In the face of market expansion, inflation and the race for digital transformation, there is an unprecedented war for tech talent. Companies are looking at new ways to acquire, hire and retain tech talent as they try and zero in on the skills that shall differentiate success in the future of work. As Abhimanyu Saxena, Co-founder of Scaler, says, “We graduate close to 60 lakh engineers in India, but the dichotomy is that all companies are struggling to hire a few quality engineers”. Here are valuable insights on sourcing, building and exploring critical strategies to hire tech talent in today’s talent shortage scenario.
The tech talent landscape of today
The talent shortage in the technology space can be attributed to two sides of the same coin, i.e. the talent and organisational perspective:
Candidates lack the right awareness of what capabilities companies are looking for. As Sachin Bhandari, Director- Software Engineering, Paypal, shares, “One of the reasons for this gap is that candidates lack the depth of know-how, and are tech-savvy but keywords-driven”. Firms like Scaler exist to fill these gaps between education and professional life by involving corporates to provide curriculums and guide candidates to build depth of expertise and think vertically. Puneet mentions that candidates give interviews randomly without knowing the role and skills. “This disturbs the ecosystem of TA and candidate”, says he. Instead, freshers should aim to get industry exposure to break the expectations-versus-reality myth.
Many organisations prefer talent from tier-1 institutes or locations. This is a mind-blockage, according to Puneet Khurana, Group Head HR, Policybazaar. “We have a mix of talent from different areas, and we give them enough chance to learn, perform, and grow”. Abhimanyu agrees that creating such biases is no longer an option in today’s hyperconnected world where anyone can learn. “Organizations should focus on skills, but not titles, to help create better talent pipelines”, says he. Kartik Rao, Group Chief People Officer, The Good Glamm Group, believes in building long-term talent by becoming an employer of choice. “Life is an equaliser, and very soon, people with 200% hikes but without capability will be questioned on delivery”, says Kartik. Organisations must realise the imperative to return to the core of culture, growth, people, behaviours, and long-term investment.
Sustainable strategies to source new talent
Organisations must build the hiring strategy on core fundamentals:
Paypal firmly believes that talent exists everywhere, and the real question is how equipped the organisation is to identify it. Sachin says that gender, talent base, and thought diversity are necessary to avoid becoming monolithic giants. Kartik agrees that today, diversity is a mandate to get the right people. Steps such as enabling tech-HR cross-pollination and educating HR practitioners in tech skills shall foster diversity. “We encourage diverse people from other sources; we hire them, train them, and learn from them”, shares Sachin. Hence, Puneet believes in putting evaluation filters for diversity at the hiring level.
“As TA and hiring managers, what do we require for the job role?”, “What are must-haves and good-to-haves?” “How ready are your employees to grow within the organization?” “Why would candidates choose you over others?”
These answers will help get the basics right and hire and retain talent sustainably.
Core values and culture:
Companies should be upfront about their core values. Puneet believes that many value-buzzwords are being used, but talent constantly questions how factual these statements are. Every tech company has its own culture. “Can we solve culture at the micro level such that the top leadership team can stay consistent for the next 3-4 years?” should be the outlook toward culture curation. It will help build contextual knowledge, career growth, and success stories which can help people on the ground stick long term. Companies focussing on culture in the pre-pandemic days saw the offer-to-joiner ratio dropping due to the high trust. Puneet agrees, “We have retained our leadership in the past seven years, giving us a strong base through top-down effect”. Abhimanyu also reiterates that culture, mission-driven approach and cohesivity drive stability and trust.
Development & growth:
HR must constantly evaluate if there is an opportunity to promote talent internally because it makes employees feel encouraged and privileged. Sachin shares, “When we publish a new position, we look at internal teams to try and find someone better suited“. Puneet shares that despite this, there has to be a mix, and it may not always be 50-50 buy-build. “Every organization may have a different requirement which changes with time. Internally developed people would know your organization well and understand how to manoeuvre and solve problems, while new people bring in fresh perspectives and new ideas from previous experiences. An amalgamation of both is required”, shares Puneet. The approach is to differentiate talent. “Some of the best companies are moving to Power-Law distribution where top 10% gets paid 50-60% more than the second best”, quips Kartik.
The way ahead for the talent pool
India is seeing a trend of alternate careers and talent pools because people’s skills are valued with more job opportunities for unusual career shifts. We see professionals with different goals transitioning into tech roles because the industry is more accepting today. Another new-age talent pool is global networks. Kartik questions, “Can we go outside India because talent is less expensive outside and offshoring can enable the real opportunity of a global talent market availability”. Sachin agrees that in tech, boundaries do not exist, but we should be mindful of the economy.
All in all, it is a business call. “What are we outsourcing, and does it suit the nature of business?” is a question Puneet keeps asking. Embarking on such new talent pool expansion must come with checks and balances around data security, internet security, risk mitigation, etc.
There are different ways to expand the talent pool. Puneet believes that to hire better and cheaper, organisations must build an excellent culture where employees can learn and grow and diversity thrives. "This can help retain talent well while being cost-effective because the average cost of replacement is 15% costlier”, says Kartik. This will enable high benchmarks on hiring, which in turn, demand a culture of diversity. “We have to be mindful that talent is available everywhere, and talent acquisition today is all about the right opportunity at the right time while showing candidates the right path”, says Sachin. This change is possible if tech hiring is not relegated to the HR domain but becomes a strategic priority and conversation between HR and CTOs.