How small business can compete for the top tech talent

talent acquisition

The demand for IT talent is bigger than ever and is driving unsustainable wage growth with nearly half of Australian IT workers commanding salaries of over $120,000 a year.

This wage growth combined with the latest in a series of migration cuts implemented by the federal government, which could deprive the country of up to 6.8 million workers by 2050, will make tech talent almost impossible to find and even harder to retain. Small businesses could be left hamstrung by the market and battling a shallow talent pool with only wages as arsenal.

Recent research we carried out at Halcyon Knights revealed that small businesses with up to 50 employees have less than half (29 per cent) the number of workers earning over $120k, compared to the largest employers (61 per cent making $120k+ in companies with 5000+ employees). In January this year, the technology sector had the second highest hiring volume of any industry, more than 11,000 recruits. Despite this, almost 74,000 tech roles remained unfilled.

But trying to plug talent gaps in your business with money alone isn’t the best way to attract and retain technology workers. While salary is an important factor for IT job seekers, in reality, it’s the employers focus on flexibility, work-life balance, and culture which are building happy and productive teams.

More than 2000 IT workers surveyed in the “Winning the war for talent” report said that flexibility, career progression, leadership, and culture are more important to them than money.The report also found that large enterprises had the highest level of worker dissatisfaction (31 per cent) compared to small businesses, which have significantly higher levels of IT worker satisfaction (65 per cent).

The other problem is that tech companies aren’t sure what they need. More than a third (36 per cent) of tech pros believe that hiring managers are looking for the wrong people. Small businesses should generalise their position descriptions when advertising for a tech role. When advertising a role, your criteria will define your audience. Nominating only the necessary skills will stop the right candidate overlooking your job on a technicality, allowing you to reach a deeper and more diverse candidate pool.

Employers also need to reflect on what they can offer their employees over big businesses. Rather than looking for a candidate with highly specific skills, employers need to target the “best fit” candidate and think about their unique Employer Value Proposition (EVP). Flexibility, work-life balance, career progression and strong leadership are factors which have a significant impact on an employee’s satisfaction level and employers need to build this into their EVP to lure strong candidates and ensure they’re satisfied once they arrive.

So while salary is an essential factor for IT job seekers it’s the employers focus on flexibility, work-life balance and culture which are building happy and productive teams. Small business can leverage their EVP over enterprise business to make job offers with potentially more modest salaries, genuinely appealing to the best-of-the best IT workers.

Lincoln Benbow, Co-founder, Halcyon Knights