Skilled tech workers are in high demand despite job losses at large tech firms and rising threats to job security caused by generative AI and automation.
While times are tough now, smart business leaders know that savvy IT professionals are the key to unlocking the benefits of digital transformation and long-term growth.
So what’s the recipe for attracting the best tech talent? Five business leaders give us their special sauce.
1. Create a strategy
Rob Mills, chief technology officer at Tractor Supply, says his company has three key strategies to keep the talent it needs.
First, Mills says, the company “hires hard” and then makes sure its ambitious and high-performing employees are given opportunities to develop and grow.
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“A big part of that effort is our commitment to our team members — and that’s not just learning the business, but investing in them and growing them internally.”
Another key factor that helps Mills Tractor Supply attract talent is its long-term vision, both in terms of technology and the people who use it the most.
“Digital is a big area where we’re investing – data, AI, analytics. How do you start introducing that talent earlier so you can build strength?”
Finally, Mills ensures his company has a ready source of talent by building relationships with major universities like MIT or connecting with untapped talent in the local community, including high schools and community colleges.
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“We’re coming in and influencing their curriculum, providing internships, sponsorships, externships and tuition reimbursement,” he says. “It’s about helping to find and fuel talent. We get some of our brightest and best people from local community sources.”
2. Identify opportunities
According to Lisa Hengan, global digital officer at consultancy KPMG, the ability of a business to attract talent is directly related to the opportunity to learn new things.
“If I look at KPMG, the most powerful thing we have is that we are at the heart of solving business problems,” she says. “We are a global business that can take on new challenges.”
Heneghan says KPMG offers candidates a wide range of positions, from audit to tax to consulting. The company competes with big tech companies for digital talent — and that’s not easy to win.
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The key to success is to demonstrate that working for a firm like KPMG provides an opportunity for professionals in the economy to learn how to tackle big business challenges.
“I show people that they have the opportunity to open up to new experiences and expand their skills in areas they might not have thought of, to get closer to the client, the sector or the practice, and to be creative,” she says.
“For me, the opportunity for technologists at KPMG is to work on business problems. But make no mistake, it’s a very challenging market. And you have to create mobility, flexibility and joy for people.”
3. Reveal your values
Danny Gonzalez, chief digital and innovation officer at London North East Rail (LNER), says focusing on values shows what your company wants from its employees – and why candidates would love the chance to work for you.
“Values are built at LNR through a collaborative process,” he says. “They were created by teams working in the business, not by the executive team.”
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González says that one of the main values is “being brave”.
Two other values are important, says Gonzalez. One says “bring passion” – and being hungry for new challenges is crucial in areas like high-tech innovation.
Another key value — which Gonzalez says is probably his favorite — is “ownness.”
“People at LNER can take ownership of what they do,” he said. “They have the autonomy to focus on what we need to do and then go ahead and do it and deliver it.
4. Make people happy
Pension Protection Fund Chief Information Technology Officer Simon Liste goes out of his way to show candidates that being part of his organization means doing some meaty projects.
“It’s about showing people what you’re up to and the journey you’re on as an organization,” he says. “I think technologists like to know that they are part of the business transformation, rather than just dealing with the functional elements.”
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List says that the show-and-tell mentality is something that has been pushed into the masses.
“When we meet with candidates, we talk about our values, the strategic plan, what we’re doing and how technology is changing services. We show how our IT organization will influence where we go next as a business,” he says.
“It’s not about operational activity, it’s about fun work. They see the value that technology and digital can bring and the impact we’ve already had.”
5. Cast your net wide.
Neil Poulton, head of development at the BCP Council, says money is tighter in public sector firms than in blue-chip enterprises, so different strategies are used.
“We have an internship program. We take internships and develop on-the-job training.”
Sometimes Poulton dives into the business to find hidden tech talent — and it’s a strategy that’s helped him find gold, including someone else in the organization who now works as a champion for the council’s growing use of Microsoft technology.
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“It was unique to Power Apps,” Poulton says. “He came up through the ranks, worked in our mailroom, and now he’s got a job in IT. He was an asset we didn’t even know we had.”
External recruitment can play an important role. And, again, the people who come in are trained and skilled on the job.
“We’ve just successfully hired two Power Platform developers,” Poulton says. “Instead of going to the market and buying someone who doesn’t have the talent, they bring in raw talent that we can train.”