The Art of Tech Talent War

Image credit: iStockphoto/Avesun

There is a global war going on for tech talents. And every tech talent knows it.

A study from IT consulting firm Contino showed that nearly 40% of technologists in Australia received more than ten job offers every year. In Southeast Asia, despite the economic uncertainty, 70% of tech hiring managers stated it takes them more than three months to fill an open tech position.

Unfortunately, this war will not end anytime soon, as companies continue to invest in tech to modernize their business models. There is a lot at stake here. Winning this war can determine how well companies can compete digitally.

Gerhard Schweinitz, head of talent Contino, is in the middle of this war. And he’s fighting with three “weapons” that were highlighted in its recent report The Voice of Talent 2021:

  • Competitive salary
  • Use of modern technologies and practices
  • Flexibility in work schedule, location, and arrangement

Yet, understanding what the talents need is just a start. It’s essential to turn the voice of talents into actions and keeping the work interesting.

The science of keeping work interesting

“We often see talents receiving multiple offers, but they are willing to work at Contino because the work is more interesting,” said Schweinitz. “A lot of tech talents get frustrated by the work when they are working with legacy technologies or practices.”

He added that providing an opportunity to work with modern technology attracts tech talents, demonstrating the company’s technology leadership. The ability to apply an agile approach with DevOps or to adopt machine learning and AI requires technology leaders who are visionary and knowledgeable. Very often, this is the leadership quality that attracts talents.

“If I work for any organization that is not up-to-date and forward-looking in their technology stack, then I’d want to look at how to transform this,” said SUSE’s customer success manager Chris Fordham, in the report.  “If your organization has not evolved, then it is hard to expect interest from this top-tier layer of talent.”

Another way to bring more interesting work for talents is through training. Schweinitz said that besides providing technology training required for the projects, each talent at Contino is also offered AUD 5,000 and five days of study leave annually, on top of their salary and annual leave.

“Any training the company requested is separated from this offer,” he said. “Talents can choose something they are passionate about and use this budget to fulfill their career and personal aspiration.”

Weaponizing flexibility

Of the three “weapons,” Schweinitz said flexibility was most crucial. “Flexibility is a must-have in any offering,” he said. “But we still work as one team and deliver one mission.”

Contino has six global offices with teams working in multiple countries and time zones. Flexibility is not limited to working locations and hours but also extended to contractor arrangements and the gig workforce.

Recognizing the value of flexible workforce arrangement, he said 15-20% of Contino’s workforce is gig workers.

“There are many talented people who can help Contino to achieve results, but they prefer to work as contractors. We value their talent, and we want to bring them onboard,” said Schweinitz.

Contino is not the only one doubling down on hiring a gig workforce for highly skilled IT roles. According to Gartner’s “10 Types Roles You Didn’t Know Could Be Gig” report, IT gig workers are no longer limited to software development work.

“The types of high-skilled IT experts available in the gig talent marketplace have greatly expanded in the last five years,” stated the report. “IT gig workers now specialize in areas, including AI or robotics, or contributing as blockchain architects, ethical hackers, programmers, cloud architects, cybersecurity testers, and DevOps engineers.”

Gartner’s report added that with the flexibility to hire a gig workforce, tech employers could enjoy faster access to a relatively larger pool of specialized talent. It allows them to undertake projects that would otherwise be difficult with the existing skillset.

The IT research and advisory firm also noted gig workforce is a strategy for tech employers that can also attract Gen Z talents, who tend to have a strong inclination towards remote and flexible work arrangements.

Don’t pigeonhole gig workers

Nevertheless, flexibility also comes with its challenges. When job stability or permanent offers are not the incentives for gig workers, Gartner’s CHROs Research Team noted employers need to understand better what gig workers want.

“Generation Z and millennials are far more likely to take a new contingent job to rapidly advance their careers,” stated Gartner’s What Contingent Workers Want report. But for the millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers, they value the work-life balance and better compensation offered by many gig opportunities.

To ensure collaboration between full-time and gig workers, Schweinitz from Contino added gig workers are hired not only because of their talents but also how well they fit with the corporate culture.

“We run agile delivery processes [that need] high collaboration and engagement between team members,” he said. “[Gig workers] have to pass the same screening process to ensure they match with our working culture.”

With more organizations are turning to the gig workforce in the war of tech talent, Gartner suggested employers “must keep in mind the contingent workers of different generations, and contingent workers and permanent employees collaboration.”

Sheila Lam is the contributing editor of DigitalWorkforceTrends. Covering IT for 20 years as a journalist, she has witnessed the emergence, hype, and maturity of different technologies but is always excited about what's next. You can reach her at [email protected].

Image credit: iStockphoto/Avesun