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It’s been an exciting time for talented candidates in a myriad of fields. With the ongoing pandemic, many businesses shifted to remote work or began to make other changes to their strategies. Not only that, but it’s a highly competitive time for many applications, and employers have their work cut out for them when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent with so many excellent opportunities being made available.
With these factors in mind, we asked the TalentLab team several important questions, and the panel below provided a wealth of collective insight. Discussing everything from diversity in hiring to recommendations for candidates seeking new opportunities, these individuals paint a clearer picture of where talent acquisition and retention is headed in 2022 and beyond. Explore their discussion below in more detail, with recommendations and findings that will interest anyone operating or employed within the high-tech sector.
Meet Our Panelists
Sarah is an engineering recruitment expert with over 10 years of experience working with some of the biggest high-tech employers across North America.
Gord is a seasoned technical recruitment leader who specializes in web, software, and mobile talent pools.
Warren is a recruitment subject matter expert with over 20 years of experience managing talent acquisition strategies within the semiconductor and hardware industries.
Josh is a seasoned recruiter specializing in Software, DevOps and Project Management related roles in the high-tech industry.
Aaron is a senior technical recruiter with a technical focus on embedded software, firmware, and hardware across the semiconductor and telecommunications industry.
What do you foresee in the tech space for 2022?
I think we will continue to see this hyper-competition in the short-term, but by the mid summer we may see a slow down in the market related to the volatility of the US markets, particularly the downturn in crypto-currencies, and ongoing venture capital instability. For sometime investment has been flowing into high-tech, but if we see investors become more risk averse, I think they will affect the ease that high-tech companies are having in getting VC funding. That could produce a slow down in hiring that will have an easing effect on the current hyper-competition.
Yeah, I agree with Gord. I would say right now that are seeing a window of ‘mass exodus’ of junior and intermediate employees transitioning into higher paying roles, related to rising living costs and inflation. We are experiencing this in real-time, where more career conversations with candidates are anchored around concerns related to cost-of-living increases.
We are seeing a trend of candidate’s valuing stability more than ever. I believe we are seeing high-tech professionals moving now primarily because of the perceived volatility in the market. Candidates are concerned about their career stability, and are seeking out larger more stable organizations to join in an attempt to mitigate the instability.
I think the stock market is going to affect the movement of talent, and that it will make sense financially, stability is something we are seeing. The ability to grow with in the role, upward mobility in the company that would be factor in whether top talent accepts or declines a new position.
I do not believe we are going to see any slow down until perhaps early 2023, maybe even beyond. I do believe that that volatility in the market is a factor in the hyper-competition, and a large factor in US based high-tech companies investing in building new talent bases globally, but I do not believe the US investment volatility is the biggest factor in the over all talent conversation.
I still believe that underlying the high-tech talent struggles is supply and demand. We still do not have enough skilled professionals for the demand in high-tech right now. With that in mind, at least from a software or digital perspective, I think we will continue see hyper-competition and aggressive recruitment strategies until the end of the year.
“The ability to grow with in the role, upward mobility in the company that would be factor in whether top talent accepts or declines a new position.”
– Josh Morantz
What areas in tech are in the hottest demand and why?
We’re definitely seeing a huge push for modernized business processes right now. So, anything related to digital transformation and digital services is really booming. SaaS products are having their moment, especially if their service replaces a more outdated business approach. This is likely related to organizations moving to remote work during the pandemic and realizing how woefully unprepared they were to adapt. Many leadership teams have begun to invest in collaboration tools and platforms, and several have begun to look hard at how to move into the next generation of working eco-systems. I would also say that anything related to cloud platform advancement, and leveraging the capability of the cloud, is to become more agile in how organizations operate.
I would say we have hit ‘version two’ of cloud platforms, and that area will continue to be a hot demand into 2023. Most organizations have moved to the cloud by now, and we are seeing the next generation of advancements starting. Cloud Engineer profiles are more granular and have started to become more diversified in terms of actual job scope. Cloud data architecture is a high priority right now. We are seeing emerging players like cloud web hosting services start to hit their stride and such. I believe this trend of advancing out cloud utilization and capacity will be very big in the next few years.
