How Australian SMEs in tech can survive the war on talent

Australia’s tech industry has been able to weather the storm of COVID-19 better than other industries. As an early adopter of remote working long before COVID, tech has been a driving force for enabling new ways of working in response to the pandemic. As a result, job seekers view the sector as resilient to economic challenges and fertile ground for new opportunities.

Yet our research has shown that, whilst attractive, the tech sector in Australia is battling a war for talent. In March 2020, we surveyed 1014 male and female decision-makers in the tech sector to reveal the challenges they face when it comes to sourcing talent. We matched this survey to our 2020 Randstad Employer Brand Research that looks at the needs of Australian tech workers.

The top challenges for candidates and employers in tech

Over half (56 per cent) of the respondents making hiring decisions frequently interviewed candidates who didn’t possess the correct skills for the role they were recruiting for. COVID-19 has accelerated the importance of technology and digital transformation which highlights the increasing significance of education and upskilling.

Our survey results clearly show that tech leaders feel there are gaps in how the sector attracts talent. They believe that by focusing on what tech workers want and collaborating with government and education providers, organisations can win the war on talent today and build a pipeline for the future.

What’s more, for job seekers looking to get into the tech sector the onus seems to be on them to do the leg work. More than half (52 per cent) of tech leaders acknowledged that they expect good talent to come to the industry rather than actively seeking out skilled candidates. 

Long and short term solutions

Leaders in the sector report they are keen to focus on both short and long-term solutions that ensure the sector remains and increases its appeal. In the longer term, a combination of undertaking diversity & inclusion initiatives, further investment in education, have all been shown through our research as key drivers to attracting and retaining high calibre talent. Combined, these strategies take a more holistic view to build Australia’s tech skills, which will be fundamental in supporting the long term success of small businesses.  

Tech leaders believe that diversity also plays a role in attracting candidates within the tech industry, with 63 per cent believing a stronger gender balance would make the sector more appealing, and 58 per cent feeling the tech industry is dominated by men. And 60 per cent also noted that diversity in general would benefit Australia’s tech sector and is an area small businesses are uniquely positioned to embrace. 

Many feel not enough is being done to promote the tech industry, with 67 per cent of tech leaders believing the government has a role to play but is instead prioritising other sectors and not doing enough for the tech industry (61 per cent) 

Of those surveyed, 56 per cent feel that educational offerings in Australia aren’t right for the skills they recruit for, while 59 per cent noted that too much emphasis is put on traditional vocational routes over tech. 

The sector itself identified five key areas that employees most value when choosing a company to work for:

  1. Using the latest tech available.
  2. Being financially healthy.
  3. Providing attractive salaries.
  4. Maintaining a good reputation.
  5. Offering interesting work. 

To attract talent in the short term, SMEs in the tech sector should address and promote a company culture that embodies these values.

Alex Jones, National Director of Technologies, Randstad Australia

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