Software engineers have all the leverage this year. Even though software developer employment will grow over 22% by 2029 – faster than the average of all other occupations combined – the Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates a 1.2M shortfall of engineers alone within the next five years. Organizations are already feeling the pressure as new business initiatives caused by the pandemic continue accelerating demand for IT professionals, heating an already competitive tech talent market and making it harder than ever for companies to fill new roles.
Right now, the wisest companies are listening closely to what the talent market is saying. People are quitting their jobs in droves, burned out after more than a year of intense workloads and economic and political uncertainty. The COVID-19 pandemic has workers prioritizing flexibility and work-life balance. One of, if not the biggest, topics discussed between companies and prospective engineers during interviews is remote work, and if the company’s policy is temporary or permanent. For many, this discussion is a deal-breaker if the company is unwilling to provide remote work on an ongoing basis.
So, as the competition for talent continues escalating, what can your company do to attract these in-demand pros? Here are a few ways your organization can set itself apart and win the IT talent war.
This video looks at the possibility of a major change in tech worker availability:
Lead with a Clear Remote Work Policy
The most important priority for any company trying to remain competitive in the hunt for engineers must be remote work. Research from Prudential reveals that nearly three-quarters of U.S. workers not only want employers to offer and expand remote, but 42% say they will look elsewhere if they don’t. Considering that 4 million people quit their jobs in April 2021 alone, let’s take them at their word.
For companies that have never been remote before COVID-19, creating and maintaining a hybrid (both in-office and remote work) policy might be difficult and likely to change and evolve, causing many concerns and unnecessary stress for employees. When creating a remote work policy, set clear and manageable policies without mandatory requirements. Mandatory is the keyword here. Instead, rely on common-sense limits and adaptable guidelines. For example, remote work doesn't mean “do what you want, where you want.” Set clear communications guidelines on how teams should collaborate, working where it makes sense for both employees and the company.
Figure out what works best for facilitating work and collaboration, and let your teams do the rest. For some companies, this means keeping engineering teams within one or two time zones of each other. This tactic also widens a company’s talent pool for new engineers who were previously limited to searching within or around one city for work.
Don’t Treat Remote Workers as Second-Class Citizens
It's essential to recognize that while someone may want to work from home, they still expect regular professional development opportunities. No one wants to be out of sight, out of mind. Show prospects that remote engineers are just as valued as their on-site peers with equal opportunity to grow. Let them talk to your team’s engineers to validate that this is true. If a candidate feels like they will be penalized or not get promoted for working remotely, they will hesitate to work with you.
Being remote doesn’t mean that the fun goes away. Collaboration and comradery still exist, just in more meaningful and deliberate ways. Online gameplay, coffee sessions, team breaks, and virtual meetups enable teams to forge strong bonds – and with greater flexibility and inclusivity, as it allows more people to participate on their own terms.
Be crystal clear of your policy and promote it. A decisive remote work policy is a positive attribute, one that not only brings greater work-life balance to your people but also supports recruiting efforts and opens up a more diverse talent pool, providing a competitive edge in more ways than one.
We’ve already established that workers are searching for positions that will give them the permanent flexibility to work from home. Microsoft Research reports 70% of workers want more flexible remote work options and that 46% of workers intend to relocate thanks to the influx of remote work opportunities. Remember: adaptable = adoptable. Remote policies should be flexible but uniform enough to work across engineering teams. And the best way to do this? Reward autonomy and asynchronous work.
Great engineering teams that produce monthly and quarterly releases are often small and agile. And it often means that the teams are granted autonomy to make decisions and ship products faster. So make it clear to prospects how you build and enable trust within your teams, and set expectations that everyone is responsive, accountable, and cooperative. In return, their great work is released more regularly and they continue to advance their careers, growing much faster than command-and-control teams.
Support Workers Life and Hobbies Outside of Work
At the heart of the war for IT talent is the idea that software engineers pursue jobs that fit into their lifestyles. We are quickly leaving behind the days where developers sacrifice their personal life for a career. Flexible work policies show prospects that you are serious about helping them achieve proper work-life balance. Combine this support with quality benefits – wellness programs, charity giving, generous PTO, etc. – and you’ll demonstrate how much the company wants to help them live up to their full potential.
This employee focus adds to a company’s overall mission and it’s one that they can get behind. It shows you “walk the talk” and that this is about more than just marketing. Defining your direction and purpose, and showing how employees are its most important cog, can become a vital cornerstone of company culture. It helps maintain staff engagement and is a compass for your business during times of crisis.
That said, keep policies simple so that they are clearly understood and quickly followed. Don't trot out complex remote formulas that prospects struggle to understand and strip away flexibility for your employees. If your company installed temporary remote policies in response to COVID-19 that will soon be nearing their end, then you have the blueprint for a permanent policy.
You don't need to reinvent the wheel by continuing these programs, but if you don't, you'll lose out to companies that do offer them.
Jacob Marcus is VP of engineering at Veeva Systems. Veeva provides cloud software for life sciences. It serves over 1,100 customers from the largest pharmaceutical companies to emerging biotechs. As a Public Benefit Corporation, Veeva balances the interests of all stakeholders, including customers, employees, and shareholders.