Totally agree with Gord. I also think Cybersecurity is really gaining in demand right now. Being able to move to the cloud is one thing, but being able to secure your cloud infrastructure is a very different thing. If you are relaying cloud platforms for payments or transactions, it’s critical that your security is shored up. With cyber-attacks on the rise, I believe many organizations will continue to invest in cybersecurity.
Hardware is booming right now. We are seeing the potential applications of chip development grow every year. Currently, everything from data centres to 5G are relying heavily on hardware technology talent. Many of our hardware clients are pushing the boundaries to make networking faster and cheaper for almost every industry worldwide. We are seeing a push to create IP in hardware. The question for most of the companies is, do you try to build your chip, or do you want to buy it ‘commercial and off the shelf?’
The demand is huge for more data and video. In order to get it, we will continue to put pressure on the hardware industry backbone, and the demand for hardware talent will continue as a result.
I am seeing a rise in the trend of ‘fab-less’ chip development in hardware. The traditional fabrication process for microchips is very challenging and expensive, especially when you add in recent global chip shortages. Maybe in a reaction to those challenges, we are seeing fab-less methodologies being advanced, and it’s allowed more players to enter the market with lower barriers. I don’t believe we will ever go entirely fab-less in hardware, but there has been an upward trend in terms of adopting fab-less chip creation methodologies. I think this will naturally translate into a higher demand for candidates with fab-less chip experience.
The rise of decentralized finance, tied to blockchain and crypto, is a trend that I believe we will continue to see play a role in highly in-demand talent. The big banks and traditional financial organizations are being forced into this area, or they risk losing their market share. We are starting to see that emerging trend mature and candidates that started in Web 2.0 are moving towards Web 3.0, which heavily leverages blockchain. I think this move will create a high in-demand push for candidates with this bleeding-edge type of experience to help traditional Fintech stay relevant.
“We’re definitely seeing a huge push for modernized business processes right now. So, anything related to digital transformation and digital services is really booming.”
– Sarah Doughty
What are some strategies employers can use to stay competitive in terms of attracting talent in 2022?
Over the last several years, we have seen this trend of leveraging automated processes, chatbots, and ML algorithms to create the most efficient recruitment processes. However, a human-centric approach to recruitment is absolutely critical for recruitment success in 2022. Now with the hyper-competitive market, I think many recruitment teams are struggling because the dynamics have shifted. We are not seeing the same number of applicants, and many recruiters are having to go out and start the conversation with their talent pools. Candidates have their choice of employers in high tech and are not happy about being forced to do an interview with a chatbot. Providing a respectful, human-first, and transparent hiring process is going to be crucial for organizations that want to lure great talent.
I completely agree with the human-centric approach being critical. In addition, companies need to offer a clear value proposition to joining their organization. Stability is a huge draw right now for talent in high tech. Clearly communicated career paths with quantifiable deliverables to meet for advancement are table stakes in 2022. In real-time, we are hearing from candidates that opportunities for career growth matter more than perks like a foosball table. Work-life balance is also going to continue to be critical for building top talent teams, as employees are coming out of the pandemic more aware of how their work lives complement their personal lives than ever before.
Timing is huge in 2022. The way companies are approaching recruitment in terms of the length of the process, the number of steps, and otherwise is going to be crucial to their success. Being able to strike the delicate balance between moving a candidate through the process in the shortest period time, but also addressing everything you need to get out of the recruitment process is going to be a big factor in overall recruitment success. Demonstrating a clear value proposition, as Gord mentioned, is equally critical. Hiring managers need to be able to answer why this organization or why this company with well-thought-out responses. That is where I think TalentLab really adds value. We are able to bring in that more human-centric approach, work with the hiring team to develop those responses, and compliment organizations that are still struggling to develop a well-rounded talent acquisition process internally.
