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Attracting IT pros with great tech talent in the time of COVID-19

One of the luxuries of building a career in technology is the ability to work on a diverse selection of projects that can span multiple industries during one’s professional life. Historically, hard-to-hire subject-matter experts have actively lived in cyberspace with their eyes wide open for the opportunity to work on the next big thing. Those opportunities came often and returned handsome rewards. Recently, with the threat of COVID, we may be experiencing a shift in behavior, and this is especially true for IT pros whose job it is to keep businesses up and running. The challenge is that COVID-19 has instigated the behavior of hunker down and wait it out. Normally active technical specialists seem to be choosing to stay put with their current opportunity rather than taking a chance on an entity that is unknown to them.

This is explainable human behavior. Overall, most of us dislike change. In light of that fact, if we encounter and embrace change, it is because we understand why it is important, know that overall, there is something in it for us, and we also know that we will continue to maintain control of certain aspects of our lives. While we may find a change in our business lives to be disruptive, we know that our personal lives will still supply us with the stability we crave. The same holds for the reverse. If something changes in our personal lives, we have our professional career to fall back on for stability. Apparently, that all changed in 2020.

The year 2020 brought a substantial change that impacted us both personally and professionally, and many are still reeling from the impact. Not only did we have no control over the many instant changes that were imposed upon us, but the communication was confusing, most often conflicting, and sometimes nonexistent. Add to that the fact that our lives and the lives of our families were put immediately at risk. COVID-19 really should have hired a change manager before implementation.

Considering the above, the one thing that most were not looking for was more change. And so, we hunkered down in our quickly fabricated home offices and continued to do the jobs we were doing when the madness began. We were determined to ride-it-out; to remain safe while continuing to bring home a paycheck, hoping that everything would soon return to normal.

How can we entice the technical experts that we need?

We understand that the very talent we want to attract happens to be within the intellect of the very same people who want to avoid any further change in their lives. But we also know that technology cannot progress without the right, smart people in the room, however virtual that room may be. Do we have to re-think what it is that attracts the best talent? Perhaps not. Perhaps we only need to dust off our lessons learned from the past.

Work-life balance

Each generation watches the last, and subsequently judges the past lifestyle in an effort to build their own set of expectations and values. Ever since the workaholic tendencies of the baby boomer generation, each subsequent generation has coveted the correct work-life balance. But the more that employers would strive to compensate, the more difficult it became. As we used compensation benefits to help alleviate the financial stress of being present at one’s place of employment each day, the challenge of the taxable benefit was fast to follow. As we increased our corporate footprint to provide a workplace of comfort, property values increased and were almost preceded by increased property taxes. This game of cat and mouse quickly ran out of runway.

Being forced to work from home made positive changes to employee work-life balance that are unprecedented. The challenge is to embrace what we have learned and develop a plan to move the positive lessons forward. Being a leader and stepping forward to display a willingness to continue to support a work-life balance through the long-term implementation of lessons learned from the experiences of 2020 will show prospective employees that their lifestyle will not have to experience a dramatic change if they accept a new opportunity.

Status

There was a time when, as a technology manager, a physical office was an expectation. Not a cubicle. Not a shared space. An office with four walls, a door, and most likely a large whiteboard. But then greed and excess entered the world of real estate development, and we had to renovate to fit more employees into less space, that was ultimately still costing the enterprise more.

This change was rather a tipping point in employee retention. Striving to move forward within an organization started to lose its appeal since the key status symbol associated with promotion was no longer being offered. The same holds true for a dedicated parking stall. With the removal of the status symbols that signify success, no longer was there a desire to work the extra hours for the same pay. The attitude was one of “It’s more fun to be in the weeds, and I get paid overtime.”

Fast forward to 2020. As a result of the success of technical employees working from home, many employers are working on a strategy to reduce their physical footprint and allow certain employees to work from home in the future state. Overall, it appears that organizations are considering plans whereby the physical office will be reserved only for those in a management position or higher. And guess what? It will become a status symbol. The rest of us will be relegated to the home office. It’s time to think about the future of the strategic plan and start to leverage the future status symbol and use it to attract and retain the top talent.

Circadian rhythm

Shutterstock

We hear it all the time. Statements announcing that one is or is not a morning person or that one is more of a night owl. We know this, and yet we continue to enforce standard office hours.

Circadian rhythm refers to the daily cycle in response to daylight and darkness and other more individual factors. However, in today’s culture, we are often forcing our bodies to respond to darkness as though it were daylight. Personal preference simply does not factor in today’s working environment.

In light (pun intended) of our current work-from-home lifestyle, we have given ourselves the opportunity to make slight adjustments to our schedules that is in better alignment with our personal circadian rhythm. Flexible work schedules have been touted as a benefit from many corporations that are attractive as an employer. However, the challenge is that we still publish office hours, and the expectation is that employees will be available during those very specific hours. So how much flexibility are we really supporting? Think about a window of start times and end times. The advantage is that it will increase the advertised time that the organization is available for current and potential clientele while also supporting the personal preferences of the candidates we want to attract.

Fear not! The talent is out there

There is no question that 2020 has been a challenging time for the enterprise. While we have successfully transitioned to a work-from-home strategy and managed to continue to operate as a competitive force, we now face the challenge of attracting the best talent to maintain or grow our place in the market. While there is no question that many in the technology world are choosing to maintain the status quo and not invite any further change into their lives, we can learn from these past months and still entice the best talent by understanding the key motivators that attract the right people.

Featured image: Shutterstock

Louise Chalupiak

Louise is a cynical and often irritating project manager currently residing in Calgary, Alberta, Canada who is not personally responsible for anything oil sands related. She often eats popcorn for dinner and fears that her dog judges her. Special skills include milking a cow as well as the ability to uncork a wine bottle without the use of a corkscrew.

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Louise Chalupiak

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