10 Ways to Develop Top Tech Talent

June 4, 2020

10 Ways to Develop Top Tech Talent

Despite the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on employment, several talent segments are still highly desired and needed for hiring. One segment that is consistently in demand and critical for companies to get right is tech-related workers. With tech workers in tremendous demand and their skills and tools continuing to change, it’s imperative HR leaders learn how to attract, manage and retain this critical talent pool. 

Findings from research from SHRM’s Executive Network, HR People + Strategy, Effectively Managing Tech Workers: A New Imperative in the Digital Age, developed in partnership with Josh Bersin, found that tech workers have unique motivations, preferences and expectations that organizations must understand if they expect to effectively hire, manage and engage this critical talent pool.

“Technology pervades all industry segments—from manufacturing to finance, and healthcare to retail,” said Josh Bersin, a global independent analyst and principal research partner for HRPS. “That means companies need to know precisely what it takes to attract and keep tech workers. After all, they are notoriously demanding—nearly half are considering hopping jobs right now.”

The new report identifies four areas organizations need to focus on when it comes to effectively managing tech workers: management practices, organizational culture, compensation and employee recognition. They demand managers who support autonomy; an open and developmental, but highly accountable culture; recognition-rich interactions from the organization, leaders, and peers; and equitable compensation. 

How can companies secure and develop top talent in tech? The below recommendations serve as next-generation management practices to facilitate productivity and increase the satisfaction of tech workers. The list begins with crucial and foundational recommendations to implement and ends with other important practices to consider.

1. Develop people-management skills in managers. 
Look at your hiring and promotion practices for managers. Understand that good managers are those with effective people-management skills, not just technical expertise. At a minimum, provide ongoing support to both first-time and seasoned managers on soft skills such as self-awareness, verbal and written communication, active listening, trust building, conflict resolution, relationship building, interpersonal interactions, problem solving, delegation and decision-making.

2. Connect tech workers to the organization’s purpose. 
Communicate clearly and often how tech workers contribute to the organization’s purpose and fulfill the mission, vision and goals of the organization through their work. Connect daily tasks to the organization’s macro-level strategy and objectives.

3. Share open feedback that connects tech workers to customers. 
Increase tech workers’ exposure to customer ideas and feedback so they can hear and see firsthand the impact of their work. 

4. Cultivate a culture of accountability over projects. 
Nurture an organizational culture that meets tech workers’ need to feel autonomous and competent and to relate to others. Identify and establish competencies that focus on shared success, rather than individual performance. Allow people to set goals, commit to results and feel a sense of ownership over projects. 

5. Flatten the organizational structure and enable autonomy-driven processes. 
Think of ways to provide autonomy. Flatten the organization as appropriate. Allow tech workers greater choice over projects, work schedules, goals, team assignments and development opportunities.

6. Offer various career development paths. 
Understand that traditional career ladders may not be relevant to all tech workers. Instead, offer non-traditional ways for tech talent to move up in the organization. Consider increasing their scope through greater responsibility over projects without having to manage people to move forward. 

7. Provide multiple and diverse learning opportunities. 
Consider development opportunities beyond traditional skills, courses, or certifications, such as the opportunity for tech workers to attend specialized conferences in their particular area of expertise. Or perhaps offer to increase their exposure to different ideas, people and levels of expertise by working in a different department, team or geographic location.

8. Democratize recognition approaches. 
Enable leaders, peers and the broader organization to recognize high performance in various ways. For a more strategic recognition approach, try to first understand individual preferences for giving and receiving recognition (i.e., private vs. public, physical vs. digital), and then align recognition options to those individual preferences.

9. Make compensation fair and competitive. 
Ensure that pay is fair and equitable by diligently conducting audits for all employees, identifying gaps and promptly addressing disparities. Communicate audit findings and clearly outline the process followed in compensation decisions. 

10. Focus on a transparent and performance-driven compensation process. 
Consider increasing the transparency of the compensation process. Clearly tie compensation to performance and outline the specific factors taken into consideration to arrive at compensation decisions.

To learn more, download a copy of Effectively Managing Tech Workers: A New Imperative in the Digital Age. HRPS members, click here. Nonmembers, click here. 

The Authors: 

Maggie Kelly is Director of Special Initiatives for SHRM's Executive Network, HR People + Strategy.