5 ways to attract top tech talent, according to these business leaders

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Talented tech workers remain in high demand, despite job losses at big tech firms and ever-increasing threats to job security posed by generative AI and automation

While times are tough right now, smart business leaders know savvy IT professionals are the key to unlocking the benefits of digital transformation and long-term growth. 

So, what’s the recipe for attracting the best tech talent? Five business leaders give us their special sauce.

1. Create a strategy

Rob Mills, chief technology officer at Tractor Supply, says his organization has three key tactics for ensuring it can get hold of the talent it needs.

First, Mills says the company “hires hard” and then ensures its aspirational and highest-performing staff are given opportunities to develop and grow. 

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“A big part of that effort is the commitment that we have to our team members — and that’s not just about learning the business, but how are we investing in them and growing them internally.”

Mills says another key element that helps Tractor Supply attract talent is its long-term vision, both in terms of technologies and the people who make the most of them.

“Digital is a big area we’re investing in — data, AI, analytics. How do you start infusing that talent earlier, so you can build strength?” 

Finally, Mills ensures his company has a ready source of up-and-comping talent, whether that’s by building links with major universities, such as MIT, or hooking into untapped talent in the local community, including high schools and community colleges.

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“We’re going in and influencing their curriculum, offering internships, sponsorships, externships, and tuition reimbursement,” he says. “It’s about helping to find and fuel talent. We get some of our brightest and best people from local community sources.”

2. Identify the opportunities

Lisa Heneghan, global chief digital officer at consultancy firm KPMG, says the ability of a business to attract talent is directly related to the opportunity to learn new things. 

“If I look at KPMG, the really powerful thing we have is that we’re absolutely at the heart of solving business problems,” she says. “We’re a global business that can take on new challenges.” 

Heneghan says KPMG offers candidates a broad range of work areas from audit to tax to consulting. The firm competes with the big tech firms for digital talent — and that’s not an easy battle to win. 

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The key to success is showing how working for a company like KPMG, with a wide range of interests across the economy, gives professionals the chance to learn how to deal with big business challenges.

“I show people they’ll have the opportunity for new experiences and to broaden their skills in areas that they hadn’t necessarily thought about; to get close to the client, sector or functional issue and to be creative,” she says.

“For me, the opportunity for technologists at KPMG is to work on business problems. But don’t get me wrong. It’s a very challenging market. And you must create mobility, flexibility, and excitement for people.”

3. Expose your values

Danny Gonzalez, chief digital and innovation officer at London North Eastern Railway (LNER), says focusing on values shows people what your company needs from its staff — and it also shows candidates why they’ll relish the opportunity to work for you.

“Values are developed at LNER through a collaborative process,” he says. “They were created by the teams that work in the business, not by the executive team.” 

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Gonzalez says one of the key values is “be bold”: “That’s all about being brave and taking risks within certain confines of safety. In terms of what we do as a business, it serves us well and it’s all about imagining the future.” 

Two other values are important, says Gonzalez. One is “bring passion” — and he says the ability to have a hunger for new challenges is crucial in an area like high-tech innovation.

Another key value — which Gonzalez says is probably his favorite — is “own it”. 

“People at LNER can really own what they’re doing,” he says. “They have the autonomy to focus on what we need to do and then get on and do it, and actually own that all the way through to delivery.”

4. Make people excited 

Simon Liste, chief information technology officer at the Pension Protection Fund, goes out of his way to show potential candidates that being part of his organization means working on some meaty projects.

“It’s about showing people what you’re aiming to do and the journey that you’re embarking on as an organization,” he says. “I think technologists like to know that they’re part of a business transformation rather than just dealing with operational elements.” 

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Liste says that show-and-tell mentality is something he’s pushed massively. 

“When we engage with potential candidates, we talk about our values, we talk about the strategic plan, what we’re doing, and how technology changes services directly. We show how our IT organization is influencing where we go next as a business,” he says.

“It’s not about operational activity, it’s about exciting work. They see the value that technology and digital can bring and the impact we’ve already made.”

5. Cast your net wide

Neil Poulton, head of development at BCP Council, says cash is tighter in public sector organizations than blue-chip enterprises, so he uses a range of strategies. 

“We have an apprenticeship scheme,” he says. “We take on apprenticeships and we upskill them through on-the-job training.” 

Sometimes, Poulton pans for latent tech talent in the business — and it’s a strategy that’s helped him find gold, including someone from another part of the organization who now acts as a champion for the council’s burgeoning use of Microsoft technology.

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“He was exceptional at Power Apps,” says Poulton. “He came through the ranks, he worked in our mail delivery room, and he’s now got a job in IT. He was an asset that we didn’t even know we had.” 

External recruitment can play an important role, too. And, once again, the people who come in are trained and upskilled on-the-job.

“We’ve just recruited two Power Platform developers successfully,” says Poulton. “They come with the raw skills that we can train, rather than going out to market and buying somebody who we can’t afford.”

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