The tech industry trend analyses are teeming with speculation on what the next year—or even the next decade—will bring with it. And you’ve probably read your fair share of hot takes on the future of automation, the influence of big data, and the prospects for AI and business intelligence—not to mention the ethics of it all. These undoubtedly important trends will have a lasting influence on the tech industry and beyond. Big data, in particular, seems primed to fuel some of the biggest trends we’ll see this year, and the influence it could have on business strategies could be tremendous.
But from my vantage point, these trends are only a piece of what will define tech this year. More important than the strategies that enable continued growth in the tech industry are the people that imagine and execute that work, and in 2020, the tech companies that will lead the pack will be those that understand how to identify, attract, retain and engage the teams that power their workforce.
Attracting and retaining talent in the tech industry
As a Recruiter, I meet with tech leaders across the country and work to fill pivotal roles in their teams, and there are a lot of similarities in the talent they’re trying to find. Often, they’re looking for data-literate individual contributors or holistic thinking leaders, and it seems clear to all of us that there is more demand than supply in many pockets of the tech world.
And while you’re on the hunt for talent to scale or sustain your business, retaining the talent you already have is no small feat. The tech industry has a higher turnover rate than other industries at 13%, with companies like Google and Amazon having a reported median tenure of just one year. Chances are your employees get phone calls or LinkedIn messages from outside Recruiters weekly.
Between the fight to find the right talent and keep the talent you have, the tech companies that will reign supreme in 2020 will be those that create an employer brand and a people strategy that their workforce believes in and outsiders covet.
Redefining what it means to be an employer of choice in tech
When it comes to creating an employer brand that people covet, the rules of the game have seen a major overhaul in the last few years. Strong total compensation packages and perk-heavy office experiences used to be the perfect equation for a standout employer. It’s how Google and Facebook first attracted powerhouse workforces, offering everything from nap pods, rock climbing walls and game rooms to free, gourmet food and onsite laundry services. But throughout 2019, there was no shortage of signs that tech employees are looking for companies that offer more than flashy amenities and leading compensation packages, and they’re not afraid to speak out if they think their employer’s ethos has strayed.
The employee lawsuits and walkouts that rocked Google, the employee-led petitions from Facebook, the employees who spoke out about Away’s toxic work culture, and WeWork’s wounded workforce were some of the biggest stories to break in tech last year, and as tech companies continue to innovate on what it means to be an employer of choice, it seems like a foregone conclusion that large tech companies will have to grapple with what it means to be an ethical employer brand that inspires its people to stay and do their best work.
Tech companies should be asking themselves: What is our story? How are we compellingly differentiating ourselves in the hiring market? And you should be honest with yourself about what things your workforce might value even over a hefty paycheck. After all, if differentiation comes back to compensation as the sole driver, we’ll all find ourselves in an unsustainable arms race to pay at the top of the market.
Understanding the strategy behind soft skills
I realize things like people strategies and ethical employer brands can sound a little fluffy when your company is blitzscaling, but we all know about the lost productivity turnover or vacant roles can cause. Further, people do better work when they’re motivated, so those tech companies that crack the code of who they want to hire and what inspires their talent pool to do their best work for a sustained period are the ones that will be able to run smoother sprints and stand up better products.
But you’ll notice even these softer skills need a strategy. And if you find you’re chasing the feedback of every disgruntled employee in the name of retention, let me be the one to tell you: You’ve veered off track. Working with your HR and People leaders, though, to define your ideal talent pool and then understand what drives that talent in the market is a powerful first step in tackling the engagement and retention opportunities in your company.
And don’t forget resource planning
All of this work will take time. In fact, people strategies and talent pools are constantly evolving, and no matter how solid your culture or employer brand, you’re still going to have vacant roles and some level of turnover. So how you resource plan to fill gaps in your workforce is another important step. For example, from the time a role is posted to the day its filled, on average, is about 60 days. So are you ready with a resource plan that will bridge that gap? It might be contractors or a job share program, but in an industry where first to market still carries a lot of weight, no one in tech has much time to waste.
Ultimately, the tech trends of 2020 you’re reading about elsewhere are important. Automation and AI, for example, have the potential to transform even how work gets done within the four walls of your company. But in the case of automation or any other trend, you’ll still need people to stand up and maintain these systems, and the companies that are making strong efforts to understand, attract, engage and retain the talent they want will easily have the edge on their competitors.