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How to attract and retain tech talent in a crowded market Emma Howes, Senior HR Director at Klaviyo

The UK is facing an acute tech skills shortage1. Even before the pandemic, demand was far out-stripping supply – and the past 20 months have only made the problem worse. Organisations are now more reliant on technology than ever before, making their appetite for tech skills even more voracious.

Incidentally, the problem is particularly bad in the tech sector. Here, the majority of employees need advanced tech skills, yet employers are competing with every other sector for them. Tech organisations are also contending with the fallout from the pandemic in the form of the ‘great resignation’. As people reconsider what they want from life and work, eight in 10 digital leaders believe that new life priorities among staff are making retention more challenging2.

So what are employers doing about it? The answer is ‘not enough’ – or at least ‘not enough in the right areas’. A number of tech organisations have established skills academies or partnered with universities on skills development initiatives, but just 38% have redesigned their employer offer to make themselves more attractive to new recruits.3

This is a missed opportunity. There are a number of things that every tech organisation can and should do to make themselves a more attractive employer. Here are just a few.

Clearly communicate your appeal

Tech organisations can’t afford to sit back and relax when it comes to hiring. It’s easy to think that large enterprises, the likes of Google, Microsoft and Facebook will have a monopoly on tech talent – but this isn’t the case. There are lots of points of appeal to working for a startup or smaller-sized company – and employers in this category need to be clear on these.

Smaller enterprises are often more agile and fast-paced, as decisions don’t have to go through layers and layers of approval. In addition, People at all levels tend to have a greater say in decisions, as it’s easier to canvas opinion and find consensus in smaller groups.

There are also developmental advantages for career starters. In smaller organisations, these are more likely to work closely with more seasoned professionals. This can help them learn faster, and lead to faster progression.

Be a truly inclusive employer

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This year, CNBC found that 80% of workers want to work for a company that values diversity, equity and inclusion4. Most organisations and leadership teams do value these things, but to differentiate themselves, they need to go beyond talking the talk and really walk the walk.

This means examining HR policies, processes and programmes to ensure these are truly inclusive. Take family leave policies, for example. Most organisations offer maternity or paternity leave, but these policies – and even terms – don’t work for same-sex couples, or those welcoming children through adoption or surrogacy.

At Klaviyo we’re addressing this issue by moving away from gendered leave policies, and offering Primary and Secondary Caregiver entitlements instead.

Go beyond with benefits

In a competitive talent market, salary increases are often employers’ first bargaining tool. But when everyone has topped these up, where do they go next? A clear answer is emerging – and that’s ‘benefits’.

The pandemic has caused a degree of upheaval in the benefits space. Employers who relied on perks such as free breakfasts or after work drinks have had to reconsider these, as fewer employees are going into physical workspaces.

There’s now an opportunity for employers to re-look at their benefits packages in light of workplace shifts and use these as a real point of differentiation. The best, or most effective benefits schemes aren’t just a ramshackle list; they’re carefully curated to say something about the employer and their commitment to their people. At Klaviyo, for example, we provide a £2,500 a year training and learning stipend, an unlimited free book policy and one-on-one coaching through Bravely. Not only is this our way of leaning into one of our core values that Klaviyos are always learning, it tells current and prospective employees that we care about their careers and we’re on a joint mission to inspire education and personal growth.

Looking forward

Unfortunately, there is no easy solution to the tech skills shortage in the UK. As demand continues to increase, organisations will have to work harder to stand out in the crowd. Employers need to reconsider what they offer employees, in terms of reward, culture and development opportunities. And once they’re competitive across all these areas, they need to shout about it.

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