In previous years, a retailer with an IT team or bespoke software behind it would be seen as something of an oddity, unless they were a large High Street chain. Now, even small businesses are seeing the benefits that a digital platform can bring and are investing in solutions that can help drive success.
From accounting to managing stock, many programs will offer a holistic way to control your business. Processes are streamlined, the entire organization runs more smoothly and, more importantly, cost effectively, as a result.
This means that recruiting those who can properly operate and maintain the backend of your operations becomes a vital part of your company’s success. The bad news? You aren’t the only one vying for this talent. The digital revolution is rolling through pretty much every industry on the planet, which is why we’re headed towards a predicted global shortage of IT professionals by 2020.
Fortunately, that means you can get the jump on those that are still in the early stages of their digital adoption, and getting smart with your recruitment strategy will put you in pole position not only to attract the best talent, but to retain it.
Understanding The Market
With the amount of IT vacancies on the rise around the world, it’s safe to say that the balance of power when it comes to the technology market is firmly with the job seeker rather than employers. The best individuals are in demand. They can pick and choose from any number of potential destinations courtesy of those that are willing to entice them with a better deal, with many companies proactively trying to poach them.
This means you need to have a good idea of how tech workers expect to be treated. As a business, we often conduct industry-leading surveys of professionals working with the technologies we recruit for. We try to find different trends regarding salaries and benefits, and the results can often guide employers towards what they should be offering.
In terms of benefits, one of the most popular is almost always flexible working. Often, technology professionals will expect to work at least one day remotely. Especially in a retail environment, this is likely to be a new phenomenon, but without offering it you will be lagging behind your rivals. Get to know the employment trends among IT workers and be prepared to adapt accordingly.
Look Beyond The Obvious
The critical skills shortage is generally bad news, especially as technology’s rise is making it more and more critical to the way businesses function on a day-to-day basis. Not having enough people available to fill the vacant positions will eventually end up in organizations flatlining. The plus side is that we’ve seen companies taking a proactive approach to this with a lot of success.
One of the biggest criticisms levelled at the STEM industry as a whole is the lack of representation of many groups. Generally speaking, walk into any tech team and they look incredibly similar in terms of the backgrounds that make them up. I remember mentioning the lack of diversity once on a visit to a company many years ago, and was told “oh no, you probably haven’t seen; we’ve got guys from the East and West coasts!” Frighteningly, they weren’t joking.
This disparity has filtered through to the recruitment process itself, with many ads for IT jobs demanding that they want “warriors, ninjas, builders” — all quite masculine-sounding terms. As a result, a high percentage of applicants tend to be male. Try making your job ads gender-neutral and you’ll likely attract more women into the process, giving you access to a wider range of professionals than your rivals.
Train To Maintain
Sourcing professionals from often overlooked talent pools is an excellent way to get a head start on your competitors, but retaining them becomes your next challenge. Women have a quit rate that is twice as high as men, so you need to have an excellent support system in place to ensure a smooth onboarding, although this applies to all staff. The first six weeks are the most likely to affect an employee’s decision to remain with you in the long term, so it’s vital that you don’t slip up in the early stages.
If you already have a tech team in place, it’s essential that you make room in their schedule to dedicate time to supporting your new recruit. Having a mentorship program in place can also be a great way of giving someone the confidence to ask questions and get up to speed. However, to ensure full buy-in from existing employees, you need to make sure they have space in their diary to accommodate this. If helping someone else results in creating a backlog that they need to clear, then they may not be as willing to offer support.
Another popular reason for professionals moving is a lack of ongoing training, so be prepared for your digital team to require continual investment. Depending on the platform that you’re using, you may need to invest further in up-to-date certifications in order for your staff to use the latest release or be able to take advantage of new functions and processes. Even without this, any ambitious tech worker will have a passion for the product they’re working with and want to develop themselves, making this a necessary use of your resources.
One successful strategy that companies have employed is taking employees with no formal IT qualifications, but a potential interest in pursuing it as a career, and training them up. Allow them time to work with your existing tech workers and ensure your company culture is one that encourages this sort of integration, where people are encouraged to help each other.
It goes without saying that what you’re investing here is time, as your tech team will also need to work at a slower rate while they assist colleagues and help train them up. An employee who is already with you and invested in you enough to be looking at developing their skillset in-house is one with the potential to remain with you in the long term.
This sort of outlook can be invaluable, particularly as the employee lifecycle in tech seems to be shortening with demand for them on the rise. Building loyalty can be difficult, so promoting from within and increasing your employees’ skillset can be a way to foster a relationship that will last longer than an external hire.
It’s easy to be intimated by the need to recruit staff with specialist skills that you may be unfamiliar with. However, the principles remain largely the same as hiring any qualified employee. They will generally be highly motivated to improve and develop themselves, which you will need to facilitate in order to retain them.
Although your company may be undergoing a digital transformation, the way people operate within it remains largely the same. You may need to adopt some practices to accommodate this new breed of worker, but the principles that have existed for years that keep people motivated haven’t changed, and thus the way to retain them is more straightforward than you may have imagined.
Zoe Morris is President of specialist IT staffing firm Frank Recruitment Group. After graduating from the University of London after studying psychology, she has spent has nearly 20 years working within the recruitment industry.