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How any company can build a culture that appeals to top tech talent

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Kirill Wright)

Tech companies are well aware of the talent shortage and the strain it puts on hiring — but what leaders might not realise is that keeping and developing existing talent is just as important as attracting new employees. As the demand for tech talent continues to surpass supply, it’s vital for companies of all types to hold onto the high-quality tech talent they already have.

Nearly every company in today’s economy has growing digital needs, which means tech companies aren’t the only ones searching for tech workers. Manufacturers, consulting firms, marketing agencies, and others in virtually every industry now look for the same in-demand skills. In this kind of landscape, not everyone can win — but the companies that are winning often do so because of one key differentiator: culture. In fact, a recent Glassdoor study found that more than half of respondents felt company culture mattered more than salary when it comes to job satisfaction.

The employees of today’s workforce want to work for companies with values that align with their own, and they want to feel like their work matters. Corporate initiatives around diversity and inclusion are becoming more common not only because they drive performance, but also because top talent wants to be exposed to a diverse range of perspectives and ideas. Younger workers also prioritise benefits such as work-life balance and scheduling flexibility, and modern technology makes it easier for companies to offer these perks without sacrificing productivity. But simply providing any or all of these benefits doesn’t create an exceptional culture.

As a business leader, your job is to find a balance. You want to create the conditions that lead to optimal employee performance, but you’ll also have to work hard to foster a sense of community that people genuinely want to be part of — one that attracts high-quality tech workers and encourages them to stick around.

The role of tech leaders in creating company culture

Today’s breakneck pace of technological evolution means the modern job market is unlike any other. Skills that are highly sought after one year can become seemingly obsolete the next.

This means that it’s critical for CIOs or CTOs to ensure hiring managers and HR employees have a deep understanding of the skills their company needs and how those might evolve over time. This could mean implementing development programs that equip current employees with the knowledge they’ll need to do the jobs of the future.

Top talent knows that the job market is constantly evolving, and these workers won’t tolerate career stagnation. The technologists of today want to work in collaborative environments where they can learn constantly. Companies that want to make retention a priority should offer regular training and upskilling opportunities to these employees. The added benefit of implementing these programs is that they reduce your company’s need to hire new talent with niche skill sets.

Key tactics for building a collaborative community

Besides keeping the above considerations in mind, technologists in the C-suite and their colleagues in HR should also focus on the following key tactics. These approaches can help them cultivate a collaborative community in which tech talent can thrive:

1. Hire in cohorts. It’s more than likely that you’ll hire for multiple roles at once, which can be a great thing when it comes to building company culture. I’ve observed time and time again that technologists who are hired alongside a group of peers typically experience greater success over time.

This is especially true for people from nontraditional backgrounds — those who learned their skills from a coding boot camp, for instance, rather than earning a tech degree from a college or university. Although these employees can bring highly useful and diverse life experiences to the table, they’re also particularly susceptible to feeling lost in a new role.

When these employees have trusted peers to lean on throughout the onboarding process and beyond, however, the sense of camaraderie can help them maintain confidence in the face of new challenges and unfamiliar obstacles. The mix of life, work, and educational experiences that a cohort of hires can bring to a company — combined with a sense of immediate familiarity and trust — can be a recipe for innovation and new ideas.

2. Organise affinity groups. Organisational change of any kind usually starts from the top. If a company wants to push its culture to be more collaborative, the C-suite must lead that evolution. Affinity groups provide great opportunities for senior leaders and junior-level employees to exchange ideas and bond over shared interests.

For example, LaunchCode’s Code With Pride affinity group creates an inclusive community for tech workers who identify as LGBTQ and their allies to network and learn. When a company’s CTO or CIO creates and leads an affinity group such as this one, she shows participating employees that they’re supported and wanted within the organisation. And if a number of company leaders from a diverse range of backgrounds organise affinity groups within a company — and encourage others to start their own groups — the results can be transformative.

In these groups, employees from different disciplines who might not interact regularly have opportunities to do so in the context of a predefined common ground. This creates stronger teams and a deeper understanding of the value each individual brings to the company at large.

Exceptional company cultures aren’t built overnight. In fact, it can take years to create a culture that both attracts top talent and makes current staff want to stay — even when great opportunities come calling. However, implementing the two tactics above can help you speed up the process and put you on the path toward building a thriving tech community within your organisation.

Jeff Mazur, executive director, LaunchCode