not be the cheapest but whom have a policy that mirrors your own? Do you have a well-defined and implemented social policy, creating a zero-tolerance policy to discrimination? All these things matter to the modern workforce.
Attracting talent has never been easy and is certainly getting harder. By having focus on the things that are important and matter to the modern workforce, it is possibly to create an advantage for your business and attract and retain the right people to help you succeed. I think this can be summed up by Ugly Kid Joe's line, "Mr Record man, do you really give a damn?"
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