Battle for Tech Talent Further Fueled by COVID-19
Sep 17, 2021
HR professionals from companies in Canada’s largest tech park and beyond all shed light on the impact the pandemic has had on attracting and retaining talent
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many aspects of business, leaving some sectors starving and others growing, in some cases considerably. The disparity between companies is nothing short of remarkable. Some have been forced to impose hiring freezes and furlough or lay off staff while others are in a race to reskill employees, hire aggressively or introduce retention programs to retain key talent. This disruption has had a profound impact on human resources (HR) management worldwide.
We spoke to several HR professionals who are actively seeking to add people to their teams, including Elena McGuire, Director, People & Culture at Thrive, Erin Bailey, Manager of People Operations at Solink, and Michael D’Amico, President, People & Culture Consulting at Stratford Group, to learn, firsthand, how these past 18 months have impacted their operations.
What are the primary roles you are looking to fill, and the skills you are looking for in that process?
“We are actively recruiting for senior software developers and leadership roles in both the marketing and customer success space”, shared Elena from Thrive. “We are looking for strong technical skills as well as soft skills, specifically within the SaaS space.”
Michael from HR consulting practice Stratford Group agrees: “IT is an area that has become really hot. Numerous organizations have had to implement technology solutions, whether it’s for internal communications or to adapt how products and services are delivered in a remote environment, resulting in IT skills being in high demand.”
Like many other Wesley Clover portfolio companies, Solink has seen significant new opportunities for growth despite the pandemic. Erin explained: “We are actively seeking roles in customer support, sales, customer success, engineering, quality assurance and marketing. In terms of skills and qualifications, we always look for people who can work autonomously. However, even when working remotely, our employees’ journey is filled with connections. The entire employment lifecycle is very important to us, and we make sure new hires are comfortable from day 1.”
We probed further, asking:
How would you describe the market for such talent today? Is it proving easy to find suitable candidates?
“It’s a candidate market”, explained Erin. “Candidates interview us as much as we interview them. We have to provide proof that Solink is a great place to work. Getting our unique office vibe and culture across is not as easy when you’re recruiting virtually.”
Michael has seen a mindset change, with organizations allowing employees to permanently work remotely or offering hybrid work environments. “This opens up the talent market”, he explained. “We now see technical talent in the Kanata North tech park recruited directly from Silicon Valley.”
Elena described the market as reactionary: “If only students from 10+ years ago understood the projected demand in the tech space, we wouldn’t have the war for senior talent that we see today. Ultimately, there is a massive gap in strong technical talent, not limited to software engineering, but also in customer success and product ownership.”
We now see technical talent in the Kanata North tech park recruited directly from Silicon Valley.
Elena added: “Those winning the war for talent effectively have the most cash to throw at the problem. I see this as creating massive wage gaps among other internal frustrations. Individuals care about the problems they are solving and the social responsibility of the company they are working for; however, this gets blurred when competitive wages are really what’s driving the war for talent.”
Michael cautioned: “Make sure you understand the market, your full value proposition and the implications of the decisions you make. What are you offering beyond just a straight salary?”
What are the tools or techniques you are using to overcome potential hiring hurdles? Are there any new or novel approaches that are serving you well?
“A big focus throughout the pandemic has been on mental health”, Michael shared. “Organizations are increasing their efforts to provide mental health and wellness support for employees, which drives both engagement and the ability to attract and retain people.”
“Keep your ears to the ground to learn of companies that need to downsize and go straight to the candidates, if possible”, suggested Elena. “At Thrive, we have been successful at hiring intermediate candidates to foster senior talent internally. We also take advantage of the global talent stream, bringing skilled workers to Canada through companies such as VanHack. COVID-19 has allowed companies to cast a wider net, considering candidates they otherwise would have passed on prior to 2020.”
Erin emphasized the importance of an up-to-date Glassdoor listing. Potential candidates want to hear directly from other employees prior to committing to a new employment contract. Also: “Our talent specialist works to pre-screen candidates and then proceeds straight to panel interviews to make the process more engaging and fun. BambooHR, an applicant tracking system, enables us to keep candidates in the pipeline. The software helps us streamline the recruitment process and allows us to retain candidates on file for potential positions down the road.”
Elena wrapped up our interview with a positive outlook: “With an uproar of bootcamps like BrainStation, we know there are tens of thousands of professionals getting their feet wet in the tech space. We're looking forward to meeting them as they gain the skills and experience that are so heavy in demand now, and into the next decade.”
No doubt, COVID-19 has caused tremendous disruption, forcing businesses to reimagine how they foster talent, deliver services and adapt to the future of work. The success of any organization is based on having talent in the right roles at the right times, and HR teams are integral to this process.
It is a candidate market, in particular in the technology space, and the Wesley Clover global network of companies is no exception, with 250+ job opportunities currently posted across 100+ organizations. Visit the Wesley Clover job portal to learn more.
Wesley Clover invests in a range of technology companies, and they bring impressive innovation to markets and clients around the globe. I/O is our way of sharing some of the best insights. I trust you will enjoy them.
Terry Matthews, Chairman