Connecting with right tech talent

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Aden - Yasmin Abdel Azim - The managers in Southeast Asia rated the difficulty level of hiring tech talent at 7 on a scale of 10 Image Credit: File photo

It’s curious that while technology and data are playing increasingly larger roles in the business environment, it is becoming harder for organisations — especially large ones — to find the kind of tech (or data) talent they need.

A recent survey by Robert Walters in Southeast Asia revealed that 70 per cent of managers took three months or more to fill an open tech position on their team. The managers, who participated in the survey, rated the difficulty level of hiring tech talent at 7 on a scale of 10, with 10 being the hardest.

In part, this is down to tech graduates gravitating towards start-ups and nimble enterprises, and while this isn’t a bad thing in itself, it does pose a challenge for the bigger organisations, who not only need good talent but also need them in large numbers. Moreover, not every region in the world has a large and steady stream of graduates suitably qualified to meet the tech and data requirements of their industries.

In such cases, companies have to resort to hiring from a global talent pool, making it more difficult for them to compete.

Hire right

Every company, of course, wants to hire the best people. The problem is that it’s often hard to identify and quantify talent unless the job requirements and associated skill sets are clearly defined.

Engineers with the same degree may not necessarily be equally adept at doing the same job.

Similarly, the requirements of a data scientist’s role will be quite different from those of a data analyst.

The first step, therefore, for organisations is to clearly define each role within the team, and make sure the right people with the appropriate skills and experience are hired for the right roles.

This sounds elementary … but this crucial step is often missing and is a leading cause of churn.

Chart an upward path

Once employed, and a well-structured road map for career development has been established, recognition and visibility are powerful motivators in a corporate environment.

This is especially true for employees working in “supporting” functions or departments that are not yet perceived as being at the core of the company’s business.

Tech or data-centric roles generally fall in this category unless, of course, it’s a technology company. It is therefore important for companies to show that such talent is not only needed, but is valued and recognised.

Companies also need to address the issue of the culture fit that exists between the tech world, which generally allows a casual dress code and flexible hours, and the corporate world, which is much more formal. It’s a mistake to dismiss or underestimate this factor; it could make a big difference to whether a non-tech company is able to attract the kind of talent it needs.

It is also worthwhile noting that implementing a casual dress code or placing a foosball table in the office should not be considered as replacements for the real differentiators — adequately defined roles and structured career path.

Of the many things that an organisation can do to stand out among employers, some deserve special mention.

* Explore academic partnerships

This is one of the best ways to engage with, and help develop, emerging talent. Corporate-academia partnerships can take many forms: sharing of company data sets, collaboration on case studies and campus placements, to name a few. It’s not just a good recruiting ground for companies, but also an opportunity for students to do work that will help to prepare them for the workplace.

Furthermore, the approach, the dedication and the skills that students demonstrate while working on projects is a good indicator of what they would be like as industry professionals. These partnerships also provide companies with an opportunity to work with academic bodies to define the skills that will be needed in the future.

This helps to influence curriculums so that students are equipped for the jobs of the future. Multiple universities have developed industry advisory boards to cater for this.

* Be open, be transparent

The re:Work project by Google is an excellent example of how a company can leverage the power of data to earn credibility in a domain of their choice. By sharing research, insights, practices and ideas on how to put people above everything else, Google has become something of a go-to resource for HR professionals.

Companies can similarly build a reputation for themselves in data and technology by, for instance, contributing to and adopting open source technology, which is a big area of interest for emerging talent and seasoned professionals alike.

* Build a reputation for technology and innovation.

Top talent seeks out organisations — big or small — that have a reputation for technology and innovation. It is therefore important for companies, especially the non-tech ones, to communicate their tech vision, capabilities and the projects they are engaged in to relevant audiences.

One way to do this is through engaging directly with universities and tech interest groups, but you can also target the channels where tech talent consumes its content. While conventional media remains influential, digital platforms now offer much larger reach, targeting, and the advantage of shareability.

Regardless of how you reach your audience, consistent and clear communication is essential in building your reputation around data and technology.

Lastly, it is important to remember that the only thing harder than attracting talent is retaining it. So, once you find the people you need, do all you can to develop, train, and keep them.

Talent is your company’s competitive advantage. You don’t want to hand it to others.

— Guillaume Thfoin is Head of Business Analytics, Majid Al Futtaim — Holding.

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