Tech jobs: When searching for talent, you are focusing on all the wrong things

Tech recruiters are emphasising the wrong aspects of the job when looking for candidates, which could be costing them top developers.
Written by Owen Hughes, Senior Editor

Tech workers are hard to find, so hiring managers need to figure out what makes them tick.

Image: Getty/Maskot

Employers could be letting top candidates slip through the net by emphasising the wrong aspects of the job in their search for tech talent.

Research carried out by Gartner found that technology recruiters typically focus on the technical elements of the role they are hiring for – such as skills requirements, vendor knowledge and specific technologies – instead of the "attraction drivers" that candidates value more highly, such as work-life balance, flexible working and stability.

The analyst said this focus is making it more difficult for employers to both attract and retain valuable tech staff, with researchers concluding that current HR policies, requirements and hiring practices "do not reflect the modern marketplace and employees' current priorities and preferences".

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Gartner also found that, while salaries are still valued highly by jobseekers, new employee expectations and the growing significance of other factors affecting job appeal means that companies "can no longer address recruiting and retention exclusively through financial rewards."

IT leaders who create a strategy built on a recognition of the factors that attract employees to jobs, as well as those that cause them to quit, stand the best chance of finding and retaining key employees, the analyst said.

"I&O [infrastructure and operations] leaders worldwide are struggling to find and retain critical talent. The modern infrastructure and operations work environment is transforming due to many disruptive factors, including societal and cultural factors, the needs of the employees, and market competition," the researchers wrote.

"Recent issues such as the pandemic and subsequent changing nature of employment have added burdens on I&O teams, causing early and frequent staff turnover. I&O leaders must understand and react to the scope and speed of change necessary for today's environment, which increases recruitment and retention challenges."

Record rates of employee turnover have left businesses across numerous industries struggling to find the staff they need.

Tech teams have been hit particularly hard by employee attrition, Gartner found. According to the analyst's most recent Global Labor Market Survey, 15.5% of IT staff intend to leave their employers, compared with 7.8% for non-IT staff.

The share of the IT workforce actively looking for new jobs in Q4 2021 also increased to 32.1%, a 1.5% increase from the previous quarter.

This trend was primarily driven by younger employees aged 18 to 39. The research also identified "declining levels of discretionary effort" – that is, employees performing beyond expectations – particularly among high-potential employees. Gartner suggested this was indicative of increased levels of burnout, a conclusion supported by the fact that job satisfaction for IT employees has fallen to just 25%.

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The top five attraction drivers for IT job seekers identified by Gartner's Global Labor Market Survey, which included feedback from 18,000 employees globally, including 1,755 IT workers, were fair compensation (41.4%), work-life balance (40.5%), organization and job stability (26.2%), location (25%), and the extent to which technology is used in the workplace (24.5%).

When asked to identify the factors they were most dissatisfied with at their previous organizations, IT employees cited compensation (31.4%), quality of their manager (25.9%), work-life balance (24.9%), respect (22.6%), and recognition (22.2%).

To retain tech talent, employers should focus on employee growth opportunities, happiness and job satisfaction, Gartner said. This should be tailored to "address each employees' individual needs," such as giving them the freedom to choose projects that align with their interests, allowing them to set work schedules that fit their needs, promoting skills development and time for training, and determining hours during which individual team members should not be contacted for work purposes.

Gartner said strategies for talent acquisition differ from talent retention and "predominantly focuses on educating, captivating and exciting potential candidates to the opportunities that exist within your I&O organization and the larger enterprise."

This includes demonstrating how IT teams collaborate across other organizational teams on "exciting cross-organizational projects"; how tech workers are encouraged and rewarded in developing their skillsets; how feedback is gathered and acted upon by management, and how employees "are empowered to set their own schedules based on their needs and preferences."

The sophistication of technology within the organization also presents a strong attraction driver for tech professionals, Gartner found. "Strong candidates are likely being heavily targeted by other organizations, so the approach of attracting talent is to focus on certain unique characteristics of the value proposition: work, organization and culture," the researchers said.

"Being able to stand out as an employer is as important as standing out as a candidate."

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