In this guest column, Adam Rogers, chief technology officer of Ultimate Software, looks at how technology products result from the work of strong teams–not the other way around.
In a world where processes are increasingly automated and machines are learning to think for themselves, it’s important to remember that people drive this constant innovation. Developing a solid technology stack relies on first building an exceptional tech team, and in today’s highly competitive landscape, finding and retaining top talent is more challenging than ever before. Here are three actionable ways to ensure you’re attracting the right people to your organization.
1. Recruit Strategically
Effective recruiting begins with an accurate, detailed job description highlighting the skills and experience needed as well as team environment and expectations. For IT, technical and problem-solving skills are clear imperatives, but personality and cultural fit are vital, too. A thoughtful description gives an honest portrayal of what the company expects and what the candidate can expect if they’re hired. Be sure to include any potential downsides of the job, such as occasional weekend hours or traveling, to weed out candidates unwilling to accommodate these needs.
Great teams rely on core competencies, drive and values. Resumes can provide clues to the first two, if not all three. Look for candidates marketing the desired skill sets, a track record of high performance and evidence of intrinsic motivation, such as taking on extracurricular courses or projects unrelated to their daily responsibilities. Remember that more experience isn’t always better; college interns or recent graduates are often highly capable and hungry to prove themselves in a business setting. I started my own career in tech as an intern and a high percentage of Ultimate Software’s TechSTARS (our internship program) become full-time employees upon graduation.
Including “experiential” aspects in the interview process is also insightful for evaluating a candidate’s strengths, weaknesses and problem-solving capacity. Even better, have interviewees complete a mini project with their potential teammates. There’s no better way to test how they’ll contribute and interact with your team, and it gives existing employees an opportunity to voice any preferences or concerns.
2. Promote Culture, Relationships and Diversity
Culture is regularly cited as a strong predictor of performance. You can have incredible talent and a solid architectural foundation, but without open communication, coordination and compassion, the team won’t operate as efficiently as possible. This is especially true for tech teams, where collective brainstorming and problem solving plays a crucial role in project success.
Most Americans spend more time with their coworkers than they do with their families, and these work relationships — and the morale of the workplace in general — have an incredible effect on employee happiness, productivity and even lifespan. Once you’ve constructed a culture where employees feel trusted, valued and free to be themselves, you must aggressively preserve that culture with each new hire you bring onboard. Employ people you’d enjoy having dinner with. At the end of the day, they’re like family, too.
Diversity is another important cultural consideration. Diverse workplaces enjoy increased innovation, more satisfied employees and higher overall revenue. A 2015 McKinsey report found that ethnically diverse companies were 35% more likely to financially outperform their industry mean. Culture is an extremely important consideration for today’s candidates, and according to Glassdoor, 67 percent of job seekers review diversity when evaluating the culture of potential organizations.
Unconscious bias and diversity trainings can help promote inclusivity, as can establishing “communities of interest” initiatives. At a minimum, I suggest infusing diversity as a key aspect of your corporate mission and HR strategies, using keywords to source for diverse tech candidates and offering same-sex couples the same benefits as opposite-sex couples.
3. Continually Challenge Employees
In today’s world of rapid technological upheaval, constant innovation is an organizational imperative. Tech employees, in particular, require sufficient opportunities to experiment and grow. Google is famous for its “20 percent time” policy, and at Ultimate, we run biannual coding events where for “48 hours,” development teams dedicate all their energy into bringing original projects to life. The complete freedom and competitive atmosphere inspires creativity, challenges our people and often results in the adoption of new products or functionalities for our customers and improved processes for our employees.
Fostering a challenging work environment should be a top priority for organizations (or teams) that run on ingenuity. In 2016, Harvard Business Review reported on a large meta-analysis that found a direct correlation between challenging roles and rates of innovation. When placed in a difficult role, 67 percent of people displayed above-average creativity, compared with just 33 percent of people in roles who didn’t feel challenged. If your employees are feeling bored or burnt out, your team is likely to suffer from more than just lost productivity.
In the same vein, continually investing in professional development opportunities is an investment in your overall team and company performance. Tuition reimbursement, subsidized certificate trainings and internal learning portals are all actionable tactics that can reinvigorate employees as they develop supplementary technical skills. Encourage all team members to challenge themselves as they grow within their roles and advance their careers.
Great teams create great technology–not the other way around. Prioritize your people and the rest will follow.
Adam Rogers is chief technology officer of Ultimate Software, a leading cloud provider of HCM solutions. Based in Weston, Fla., Ultimate Software is a sponsor of the HCM Technology Report.
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