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5 hacks for attracting the best IT people to your business

By Teri Cooper

· IT strategy,Startups,Recruitment

Anyone trying to run a business, especially an IT business, will know how tough it is to compete with the big guns when it comes to attracting – and keeping – quality staff.

There’s a perception in the industry that big business offers better job security, pay and career advancement opportunities – and with good reason – it was once true. But several years of highly publicised mass layoffs in once resilient industries like mining, manufacturing and technology, mean old perceptions no longer apply.

Our own industry has been notably trimmed with tech giants HP, IBM, Telstra and Microsoft collectively laying off thousands of workers in Australia in 2015 (and tens of thousands overseas). According to Business Insider and Fairfax Media these numbers are just the tip of the iceberg.

One reason for the downsizing is the need for companies with legacy businesses to modernise inefficient structures to remain competitive in a changed tech landscape. This has created a once-in-a-generation opportunity for agile startups to take significant market share, by offering services like cloud computing and mobile Apps for a fraction of the cost and time it takes large organisations to deliver them.

What does this mean for boutique IT businesses like TACT?

Plenty, actually. Since launching TACT in June 2014 our business has grown rapidly. A key reason for our success is our ability to attract highly capable people and sought-after industry specialists to work with us. Being agile means we can be both strategic and responsive to the needs of our clients, even when the goalposts change during a project — which is not uncommon.

Although we are small, we work with Australia’s largest organisations, like Toll Group and Evolution Mining, and help them with transformations that will have a significant upward impact on their future profits and viability.

We've learned plenty along the way. Here are five hacks to help your IT startup or consultancy thrive in an ultra-competitive marketplace by being able to attract quality people to your organisation.

  1. Offer flexible benefits — When you consider the enormous cost and the time needed to recruit new staff, the best bet is to save yourself the trouble by offering packages that help you hang onto your people. Salaries should match the industry average, or be a little higher. Benefits don’t need to be excessive – let’s face it, most small businesses aren’t Google – and an emphasis on flexible work-life balance is important.  Thanks to fast internet and cloud solutions for SaaS for email, finance and payroll, workers no longer need to be tied to a nine to five office routine. The flexibility to work from home to fit in with school pickups or to look after young children for example, is a real bonus for some employees. Industry is certainly heading this way, don't let your business be left standing on the jetty. 
  2. Be an inspired leader — You didn’t become the boss in the last rain shower, and presumably you learned valuable lessons along the way. Share your learnings – including mistakes – with your people to help them develop and grow. Be that influential leader they’ll talk about years from now when they are mentoring their own crop of aspiring future leaders.
  3. Value your people — In today’s highly transient job climate, professional people won’t hang around if they feel undervalued or their career aspirations are not being met. Actively promote professional development opportunities such as workshops, training courses, secondments and continuous improvement. Say ‘yes’ to conferences and ‘no’ to working all weekend. Keep your people challenged and motivated, and they’ll keep you in business.  
  4. Be collaborative and team-focused — A collaborative workplace is a productive workplace because ideas can be discussed, developed and allowed to flourish (according to their merits). A strong team culture is an important part of keeping employees engaged, motivated and thinking creatively — and that benefits everyone. If you're a manager, be part of the team, not aloof or unapproachable. Team-building days every few months, followed by a swanky dinner, are also great for morale and staff loyalty.
  5. Recognise achievements and learn from failures — We all appreciate a bit of acknowledgement when we do great work, after all, we’re only human. Promoting a culture where due credit is given (and not taken vicariously by the manager), and where mistakes are treated as a stepping stone towards doing it better next time, will build a positive workplace where collaboration, honesty and loyalty flourish.

TACT is proud of the growth we’ve achieved over the past 18 months. Check out the new faces in our team and tell us what you think.

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About the author

Teri Cooper is a writer, marketer and digital communications specialist who writes about technology, business strategy and leadership. She founded digital consultancy Scoot Communications in 2014. When she's not hunched over a keyboard, she can often be found roaming around Melbourne indulging in her two current passions, Instagram and coffee.

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