The Manchester tech scaleup space is now so competitive that businesses need to move away from hiring on skills alone.
That is why my company Langham Recruitment – a specialist technology and engineering agency which works with FTSE 100 PLCs nationwide – has entered into a joint venture with IN4 Group to launch IN4 Talent in the North West.
We had already partnered with The Landing, an innovation hub at MediaCity in Salford, when IN4 took over its operation last year and rebranded it as HOST. It became clear quite quickly that there was a real opportunity to dovetail IN4’s aims with what we were doing at Langham.
The average company’s mindset is that salaries in technology roles are going crazy, but there are many potential reasons why their people have moved on. The average job seeker will tell their line manager that they are leaving because they have received an amazing salary offer; but on the recruiter side of things, you hear that the business lacks direction, or they don’t get on with the line manager… salary is viewed as a non-offensive reason to part company.
There are many very happy people who are not earning megabucks in tech: they are involved in specific projects, perhaps, or admire the purpose of the company they are working for.
Change your approach
So how can you change your hiring approach to find these long-term collaborators?
When someone applies for a job, don’t immediately speak to them about the role. Ask: when are you most happy with your work? When are you most frustrated? What exactly is it that makes you feel you’re doing a great job? What would you like to be doing in three years’ time – what technologies would you be using? Which types of organisations do you find interesting; and which types would you not want to work with, and why?
By probing them in this way, you will come to know whether a candidate is or isn’t a match for your company. Otherwise, you may waste a lot of time to get all the way through to offer – and at that point of inflection realise they’re just not that interested in the job.
Build a talent pipeline
Looking at the wider picture, businesses also need to think about the future talent within the organisation.
With innovative talent methods, resource banks, contract-contingent labour, freelancers, outsourcing, offshore and nearshore to consider, it can be very challenging to build that talent pipeline.
It’s amazing how many times you see people out of nowhere say something like: ‘We need Unity skills!’ It’s those businesses that have really, really high churn.
Our customers now realise we’re not going to just fill a vacancy for them: they can partner with us on a long-term basis. If they need to skill people into their organisation with a particular qualification, we can plug them into the Unity Centre of Excellence at HOST; put them into a particular bootcamp; or have the bootcampers develop the products for them as a project then allow them to cherry pick the talent they want from there.
They could partner with us on the curriculum; join one of the innovation programmes at HOST which gets them more investor-ready; or bring in a freelancer to train up junior staff so they go from ‘ready to work’ to ‘ready to contribute’.
With talent, you’re not always hiring mid-to-senior-level people: different parts of the organisation are going to be focused on different things. What’s your future plan for diversity and inclusion? How can you improve the mix of male to female, for example, in your workforce?
Skills City at HOST – which is backed by £1.2 million of Department for Education funding – delivers Skills Bootcamps and has pledged to fast-track 450 people every year into technology careers. It also offers access to the AWS re/Start programme. That’s a real solution for people to have a long-term plan to bridge the diversity gap within their area.
My customers want to understand what their obligations are as an employer. When you look at that scaleup world, D&I scares a lot of people because they want to be diverse but it’s a constantly changing feast. We have a rich resource bank of people within the local area and in the community who can provide specialist services to help with this; we can also advise people on how to attract candidates through gender-neutral advertising.
We can also signpost them to services around neurodiversity, and how to make sure their interview processes are sympathetic to that; then look at ways people can access talent to create a broad ethnic and gender mix in the long term.
Above all, you must look at all this holistically – and find people who are interested in the subject matter, technology or type of product that they will be developing with you.