Your Tech Employees Are Your Most Potent Reputational Tool as Your Firm Recruits Tech candidates want to hear firsthand from workers who have experienced your company's culture and learn what it's really like to work for your organization.

By Art Zeile

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Your employees have gained more power as the digital transformation accelerated by Covid rapidly reordered recruiting and retention, most particularly among tech workers. Companies that are hiring urgently need to empower their workforces if they want to become or stay competitive.

Desirable tech workers now have multiple options when choosing jobs, and anecdotes from those who have left or are planning to leave their jobs illustrate how the power shift between employers and employees offers a game plan on how organizations should refocus their recruiting. 

Related: Top 5 Ways to Attract Quality Hires During the Employee Shortage Crisis

Your employees are not only more valuable and harder to retain, but in a remote world where a desirable location, coveted office space and office perks have been removed as differentiators, their voices matter more than ever to prospective job candidates. In the age of ultimate authenticity, your carefully crafted "brand voice" is not what potential hires are listening to most. They want to hear from your employees. In-demand technologists, in particular, are adept at sorting through networks to back channel to your staff. That means your employees hold the keys to your recruiting success or failure.

Getting the Real Story

Many prospective employees now seek companies with a solid brand and an established culture of empathy — an organization whose efforts are making an impact, and whose policies thoughtfully address diversity and the flexibility of working remotely.

It is no longer sufficient to simply have a compelling job opportunity, or even an attractive compensation package, to attract and engage technologists. Tech candidates want to hear firsthand from workers who have experienced your company's culture. They want to know what it's really like to work for your organization and, equally important, what it's like to work in and with the specific departments, teams and managers connected to the roles that interest them.

Top tech candidates also want to get the real story behind your organization's commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI). They want to see beyond words on a website and understand how well you truly integrate your mission, vision and values as guiding principles. Organizations can learn more about building brand reputation through reliable research. The key is that what worked before — combining high salaries with perks like free food and laundry services — might no longer work in this new world. That means looking beyond traditional approaches to understand what technologists really want and need in their ideal work environments, such as continuing education, assistance with child or elder care, and mental health and wellness programs.

Communicating Through Your Employees

You are surrounded — virtually, of course — by the people who can speak volumes about your company's culture and mission. If your organization can leverage this prized asset and give your employees power to share the word, you're much more likely to attract top-tier candidates while also retaining high-performing employees.

A core element is communication. Tech candidates want their own voices heard: I want my company to understand me and I want to be able to set priorities for what I do professionally. That means executives might need to take a back seat in recruiting efforts.

Related: Stop Asking Job Candidates to Prove Why They're Right for the Job

The Muse, a Dice partner, showcases videos of employees at growing companies extolling in their own voices what work life is like for them. (Of course, you cannot mandate, so ensure your teams are genuinely engaged.)  "Company culture is illuminated when employers make it an intentional priority to share employees' stories and experiences to give candidates on the outside a much better idea of what it's like to work there. By providing the technology to record short videos on phones or laptops from anywhere at any time, gathering employee-generated content is simplified," advised Kathryn Minshew, CEO of The Muse during a joint Dice/The Muse webinar, The New Recruiting Landscape: Lessons for Employers in 2022. "Candidate trends have shown that people prefer less produced content and put trust in current employees, which should encourage employers. Actively and consistently caring for employee brand increases the ability to hire candidates who are successful and stay longer, decreasing cost per hire, increasing qualified applicants and reducing turnover."

Strategies to Retain and Build Your Teams

The best strategies to attract and retain top tech candidates can be gleaned from recent research. According to Dice's 2021 Technologist Sentiment Report, 48% of technologists in the second quarter this year expressed interest in changing companies, up from 40% in the fourth quarter, and a big jump from 32% in the second quarter of 2020. In addition to an increased desire to change roles, 36% of technologists said in the second quarter of this year that they were burned out, up from 32% in the fourth quarter.

Beyond salary and benefits, Dice's Equality in Tech Report illustrates the top reasons for considering a change: better working conditions (37% of technologists identifying as women, 35% of technologists identifying as men); wanting more opportunities to express creativity (24% of technologists identifying as women, 21% of technologists identifying as men); and because a new role might align more closely with their values (32% of technologists identifying as women, only 26% of technologists identifying as men).

Related: Think of Talent Retention Like You Think of Customer Retention

Most importantly, tech professionals assign a high level of importance to their company making changes in policies or practices to support gender diversity and inclusion movements. Nearly two-thirds of technologists identifying as women (65%) assign extreme or moderate importance to these movements, while 46% of technologists identifying as men said the same (Dice Equality in Tech Report). Think about how teams at your organization feel about all of these issues and whether your organization can improve working conditions, even when employee satisfaction is high.

Organizations that must attract and retain technologists should take three important measures when looking at building their brands as employers (Dice Insights):

Soul search. Is your company culture really what you purport it to be? Job candidates seek authenticity; if your organization has a lack of diversity, poorly organized principles or a misaligned mission, recruiting will be hindered until you get it right. 

Referral incentive programs. While many of your current workers will (and should) be inspired to share the word about your company, monetary rewards sweeten the process and keep them accountable for following up with their referrals. 

Power of networks. One of the most valuable benefits of an employee-led employer branding program is the network effect. By sharing content on employees' social networks, you can access a more valuable audience.

The heart of this process is examining, developing and showcasing organizational culture, and it's something your company can kickstart or ramp up through the words and actions of your employees.

Art Zeile is CEO of DHI Group, which operates Dice, the leading tech career marketplace connecting employers with skilled technology professionals.

Art Zeile

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

President and Chief Executive Officer

Art Zeile is CEO of DHI Group, parent of tech career marketplace Dice. A serial entrepreneur and technologist, Zeile founded and led several tech firms. He has a master’s in public policy from Harvard, a B.S. in astronautical engineering from the U.S. Air Force Academy and served in the Air Force.

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