Time to rethink the way we hire tech talent

"'Retaining top talent requires an environment where developers are treated like innovators, not code writers, and are active participants in the business.'
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

If you're the IT leader at well-established insurance company, or an industrial parts supplier, can you compete with tech titans or funky startups for the best tech talent? 

There can be compelling opportunities for tech professionals in all lines of business. But there's a need to reposition and rethink these opportunities, the nature of tech jobs, and hiring processes. 

Photo: Joe McKendrick

The folks at McKinsey have some recommendations for IT managers struggling to find and keep needed talent in the digitally roaring 2020s. Many are up against tech titans who are gobbling up talent right and left: "Late last year, Facebook announced plans to hire 10,000 people in Europe to build out its metaverse, an augmented-reality space," according to the report's co-authors, led by Sven Blumberg. "Amazon, meanwhile, announced plans to hire more than 55,000 people for corporate and technology jobs in the United States even as Google is moving to hire thousands of technologists." 

The so-called "Great Resignation" isn't making things any easier for IT employers. 

Based on their work with more than 80 technology-talent transformations, Blumberg and his team provide advice on how to find and keep tech talent:

  • Remember that top talent is interviewing you, not the other way around: "Why would tech rock stars want to work for you? While money is important, top candidates care about working with newer technologies, building up their skills, being part of a culture that values technology, connecting with a purpose they find meaningful, and, most importantly, working on interesting and inspiring problems."
  • Think candidate experiences, not recruiting process: "Think like a recruit and focus on the candidate experience," the McKinsey analysts advise. "Tech talent wants to meet other technologists, so make sure that engineers and other relevant roles are part of your interview team. Bring your best people to interviews, online events, and conferences."
  • Look to nontraditional channels for reaching candidates. "Post and pray is not a strategy," Blumberg and his co-authors state. "Tech talent isn't just going to job sites, so be active in nontraditional channels, such as hackathons, open-source channels, and specific curated sites for different skills. For some companies, GitHub is their best recruiting channel."
  • Don't just hire and forget: Focus on delivering a superior employee experience, "from hiring and onboarding to creating new career paths and continuously building skills," the coauthors state. Employ "contract-to-hire agreements and leveraging new digital channels, including coding exercises in candidate interviews, and implementing a candidate-tracking system to manage the hiring journey."
  • Elevate the roles of tech talent: "Retaining top talent requires an environment where developers are treated like innovators, not code writers, and are active participants in the business." 
  • Tamp down bureaucracies, and meaningless tasks: "Many top engineers can't work in traditional organizations where a surfeit of managers and bureaucratic processes inhibit them from doing good work at pace. Instead of managing the team day to day or simply telling them what to do, successful leaders focus on clearing organizational roadblocks, enabling team-level decision making, and setting vision and direction," the co-authors state. 
  • Automate and systemize. Organizations need to invest in "developing high-quality, reusable code and provide world-class planning and development tools to make engineers' work lives easier," the co-authors state. "They strive to make more than 80 percent of testing automated and continuous -- with development done only after test cases are written. Leading companies are also investing in low-code and no-code platforms that enable the average business user to develop applications without any software experience, freeing up seasoned developers to focus on the most challenging tasks."
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