I agree with Aaron about timing, but I also would take it further and suggest it’s related to an outdated approach to recruitment. A lot of high-tech organizations preach about using agile methodologies to develop their products and largely see the waterfall methodology as outdated. But when it comes to recruitment, most companies are still using a waterfall approach. These are slow ‘gated’ processes that require completion in a rigid order before the next step is able to be attempted. This creates delays and longer processes, and ultimately, many of the complications you see with other applications of waterfall. The companies that are working around those outdated processes are succeeding. Companies need to start adapting, becoming flexible to completing steps in their recruitment process concurrently, and apply similar efficient methodologies like agile to recruitment.
Because we are in a challenging market, we are seeing companies making hiring mistakes. They are paying more than they should and hiring people that they shouldn’t. Although that is very market dependent now, the impact will extend past these conditions and could have long-term negative effects. Leaders need to stay the course and have the confidence to pass on candidates that are not the right fit. It’s a huge waste of their hiring and recruitment teams’ time. Worse is that they may end up with the wrong person in the role, and then the effects cascade to poor morale, lost productivity, and stagnate innovation. Having the confidence to stay the course around your selection and culture fit, without comprising, will be critical to organizations success in the long term. If leaders can’t find the right talent, the best solution is to invest in junior talent that you can mentor effectively.
“Stability is a huge draw right now for talent in high tech. Clearly communicated career paths with quantifiable deliverables to meet for advancement are table stakes in 2022.”
– Gord Marriage
How can recruiters and technology leaders work together to create an effective and positive people experience for new hires, and current and leaving employees?
Extending that human-centric approach beyond the candidate’s start date. Technology leaders and recruitment teams need to extend their human-centric approach to onboarding and career development. Assigning a new hire, a ‘buddy’ during their first month or even months with the company is a great strategy. This will allow for the new hire to ask questions without bothering their manager but also feel they have some rapport with a new colleague. In terms of current employees, companies should consider setting a very clearly defined manifest of how people can transition into new roles based on performance and set clear timelines.
A partnership between recruiters and tech leaders is an approach that values candidates’ and employees’ time and energy. There is a large push towards automation to work with high volumes of candidates. The issue with this is that it takes away the humanistic approach. Candidates appreciate working with a recruiter as there is more context and value that can be derived from beginning to end in the recruitment process. Even companies that are very automated in their recruitment approach are starting to have to pivot and change their methodology. Technology leaders need to be a part of this push towards a more human-centric approach, and they must be ready to present value to candidates in terms of what they can offer. This is true also in working closely with recruitment teams to ensure the candidate experience is positive.
What impact has the Great Resignation had on high-tech?
There is a massive skill gap, and until there are enough graduates to fill the positions, there will be continued growth and no slowdown for recruitment and aggressive recruitment tactics for high-tech organizations and internal talent acquisition. What candidates are looking for and underlying effects of the pandemic has created new metrics that they are looking for to justify making a change into a new position.
The way that the stock market is going at the moment, people will be more thoughtful in the moves that they are making. They will make sure that it makes sense financially, and they are looking for stability and a place they can stay for a long time. In addition, they’re focused on the ability to grow in the role and have upward mobility. This will potentially play a factor in people accepting or not accepting positions.
As the world continues to move to remote and hybrid work solutions, candidates have never had more of an opportunity to explore new opportunities. Coupled with the rising cost of living, inflation, and talks of a recession (or at least some market instability), candidates are focused on securing a raise as well as a role that will contribute to future career growth and financial stability. Additionally, with many working fully remotely, or for those who were unfortunate to get temporarily laid off due to the pandemic, they now have a significant amount of time to reflect on how they feel about their job, their future, and security. Individuals who have felt like their basic needs have not been met, especially during a time when sensitivity is key, will continue to be highly motivated to leave.
“As the world continues to move to remote and hybrid work solutions, candidates have never had more of an opportunity to explore new opportunities.”
– Aaron Ravensbergen
What’s the biggest mistake managers can make when addressing employee retention?
The biggest mistake is not being transparent with employees. I agree with Gord’s previous comment. To keep people engaged in their work, the manager and employee relationship should be transparent. There needs to be a clear outline of what their role is and what is needed to level up within the organization.
