Winning the Tech Talent War

Last night, I attended TalentMinded’s Next Generation Talent Acquisition meet-up on “How to Hire and Retain Tech Talent”. The panel included Jack Noppé, Chief Product Officer of Intelex Technologies Inc., Lauris Apse, Senior Director of Digital Operations at CBC, Malgosia Green, Chief Product Officer, TopHat and Gianluca Cairo, Chief of Staff, Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Government of Canada.

The panel discussion for the evening explored ways that companies are being successful in attracting and retaining scarce technology talent. The moderator for the evening, Kim Benedict, CEO of Talentminded kicked off with a sobering statistic. In a forty-kilometer radius of the event, there are currently over 700 job postings for full-stack software developers and this is just one of the many job titles that make up the software development infrastructure of a company. Against this backdrop, I captured five important themes from the evening to share.

Companies are moving away from hiring for “Culture fit” to hiring for “Values fit”. This may seem a very subtle and nuanced difference, but it is an important distinction. “Culture fit” often leads to hiring people who look and think like you and therefore eliminates a large number of candidates from the pool, creates systematic biases and reduces diversity. Hiring for “Values fit” means hiring people who share the same values as you and your company, but may think very differently about how to accomplish these. This leads to diversity in thinking, higher productivity, better solutions and a more diverse and less homogeneous workforce. It also opens up larger pools of candidates.

The second key point was around understanding your employee value proposition, embracing what you are and matching your recruiting strategy to attract the people that looking for the distinctions that you offer. Working in Digital Media at CBC represents a different employee value proposition and attracts a different employee than the value proposition of working at high growth start-ups like Intelex or TopHat. One is not right and the other wrong, but rather each attracts different candidate types.

Third, imbed your recruiters into your development team so that your tech recruiters sit with, go to lunch with, and socialize with your Dev team. Break down silos between HR / Recruiting and your hiring managers. When I led a large team at PeopleSoft, we approached the working relationship between a recruiter and a hiring manager similar to the working relationship between a salesperson and their sales engineer. Both have distinct roles but ultimately work as a team to sell your value proposition to a candidate and convince them to join your company.

Fourth, you can not run recruiting as an “off-the-side-of-your-desk” activity. Recruiting must be a primary activity for leaders and metrics are required to hold managers, directors and executives accountable for results. Three years ago, I worked with a client to restructure their recruiting approach. At the time, I told their SVP for Products and Services that he needed to carve out 30% of his schedule to devote to recruiting. Eighteen months later, he confessed that at the time that he thought I was crazy, but now, looking back, he thought my time estimate was low.

Finally, think of “Diversity” as Canada’s secret weapon and superpower in the talent war. We have internationally renown universities that attract students from around the world (for example, 35% of University of Toronto’s enrollment is international students). Our challenge is to keep that talent here once they graduate while also attracting experienced talent to relocate to Canada as permanent residents. To that end, for qualifying companies, The Canadian Federal Government Ottawa is establishing a two-week “standard” for approving visas and work permits.

There was a lot of wisdom floating around last night. I hope these few points that I captured help you in winning your war for talent.


Author : Peter Smith — Business Advisor, Coach, Trainer & Corporate Director for startup & emerging software & professional services companies.

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