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Small Business Digest


Finding, Keeping Technical Talent Still Vexing Small Businesses

Finding, hiring and retaining top technology talent is cited among management’s biggest concerns for the New Year, according to a new survey conducted by Manhattan-based executive search firm Harris Allied (

Specifically, the Harris Allied Tech Hiring and Retention Survey reveals that 39% of managers say that high tech talent acquisition is their greatest concern, while 23.6% cite retention. These figures are consistent for the second year in a row, according to hiring managers who cited the same concerns last year by 41.8% and 19.1% respectively.

Also in line with data collected by last year’s Harris Allied survey, another 19.5% (versus 18.2% in 2012) say that remaining competitive on salary and bonuses concerns them most, while 12.2% (versus 16.4% in 2012) say having to do more work with fewer people is at the top of their list.

Harris Allied conducted the survey in November 2013 among 123 executives ranging from C-level to middle-management executives at financial services, professional services, consumer goods, digital media and technology companies located in the New York metro area.

“Management is still preoccupied by their company’s ability to attract top technology talent. They realize this star talent has a meaningful impact on their business’s ability to compete and grow. Despite the general consensus that the job market remains sluggish in many sectors, it’s a different story in the technology space,” says Kathy Harris, managing director at Harris Allied. “As a result, we are seeing a lot of velocity in this area right now; many positions need to be filled, leaving job seekers in a good position to seek out the best opportunities.”

The survey also shows that offering competitive compensation is a key strategy for companies looking to attract and retain the best talent, with 36.6% saying it is their most important strategy to retain key technology employees and 42.3% citing it as the most important strategy to attract this kind of talent. In addition, 44.7% of executives surveyed say that when a candidate rejects their job offer, it’s usually because they were offered better compensation elsewhere.

“The compensation package must be competitive,” says Harris. “HR departments have access to many industry metrics to help them evaluate whether they are being competitive in this regard or not. It’s always the first and most obvious place to look when evaluating a firm’s recruiting and retention efforts.”

But corporate culture also plays a critical role, the Harris Allied survey shows. More than 26% of those surveyed say it is the most important factor in employee retention, while 13% say it is most important to attract top talent. Another 15.4% say that the fact that their company is unique and that their people work on incredible projects also helps attract technology stars.

Respondents say an exceptional corporate culture is best characterized by an environment that is creative, inspiring and fun (67.3%), where people have the chance to work on interesting projects (64.5%) and where companies offer flexible work hours or opportunities to telecommute (52.3%), for example. Another 42.9% cite the fact that their company offers outstanding professional development opportunities as an example of their great corporate culture.

“Professional development initiatives cannot be underestimated as a means to attract and retain the best tech talent out there,” notes Harris. “Every day we see the industry’s most desirable candidates pass on opportunities from firms that offer them excellent compensation packages but simply do not do enough to help their talent grow professionally or get their hands on some hot new technology. These are precisely the kinds of benefits that really entice the industry’s game-changers to come work for a company and stay there. For example, our study shows that the chance to work on some new technology (34.1%) elsewhere is cited most often as the reason people have left their organization in recent months.”

Other survey findings include:

  • Hiring plans for 2014 are mixed with as much as 28.5% saying they’re hiring only minimally and another 24.4% reporting that their plans are still being developed. More than 35% say they plan to hire 10% or more than last year.
  • Respondents say they would be recruiting for software application developers and architects most aggressively in 2014 (46.3%). Not surprisingly, web/IOS developers are also in high demand, with more than one-fifth of respondents saying they would recruit this kind of talent most aggressively. More than 36% say quant analysts would be the least important talent to recruit in 2014.
  • Little more than 4% of managers surveyed see their own organization as the best resource for recruiting today’s top technology talent. But 45.5% agree that their own industry is the best place to recruit this kind of employee.

“Companies have had to reexamine how they recruit and retain today’s best technology resources. Offering a good commute or telecommuting options and good benefits packages are par for the course," he says.

" Today, in order to attract the best talent, companies need to give these employees exciting new technology to work with and provide them with the resources and career paths to advance professionall. I would not say it’s an employee’s job market, but it’s fair to say that it’s a more level playing field than it’s been in some time,” notes Harris.

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