How Traditional Industries Can Compete for the Top Tech Talent

In recent years, the talent market for IT professionals has become increasingly competitive, as more and more businesses start to realise that technological innovation will be critical to their future success. Firstly, business growth now largely depends on the implementation of digital technologies that improve the customer experience. Secondly, companies that don’t keep up with the pace of change will find that their infrastructure costs from legacy systems become increasingly and unsustainably expensive.

Even in the more traditional industries where technology has historically been something of an afterthought, like law, companies are now implementing highly sophisticated and complex digital transformation projects. However, the challenge for these businesses, is how to ensure they’re making themselves attractive to the top tech talent. Is it really possible for companies in other industries to compete with the technology giants and rapidly proliferating number of cutting-edge start-ups? The answer, without a doubt, is yes, But they must first be prepared to make certain adjustments to the way they work.


Company culture and benefits

When competing with tech giants and start-ups for talent, one of the first things to consider is workplace culture. Modern tech companies often place a huge emphasis on their supposedly laidback company cultures, with casual dress codes and quirky perks used to lure in new employees. However, many have come under fire for fostering highly pressured work environments, where employees are expected to work unsustainably long hours for no extra pay. Some have also faced criticism for failing to ensure that they are welcoming to certain groups, including older workers and women.

This presents a great opportunity for businesses in other sectors to take a look at what the tech companies are getting right, and combine it with their own unique strengths. For workers who have grown tired of the toxic culture offered by some tech companies, trendy gimmicks like games rooms and free food will no longer be enough of a draw. Instead, the businesses that can guarantee a healthy work-life balance, place a focus on inclusivity and employee wellbeing, and offer solid benefits like generous annual leave, good maternity/paternity packages and flexible working, will likely be far more attractive prospects.

A fun, friendly culture is a very important part of cultivating a strong employer brand. Thanks to the internet, it’s never been easier for candidates to research potential employers, and many will turn to a business’s social media channels to get a feel for its ethos. Fortunately, when a company’s values and identity are well-established and embodied by all its employees, it should be fairly easy to ensure that its social media profiles also reflect them. This can be a relatively easy way to highlight the best things about working for a business, and to set it apart from the competition for the best talent.


Challenging projects

Just as important as the workplace environment is the work itself. One of the main concerns that tech workers are likely to have about taking a role in a more “traditional” industry, is that they will not have the opportunity to take on on the same type of exciting, cutting-edge projects as they would elsewhere. If businesses are serious about looking to hire the best and brightest tech talent, it’s crucial that they are sure they are able to offer the work to match.

The most talented tech employees will be incredibly passionate about what they do, and should find the prospect of helping to digitally transform a business exciting. However, businesses must be prepared to take risks in the name of innovation, or risk losing these workers to other enterprises that are more willing to think outside the box. Ideally, technology should be integrated into a business’s strategic plans, which will make it possible to prove to these employees that they will play a crucial role in moving the business forward.

A collaborative approach, which sees technology workers regularly meeting with and given support by other executives, including the CEO, is vital. The title of the role and the internal reporting structure should reflect the seniority of the role in question. For instance, if you hire someone who is expected to influence the senior leadership team, should they be on that team themselves? Many IT executives will be aware of others who have taken on positions that involve a high level of accountability but very little power, and therefore be very cautious when it comes to titles, responsibilities and hierarchies. It’s also incredibly important to offer good career progression. Potential hires should be able to see how a role will benefit their career overall, in addition to how they could develop their skills at the company in question.

SMEs looking to build a technical team should always look to take advantage of their agility compared with larger businesses, as a way to present opportunities for talented people. Those that can demonstrate that they are forward-thinking, and have both the desire to be innovative and the financial resource to implement a coherent digital strategy, can make themselves just as attractive as the larger companies. At the bigger corporations, opportunities to develop new systems and processes from the ground up, or make a significant contribution to existing technologies, are usually limited to all but a few at the very top.


The hiring process

Once a business is sure that it is able to offer the workplace culture and projects required to attract and retain the top tech talent, it must then ensure that its hiring process does not then act as a stumbling block. Firstly, job postings should be carefully crafted to ensure they effectively convey the company’s unique selling points. They should clearly and concisely highlight the reasons both the role and the company are worthy of serious consideration by people who may never have worked outside of the tech industry before. Internal and external recruiters should also be able to accurately convey this message.

The application process should not be too onerous; with competition for the best talent so fierce, applicants are unlikely to jump over hurdles just to send over their CV when they have so many other roles available to them. Equally, the “time to hire” should be as short as possible. Traditional businesses can be much slower when it comes to interviewing candidates, with more unnecessary bureaucracy to wade through than start-ups for example. Once the hiring process has begun, businesses should ensure that anybody required to meet applicants, like the CEO, has enough allotted time in their calendars to be able to do so quickly. Otherwise, businesses may find that the best candidates have accepted another role before they have even been for a second interview.

Although the process should be as speedy as possible, it should also be thorough, with some form of test of applicants’ technical skills. Not only will this help businesses to identify the most talented candidates, but it will also suggest to candidates that the potential employer is serious about hiring the best talent. It should also go without saying that salaries should be benchmarked, both against direct competitors in the same industry, and against tech companies in the area.

While it’s certainly possible for businesses outside of the tech industry to attract the best and brightest workers to their ranks, they must first ensure that they are acutely aware of their own strengths and weaknesses. By taking a comprehensive look at the business from the top down, they will be able to identify what it is that they can offer that others can’t, while also addressing any areas that may be acting as a deterrent.


Dan Taylor is the Director of Systems at Fletchers Solicitors.

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