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How to Attract In-Demand Tech Developers in the Competitive European Market It's a seller's market when it comes to Europe's tech talent, but there are ways to attract -- and retain -- the best hires.

By Martin Strigac

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur Europe, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.


Nowadays, they say every company is a software company. As such, to construct strong, scalable organizations and products, a steady supply of experienced software developers and other IT professionals is essential. But, with the EU commission predicting a dearth of more than of 700,000 IT vacancies across the zone by 2020, and 93 percent of tech companies in the U.K. arguing that the digital skills gap negatively affects their commercial operations, the hiring situation in Europe may seem bleak.

Related: Forget London -- These 4 U.K. Tech Hubs Are Booming

However, the reality is that the development talent pool in Europe is comparatively well stocked, with Stack Overflow predicting there are more than 1.6 million professional developers spread across Europe -- mostly in London, Paris and Berlin. A recent appraisal of the number of developers versus VC-backed startups suggests there is four times as much talent available than in more congested American tech hubs like Silicon Valley.

But, with new VC backed startups emerging constantly, and tech giants like Amazon, Facebook and Google increasingly moving HQs to Europe, experienced developers know they can jump ship, and be hired before they hit the water. With that in mind, what tactics can companies use to hook the best developers, and convince them to come -- and stay -- onboard?

Reel in talent with engaging projects.

Remember: Salary is only one way to keep employees engaged. Most developers are looking for new challenges and the chance to "flex their muscles" on rewarding projects. As such, it is important to show developers that with your company, they would have the chance to be part of something big in the industry. This means offering responsibility, great benefits and most importantly, challenging, engaging projects to work on.

With so many languages, techniques and emerging technologies and software, the field of development is constantly changing. Give new talent the opportunity to be on the forefront of change -- rather than sitting on the sidelines -- and you are sure to spark an interest. It's also especially key to give teams autonomy. Many developers are entrepreneurial in spirit, and want to have the power to innovate themselves. Thus at our own company, we consider teams small entrepreneurial units -- they calculate their own budgets, and have the freedom to deploy innovative projects with a monetization aspect from the very beginning.

Developers also tend to be most attracted to well-known, prestigious tech brands or well-funded startups; they know that these companies are willing to cough up for staffing and R&D budgets, meaning the sky is the limit. So, if your company has partnered with well-known brands, be sure to wave this under developers' noses.

We have found that developers from out partner companies are extremely engaged when working on joint development projects for our apps, due to knowledge that they will have the chance to work on some large-scale projects. Just like artists, journalists or any other creatives, developers want to put their work on the global stage, and receive feedback from millions of end users all over the globe.

Partnerships are also a great way to gain access to amazing talent, while reducing the chance of the other company poaching yours. As a company, we try to work closely with brands in different industries -- which means we can affiliate ourselves with them, but also means that our technical staff get the chance to add developing an app, or product for a household name brand, onto their CV.

Related: Why You Need to Be Paying Attention to the French Tech Scene

Offer space to grow.

In addition to offering interesting projects, it is also important to create a system in which junior developers are being trained and mentored by more experienced team members. If done right, this can effectively create a revolving system by which junior developers are constantly advancing through the ranks to become future mentors and leaders. This is particularly important in the current climate, when it is difficult to find experienced senior development talent at short notice.

As Cahlan Sharp, CEO of coding school DevMountain writes, "Ask any farmer -- you don't plant an orchard when you want to cook an apple pie. You need to plant seeds well in advance and nurture your trees in time for the next harvest." Sharp argues that by creating a mentorship system, encouraging pair programming, offering regular feedback, and investing time and energy into the career development of newer developers, companies can create a sustainable talent ecosystem that is constantly cultivating the next generation of leaders.

Another option is to partner with or support local organizations focused on IT education, such as local coding bootcamps, or educational programs targeting young people. Investing time and energy into youth and education programs is great PR; it paints your company in a benevolent light, but also helps to fix the IT talent shortage at its core.

Play your cards right, and you could help create a new flow of tech talent, who are already familiar and connected with your company. For example, our company partnered with a local project in Slovakia called Butterfly Effect, which offers mentorship to young people interested in global digital business for a five-month incubation period. Aside from offering leadership sessions and mentorship, partners also help students to prepare a portfolio and learn about the global ecosystem.

Our aim is not only to help motivate the next generation of IT talent, but also to create the next generation of global innovators who can develop their own amazing ideas, products and startups. We teach them they can change the world from any part of the world; it doesn't matter if it is in Silicon Valley or small city in Slovakia. Helping to build a strong, active local startup community will create a constantly evolving cycle of innovation, which will motivate our company to excel, and push our industry forward as a whole.

Related: Why Portugal Is the New Land of Opportunity for Tech Startups

Consider poaching.

While it might sound unscrupulous, talent poaching has been around since the birth of the tech industry. For example at Google, 13,000 employees came from other tech companies -- and more than 4,000 directly from its main competitors Microsoft. Tech giants in the U.S. have bulging budgets, and are able to offer big salaries and perks to lure the best talent. Netflix, for example, poaches talent by offering a median raise of 167 percent.

While offering high salaries might sound difficult, think of it as an investment. Snapping up your competitor's top developer could offer you a wealth of insights and expertise that may just be enough to help your company rise above others in the market. Even more, your new-found talent might even be able to provide the valuable resources and insight needed to help your IT educational program expand. This will help you to bolster new talent for the future.

Really, by partnering with local education and startup organizations, and trying to give back to the local community as much as possible, we have made connections with a number of smart, engaged potential future employees. If you show your local ecosystem that you are willing to invest time, energy and resources into your new hires' development, and offer interesting projects that will challenge staff and help them grow as professionals, you will spark an interest in talent which will stand the tests of time.

Martin Strigac

CEO of Sygic

Martin Strigac joined Sygic in 2015 as vice president enterprise solutions from the international software company Asseco Central Europe. He has been involved in programming since childhood. He holds several globally-recognized management and professional certificates.
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