Today, it’s easy to feel like you’re in a perks and benefits arms race as you try to recruit technology talent. That company offers free lunches on Thursdays and Fridays? We’ll do free lunches all week. They have an on-site gym? Let’s do an on-site spa.
From vacation money to on-site dentists, it’s incredible what many employers offer today to attract and engage talent. But let me give you some insight: you don’t have to offer every perk under the sun to hire and keep great tech workers. You don’t have to build an intricate and irresistible system of cleaning, health and errand services to try and blind them from other employment possibilities.
The secret I’ve found in 15 years of recruiting tech talent is to play the long game for their careers. Short-term benefits like food and service perks are great, but they don’t have the long-term impact on a worker’s career and lives. What does playing the long-game for technology talent look like? It looks like focusing on, investing in and delivering on these four areas:
#1 Compensation: Think $$$
Money matters. It’s a fact. It shapes the lives of every employee and it affects their short and long-term financial stability and possibilities. All the perks and adorable nuances of any workplace take a backseat to compensation. To keep technology workers satisfied from a compensation perspective, businesses have to keep pace with market rates, which change quickly. Underpaying tech workers is the fastest way to lose them. Many businesses under pay by simply not having insight into how much location affects compensation needs. Tech salaries in Austin for example, are far lower than those in Boston or San Francisco, and that reflects cost-of-living realities. According to the Zillow Home Value Index, the median home price in San Francisco is $1.3 million while in Boston it is $600,000 and in Austin it is $365,000. We always tell employers to know and check the marketplace and its rates before making offers. Just as important, you have to keep tabs on salary and bonus trends in order to hold onto staff. Are companies able to lure tech talent from you with better salaries and bonus offers? If you’re not on top of this, you will lose valued talent.
Performance bonuses are also a powerful incentive for tech workers who need to know their hard work is recognized and having a business impact. If your organization has not yet made end-of-year or regular performance bonuses a part of the compensation package, consider it now. Today, people want more than just a salary. They want to be a part of the action and recognized for their contributions. Bonuses are a way to feed that desire, a way to recognize work well done and an excellent tool to ensure performance is high. Workers who know their contributions affect their bonus work harder.
# 2 Career Development: Make a Plan
What’s next? That’s a question businesses are asking every day. And it’s something they ask their workers: “What will your next contribution be?” Naturally employees have the same question about their careers and their employers: “What’s next for my career? What new skills can I learn? What promotion can I achieve? What new technologies or teams can I work on?”
Investing in the career pathing and development of technology talent is a long-term investment that pays off in skill development and retention. Technology professionals today have an acute understanding of how quickly technologies change and that they need to keep up. Employers that help them continue to evolve their skills, stay relevant and explore new options (whether that is moving into management or migrating over to different kinds of projects and exciting new technologies), are giving their technology workers powerful reasons to stay.
#3 Flexibility: Bend the Rules
You know what perk we are hearing technology candidates ask about more than any other? Schedule flexibility. The chance to set one’s work schedule to better adjust to their unique lives is a hot commodity. Perhaps they have kids at home or elderly parents to take care of and need flexibility to manage those schedules. Perhaps local traffic is so terrible that changing start or end times can save a person hours in commuting each week. A big favorite for many in technology is the longer four-day work week that results in the three-day weekend.
No matter how flexible work opportunities are structured, as long as they are effective, they are also a way to play the long game in talent recruitment and retention. Work flexibility gives people the time they need to make their lives better and more satisfying. That is a positive feedback loop that benefits the workplace. The happier and more satisfied your technology employees are in their lives, the happier they will be in their work.
#4 Decision-Making Speed: Answer Fast!
People want to work where they are most wanted. If you are slowly taking time to make an offer to sought-after tech workers, you are losing their interest and their enthusiasm. I have talked to employers who insist on 3-4 rounds of interviewing. To put it into perspective on how hiring managers can’t afford a lengthy hiring process: 20 tech workers just accepted job offers in the time it took me to write this sentence.
Seriously, the tech employment market moves too fast to keep top-tech recruits waiting. If you want to distinguish yourself as an employer today, be bold or you’ll lose talent. Let candidates know they are wanted by moving fast. Does that seem like a short-term move – speed versus thoroughness? Some might argue that it is, but great employees will reward employers who take a risk on them with long-term loyalty. Are you more loyal to the teachers and mentors who took a chance on you in life? Or, does your loyalty go to those people and places with all the right processes and steps in place?
Perks Are Not Enough
In the end, I will always argue for investing in opportunities that deliver the most enduring value to the careers and lives in order to attract, engage and retain tech talent. Small food and service perks are fun, but their impact is limited. Start by ensuring you are playing the long game with talent in terms of compensation, career paths, flexibility and decision-making speed. If you have all that in order, have fun with the perks. If you still have some gaps in these essential areas, hold the perks and focus first on offering tech employees values that last.