“Job ads and cold calling simply won’t work”

Scan any job site and you will begin to understand the scale of the software talent shortage faced by businesses today. The arrival of the digital age means that companies in virtually every industry are in pursuit of highly-skilled tech professionals. But with a limited pool of talent, demand is far outstripping supply.

Employers are increasingly aware of the competition they face for talent, but equally as aware are the developers themselves. They are inundated with cold calls and LinkedIn messages on a daily basis. Our conversations with developers suggest that these standard methods will no longer suffice.

To aid in understanding what developers want from a role, as well as the methods of engagement most likely to catch their attention, Wilbury Stratton has conducted market insight projects for a number of clients across industry sectors. The following insights have been drawn from these reports.

With the average salary for a senior software developer in the UK having increased significantly just in the last year, one might assume that financial incentives are the main factor encouraging developers to move. Interestingly though, our research has suggested that there are many other key factors in attracting strong tech talent:

• Transparency – Understanding the day-to-day reality of working in a business was named as a priority for developers considering a new role. There was a widespread perception among sources that companies often exaggerate roles, employee benefits and company culture during the application process, misleading candidates from the outset and leading to poor retention rates. In order to reflect the true nature of day-to-day life in an organisation, businesses could produce material such as blogs, social media posts and videos. Certain companies have also shared their technology by open sourcing company libraries.

•Workplace culture – This ranked highest among developers’ reasons for joining a company and links with the idea of transparency; developers want to have a clear idea of company culture before they join. This where an effective referral scheme can have huge benefits: good developers know other good developers and can make informed judgements about who will or won’t fit with the company’s culture.

•Progression – Developers suggested that the roles they are approached for by head-hunters often do not materially differ from the roles they already have. They are simply not motivated to move into a role that seems like a step sideways rather than a move upwards. Moreover, there is a sense in this fluid market that internal promotions are earned by those who commit to their organisation, meaning that developers may sacrifice their prospects by jumping ship. Effective training schemes and clear paths for progression may help to alleviate some of these concerns and bring talented developers on board.

•Trying out new technologies – Developers want the opportunity to try out new technologies. At Facebook, the office is set up like a home and the developers are encouraged to spend time with each other and test out new languages and frameworks. This encourages developers to come into the office on weekends because they enjoy their work.

•Networking – Networking is one of the best channels into market. Our conversations with developers indicated that they enjoy taking part in events such as meetups, conferences, webinars and hackathons as they are able to share experiences with others and meet like-minded people.

•Flexible working hours – As is the case across many roles nowadays, flexible working has become a major incentive for attracting the best talent in the market. Developers want perks which allow them to enjoy a positive working culture such as the flexibility to come into the office when they please.

Of course, there is no silver bullet solution. The challenges in hiring tech talent are common across the market and although there are examples of companies developing imaginative and effective measures to tackle one problem or another, nobody has a fix-all solution.

In summary, the business that are able to differentiate themselves most clearly from other employers will be the businesses that succeed in attracting top quality talent.