Why hiring is so difficult now, and how to deal with it

This story is part of our manual, “The Great Resignation.” Read more here.

The pandemic sent shockwaves into the market for tech talent. Prospective candidates have so many options now that the entire industry is rethinking how to get them-and how to keep them.

“The days of‘ I’m so lucky to have a job ’are now a case of‘ We’re so lucky with these employees, ’” said Rhys Hughes, executive talent partner at GV. “Organizations need to be very careful – even those that have experienced unparalleled levels of success in the last four to five years – that they really understand that this is a candidate market.”

Not everyone agrees that getting is harder than ever. Jay Parikh, co-CEO of cybersecurity company Lacework, said it’s always hard to get tech-savvy people. Now “others are just‘ difficult, ’” thanks to the competitive market and how the talent market is geographically distributed. Zoom recruiting brings its own set of challenges.

Startups and large technology companies continue to take over. And while remote employment has opened up new local talent markets to employers, it also means the best candidates now have more options than ever before. More importantly, this pandemic-tested generation of tech talent provides flexibility, work-life balance and a sense of work mission.

“Employees are realizing and re -evaluating what they want from their jobs,” said Meagan Gregorczyk, senior director of Performance and Talent Management at ServiceNow. “They definitely don’t want to chase a performance rating. That is no longer what ‘meaning’ means. They want to be the next incredible version of themselves. “

Money vs. mission vs. flexibility

Professionals are re -evaluating how work fits into their lives. Having time to deliver kids to the bus stop in the morning is more attractive than a ping pong table or kombucha station in the office, Gregorczyk says.

In this environment, compensation is just one of several important recruiting levers. Many companies throw money at candidates in hopes of surpassing other offers, but smart leaders will take a more holistic approach. (Some companies are rethinking how they provide bonuses to avoid losing employees who waited until the bonus period to jump.)

“Compensation has always been a career weapon,” said Chris French, executive vice president of Customer Strategy at Workhuman. “There will be winners and losers there. But for many companies, that’s not the only approach you have. You can compete on flexibility, but most tech companies will be flexible.

Executive candidates in particular aren’t always looking to woo more money up front, Hughes said.

“A lot of the executives I talk to want to do things that are more mission -driven,” Hughes said, seeing that some are more willing to cut salaries to join a promising startup. “They’re willing to take on money or equity that may not be as valuable as where they are now, but could have a bigger upside in the future.”

To keep your people, help them grow

For leaders who feel anxious about attrition, think twice before throwing increases and equity increases into the problem. Some founders make mistakes as their companies grow and naturally see more shifts, but there are other ways to keep up at this stage, Hughes says.

High-growth companies will naturally see higher attrition to 100 employees than they did as a scrappy 10-person startup. It’s around the 100-employee mark that “the critical pace of learning is very retentive,” Hughes said. First-line managers, engineers, and salespeople are all hungry for learning and development opportunities.

That just doesn’t apply to startups: As large tech companies grow, they need to find ways to support employee learning and development, especially when it comes to training new managers. ServiceNow’s solution is to offer six months of external coaching to its new human managers, and to offer “additional sets of training wheels” to new managers whose direct reports are also new to company.

Unique in the beginning

Most companies ’recruitment processes have room for improvement. In a candidate’s market, making a good first impression is important.

“Whatever the outcome, you almost want that individual to go home and tell their friends and family what a great experience that was,” Hughes said.

Some of GV’s portfolio companies put their own unique rotation into the process to get noticed, such as sending swag or sending the candidate a video from the hiring manager. But Hughes recommends doing the basics well. It’s best to encourage candidates by “leading with general curiosity about their background, eagerness about the opportunity and more eagerness about the company’s trajectory,” he said.

Communicating the importance of the company’s mission is a favorite recruiting strategy of Parikh. If done effectively, all kinds of candidates – not just security geeks – will find themselves on Lacework’s mission, he said.

And hiring leaders needs to own the process rather than relying on HR or talent acquisition teams, Hughes said.

But Parikh warned leaders to rely only on getting managers to make the final call.

“There’s a bunch of unprotected biases [against] well if you leave the hiring decision that only the hiring manager will make, ”said Parikh. That’s a “very normal” way to hire tech, Parikh says, but it can allow biases to enter and hurt companies trying to get the best.

Actually, the recruiting process starts long before the job is available, so leaders must spend 10% to 15% of their time networking to build a candidate pipeline, Hughes says.

“There’s a saying, once you open a job description, you’re late,” Hughes said. “Utopia is: You don’t have to open a job description because you’re committed to a talent team 18 months before you need them.”

The old forward

What rises must fall, and it will not be the candidate market forever. But there’s no clear way to know when that change will happen, so companies need to examine how they differentiate themselves from the competition. And those conversations have to start at the top of the company.

“The acquisition experience is no longer a function of HR. It becomes a C-suite function,” Hughes said.


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