It’s a well-worn cliché that people are the business’s most valuable asset. But just because it’s a tired phrase doesn’t mean it’s not true – especially in the world of high tech. In fact, the highly skilled, highly creative talent that tech companies now need to succeed is getting harder to find, and there’s a war on to attract and retain these prized workers.
By one estimate, yearly demand for data scientists, data developers, and data engineers will translate into roughly 700,000 job openings by 2020 – and the number of jobs for all US data professionals will increase by 364,000 openings to reach a total of 2,720,000. In other words, there are a lot of jobs but not a lot of qualified candidates to fill them.
Part of the problem is that, due to the push toward digital transformation, virtually every industry is now a high-tech industry. Every process is a target for automation and digitization. Every enterprise is now a data-driven enterprise. High-tech stalwarts like Google, Netflix, and Amazon aren’t just competing with one another and a host of Silicon Valley startups for the talent they need. They’re also competing with automotive companies, Wall Street, retailers, banks, shipping companies, healthcare, and insurance providers … the list is endless.
Another factor in the growing demand for high-tech talent is that these workers tend not to stay at one job for more than two or three years. Turnaround is high. Opportunities are abundant. It can be as difficult to keep the right people as it is to find them.
It’s no wonder that the CHROs at the high-tech companies I work with consistently rank access to talent as their make-or-break challenge. And it’s creating new expectations for what it means to be an effective HR leader. Today’s high-tech CHROs are expected to:
- Help define enterprise strategy: If talent is the catalyst for enterprise success, HR leaders have to help define their organization’s go-to-market strategy. They not only need to know the talent demands that will result from a strategic change; they also need to provide their C-suite colleagues with insight into the skillsets of the existing workforce and the availability of new talent that will turn strategy into reality.
- Think more like a COO: More than ever, CHROs need to stay plugged into all aspects of the business’ ongoing operations. They need insight into the talent needs of every department, division, and location. That’s why we’re seeing a growing number of CHROs appointed from the operations side of the business, rather than from within HR.
- Become more analytic and data-driven: HR is still a human-centric function, but it’s relying more on advanced analytics and a wealth of data to help win the war for talent. High-tech companies can’t afford to make hiring decisions based on gut feelings and best guesses. They need the reliability that comes with data-driven decisions.
- Accelerate HR cycles and processes: Today’s good candidates have too many options. A prolonged vetting and hiring process gives them time to consider other opportunities. To outmaneuver other companies competing for the same talent, it’s good to be first in line with an offer.
Finally, while it’s always hard to find great talent, it can be even harder to keep it. CHROs already know this, and they’re committed to providing a great employee experience that helps tip the scales in their organization’s favor. A rich and rewarding work environment is the primary way a company proves that it’s not just peddling marketing fluff when it says its employees are its most valuable asset.
High-tech companies that can’t give their employees a compelling experience will always struggle to provide one to their customers. Culture matters – and doing the little things right makes it easier to master the big things.
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