Clearly stating the deliverables and performance that needs to be hit to justify promotions and salary increases are great strategies. On the other side of that, there are times when you can give the deliverables for people to hit, but at the same time, they might not be the right fit for a high-level role. The highest performer might not be the best human manager, for example. Leadership should have meetings with employees about why something is going the way it is. Sometimes engineers can have different things that drive them, for example, and managers must understand why and how they can motivate their employees. There needs to be transparency from leadership about the why. This is critical for motivation and keeping employees engaged.
We are seeing an ethereal response in terms of having to stay the course, and some companies are making hiring mistakes that will affect retention. Since companies need bodies so much, people are hiring candidates that have had clear red flags, might not have been as technically strong and, in respects to the traditional interview process and company philosophy, wouldn’t have been hired for the same position, certainly not at the salary band that candidates are able to demand nowadays. These issues will all create more retention problems when left to fester. When in doubt, hire a junior or intermediate engineer that can come in and get ramped up and will be able to add value in the long term with the right leadership.
How has diversity in hiring been affected by the hyper-competitive market, and how do you see diversity evolving into 2022?
While we still have a long way to go in improving DE&I across the tech landscape in North America, we have seen some nominal improvements over the past few years. This is due largely to the easing of entry restrictions, easier access to working visas, and a more streamlined PR process. With the dramatic rise of the remote workforce, I suspect that we’re going to see North American companies develop an even more diverse workforce by employing remote workers across the world.
What are some strategies employers can use to stay competitive in terms of attracting talent in 2022?
Aside from remaining competitive with compensation packages, it’s important for employers to present a clear answer to questions like ‘What is the pathway for career advancement?” and “What are the interesting challenges or problems that I’ll be working on solving?’ Today’s software engineers want to know that their work will make a difference, and that the company they’re engaged with will provide them an opportunity for mentoring, training, and ongoing career growth.
What are some tips for candidates looking to capitalize on a hyper-competitive job market?
There are three things that come to mind immediately:
First, candidates should ensure that their resume clearly outlines the details of the technical projects they’ve worked on (either professionally or personally) and that the project outcomes are identified. A lazy resume is not likely to get the attention of the hiring manager.
Second, as much as possible, candidates should do some research and send their resume directly to a recruiter or hiring manager that is directly involved in hiring for the role they’re seeking, rather than just posting to a job board or engaging with a resume push-machine and trusting that their resume will land where it needs to go.
Third, and maybe most importantly, candidates should invest in interview training. Many software engineers are great at the tactical aspects of their jobs, for instance, but have a really hard time articulating what they do during the interview process. One of the key factors in our success here at TalentLab is that we invest in our candidates by providing them with one-on-one interview training and coaching. This helps them bridge the gap and present themselves as the best candidate for the role.
What are the new technical skills that, in your expert opinion, are trending towards being high-in-demand in the next 5 years?
Software and cloud-based tech streams will continue to thrive. Things need to be remote, and there is a lot of acute pain for software companies. Modernizing business processes is a key thing to focus on. SAAS is a unique tool (CRM and Slack, for instance) that companies can leverage to continue to build a collaborative environment. Additionally, cloud platforms are a way for companies to expand across different sites and to keep up with remote and hybrid work solutions. There is an elevated approach that companies must target for cloud services, and a full embracement of CI/CD is going to be key.
In my opinion, we will continue to see a massive push towards larger and larger data requirements and connectivity solutions, as this will be required to support the backbone for cloud servers, AI, ML, wireless 5G, autonomous vehicles and more. From a hardware perspective, silicon and other advanced semiconductor processes will continue to be heavily invested in, with many organizations focusing solely on IP, as every increase in speed or performance counts (and will fill a massive business need). RISC-V seems to be continuing to gain traction within the industry as the next potential architecture, and with more and more companies continuing to opt into it integrating this.
“When in doubt, hire a junior or intermediate engineer that can come in and get ramped up and will be able to add value in the long term with the right leadership.”
– Warren Robinson
Whether you’re an employer seeking to remain a competitive, attractive option to prospective candidates or a job-seeker eager to continue their career journey, we hope the insights shared above have proven helpful. For further assistance, don’t hesitate to contact the team at TalentLab today. We’re happy to assist with your talent management and opportunity-seeking needs.