Our Key Takeaways from the Breakfast Roundtable: Building Tech Teams Amongst Post-COVID Challenges
There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the way that we work as an industry. What’s come to light in the past six months is the impact that COVID has had on the way that we (and you!) recruit. In Australia’s tech market, there’s a significant candidate shortage at the moment and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
This month our Tech Team hosted a roundtable with some of our nearest and dearest Tech Leader friends in Brisbane. We wanted to look at building tech teams amongst post-COVID challenges, share what we are seeing in the market and allow these industry leaders to connect and discuss what they are experiencing.
Here’s some of our key takeaways:
Takeaway 1 | Balancing remote work & flexibility w/ team face time
Many tech leaders are still assessing the impact of remote work and what it means for business as usual post-COVID.
Many businesses are still trying to work out what that should look like, asking themselves:
- How do we still get to spend time with our teams in the office while remaining flexible and competitive with companies that have all-remote policies?
- Do we create mandatory days in the office, or use softer language? E.g. “We encourage all team members to join us in the office on Wednesday.”
- Do we have an open-door policy with our offices and it’s entirely up to individuals and teams about how and when they use the office?
- Or, do we stop paying for physical spaces altogether and shift to an entirely remote workforce?
Takeaway 2 | The value of a strong employer brand for both talent attraction & retention
A strong employer brand is the best investment from both a talent attraction and talent retention standpoint.
Many of the organisations want to improve their employer brand but are struggling to prioritise it among competing priorities (i.e. actually building the product!)
So for employers not knowing where to start, start with your Entry Interviews; why did your current team and employees you love decide to work with you? That will help you identify quick wins or areas to focus on to begin building your employer brand. Taking one-step towards a strong employer brand is better than doing nothing at all.
Takeaway 3 | To counter or not-to-counter offer?
The age-old question; your employee has received an offer from another company…. Do you counter the offer or not?
Our roundtable of Tech Leaders was divided on this topic; some have counter-offered and others were vehemently against it.
Why people had counter-offered in the past:
- The candidate wanting to leave wasn’t feeling challenged technically and the leader could easily fix that now they knew it was a problem. They increased the salary to bring it in line with the other offer the candidate had received and moved the candidate to a more exciting and challenging position.
- The candidate was being remunerated in line with the going market rate but they were happy with everything else about their role and didn’t want to leave.
Why people were anti-counter offering:
- It tarnishes the trust within the relationship. The sentiment towards this from leaders was ‘if you are fielding opportunities outside of the organisation you already have one foot out the door and aren’t fully committed to this relationship.’
- If you are ready to leave the organisation, it is best for us all if you do move onto new opportunities and challenges. This had a similar sentiment to the first dot point.
What everyone agreed on was that counter-offering should not be used as a bandaid because a) it’s not the best thing for the organisation or the individual and b) it is only ever a temporary fix and the employee, who isn’t feeling fulfilled, will end up leaving in the following 3-6 months anyway.
Takeaway 4 | To tech test or not-to-test?
Our roundtable of Tech Leaders all agreed that there is still merit and importance to running tech tests with potential candidates. Recruitment, at the end of the day, is still a risky activity and if you’re employing someone to code day in and day out, you want to make sure that they can walk the talk. Or at the very least, can display an aptitude for problem-solving and being able to autonomously figure out the things they don’t know. So, when you come up with candidates that are resistant to completing a technical task, what are the other options that are out there?
What other alternatives are we seeing:
- Adapt the process for the level of candidate – consider whether more senior candidates should complete a code review to more closely align with the type of work they would actually do.
- Ask candidates to submit pre-existing code that they have – it gives them the option to show off code that they’re proud of, it speeds up the process and gives you the chance to see what your candidate can produce without the pressure of a test.
- Can you consider platforms or services that run tech testing within a timeframe to assist in speeding the process along and making it an even playing field for all candidates?
- Ask for referrals! If you trust the people around you to know what they’re looking for, this may mitigate the need for a technical test.
Takeaway 5 | The importance of condensing your interview process
In the market that we’re seeing that the moment, there’s no doubt that in addition to all of the challenges that we’re seeing in the tech market at the moment, we’re also running against the clock. One of the key challenges companies face at the moment is the question of:
How do you properly assess a candidate’s technical and cultural fit in a way that provides you with enough information to make an informed decision, but isn’t presented in a way that’s off-putting for a candidate to complete?
A great example of this dilemma was a candidate that had been dragged through a twelve-stage interview process within a global tech giant. With more hoops to jump through than a professional dog show, the candidate became increasingly frustrated with the process and ultimately declined the offer (of $350K!) as they felt the process spoke to the culture of the company and the approvals that would be required in the day-to-day of working with the company.
The learning of this example is to design your recruitment process in a way that reflects your company values and company culture. Make your recruitment process enjoyable to go through – a selling point if you will, rather than a deterrent.
Takeaway 6 | Golden handcuffs are an expensive price to pay for retention
Around our table of Tech Leaders, there were stories of companies investing in ‘golden handcuffs’ as a retention strategy whereby employees are offered financial incentives or significant investment in share schemes in exchange for tenure. While this strategy may see a reduction in turnover as employees wait to hit the tenure requirements to access these benefits, you’re also likely to be left with resentful employees who may have moved on much sooner had it not been for the incentive to stick around.
As you can imagine, the type of incentive that would incentivise someone to stay, also comes at a cost. For the impact that this kind of deal could have on company culture, the money may be better invested in improving culture and employer brand – you may find that tenure is just as good if the focus is on creating a great place to come to work.
Takeaway 7 | Interstate tech giants gobbling up talent
With Sydney and Melbourne tech giants moving to remote-first models and expanding their talent search to sunny Queensland, this has had a significant impact on the Brisbane tech talent pool.
What does this mean for companies?
- It’s incredibly hard to compete with the monetary incentives that some of these companies offer.
- On top of salaries, the brands themselves are a drawcard – have a big tech brand on your resume and you’re set for life!
- Even in an interstate environment, the additional perks are still aplenty and alluring.
What can companies do about it?
- Focus on the things you can control: build an awesome in-office environment culture to draw your employees back into the office – a fully remote role won’t work for everyone, so draw on this to find talent that want to stay in Brisbane and work with Brisbane friends.
- Build your employer brand: a great Brisbane company with a cracking employer brand becomes equally as enticing.
If you’re looking for help in growing and retaining your Tech Team but aren’t quite sure where to start, Emily Conaghan (firstname.lastname@example.org / 0403 726 487) and Carly Shearman (email@example.com / 0488 721 180) are a great first port of call.