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5 Steps To Building A Thriving Tech Talent Ecosystem

A big part of the tech business battle is hiring and keeping the right people. Here’s how to make it happen for your company.

5 Steps To Building A Thriving Tech Talent Ecosystem
[Photo: Flickr user Official U.S. Navy Page / U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Russell/Released]

The global economy is slowly picking up pace and although growth is likely to be sluggish in most economies for the next few years, the demand for high-quality tech talent has never been greater. This is creating unprecedented challenges for tech firms looking to hire, motivate, and retain talent.

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A successful talent strategy during such volatile and uncertain times calls for a different approach, one that is dynamic, positive, and creative. Here are some principles that will help ensure a strong talent ecosystem to fuel growth:

1. Incentivize Your Employees To Be Talent Scouts

In most instances, your employees are your best and most cost-effective source of attracting new talent. They can also be strong brand ambassadors and speak highly about your organization to their friends and network if they feel positively engaged at work.

Capitalize on this great talent attraction asset by making it easy and attractive for your employees to spot new talent for your business. When I headed up talent for Yahoo! Europe, we tooled all employees up with “Join Yahoo!” business cards to hand out to people they felt would make good Yahoo! employees. This was linked to an extremely generous referral bonus, including the opportunity for employees to win prizes for successful referrals, such as a trip to Vegas.

2. Hire And Manage To Strengths, Not Competencies

Traditional competency approaches to hiring are based on the assumption that jobs and organizations change little and the job descriptions put together today will be the same in the future. But in a rapidly changing and uncertain world, this couldn’t be more misleading.

Jobs, teams, and businesses are changing almost constantly, and people hired to do a job are rarely doing the same job several months, or even weeks, after they were hired.

Instead, identify strengths (both personal and technical) the team and company require, now and in the future. Hire for these strengths as well as proven ability to apply these across fast-changing situations.

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It is also important to challenge the questionable assumption that all good performers in a specific job achieve their results in the same way, using the same set of competencies. The reality is that different people achieve equally good results by contributing their unique skills and strengths in different ways. This is why companies like Facebook and Google don’t put people in narrow boxes; they work to understand, play, and develop people’s diverse strengths, enabling them to bring the best of themselves to work.

3. Train, Don’t Constrain People

All high performing organizations ensure employees undergo excellent onboarding and training programs with an emphasis on on-the job learning and peer support. For example, Apple provides an excellent mentoring program for new managers and key talent.

But training programs and management practices should not constrain people from bringing their unique strengths and individuality to their roles to ensure they feel their ideas and contribution is valued. Management should encourage and create space for creative conflict and challenges that this empowerment inevitably brings, as it is this that ensures diverse assumptions and ideas are explored and debated, minimizing the risks of poor decisions and unwanted turnover.

4. Ensure High Potentials Are Passionate About Their Next Step

Identifying and retaining high potentials should be a key talent imperative for any tech organization. However, we have found that in most tech organizations, it is uncommon to find an objective, transparent, and person-centered succession policy and process.

For example, there is rarely an open exploration with employees about their strengths and activities they find particularly energizing as well as their aspirations at work and outside. People are simply assigned to bigger roles and stretch assignments, and management is surprised when, after the person accepts the role to secure a salary hike or through fear or being overlooked for future promotions, they end up becoming demotivated and increasingly unproductive in their new role.

To avoid this problem, we recommend assessing people not simply against abilities and skills required for key roles, but also their strengths, aspirations, and values, particularly when promoting people into leadership roles. Assessment centers and strengths profiling tools can minimize subjectivity and bias associated with making this type of decision, as well as improving the quality of dialogue with high potentials. This will prevent costly mistakes and accelerate motivation.

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5. Build A Fun And Motivating Culture

Work can and should be fun and rewarding. Of course, not all aspects of work will be fun, but even the most monotonous tasks can become more fun if they are undertaken in a happy, ‘human’ work environment. Tech leaders should look for ways to incorporate fun and enjoyment in work.

Recognition and praise are crucial to building a positive, high-energy working environment and can have a more powerful motivational effect than monetary rewards, provided compensation policies are fair, transparent and market-related. Business leaders who recognize small wins and personal bests as well as major achievements will motivate their staff to go the extra mile and outperform. After all, it is these smaller wins and noteworthy performances that fuel major breakthroughs and company-wide excellence.

A thriving and productive talent ecosystem where all your people feel valued, supported, motivated and developed is crucial to business results and longer-term organizational health of any tech business vying to compete in an increasingly competitive and turbulent market. Through implementing these principles and ensuring your leaders prioritize building a happy, energized and high performing workplace, your talent will outperform and deliver exceptional client experiences time and time again.

James Brook is an author, Co-Founder and joint Managing Director of Strengths Partnership Ltd, an innovative HR consulting firm providing strengths-based selection, leadership and team development, coaching and organizational development solutions. He has authored several assessment tools, including a world-leading strengths assessment system called Strengthscope.

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