Recruiting and retaining talent was never an easy task. With the UK recovering from the recession, recruitment is more challenging than ever. Candidates have greater choice and reasons for confidence, especially in the tech sector.

When it comes to talent in the digital and tech sectors, these challenges are multiplied. Tech workers have more choice than most, given the sector is growing 32% faster than the rest of the British economy.

In the UK, there are 1.56 million people currently employed in the sector nationwide, including those in supporting roles, such as accountancy and finance, with digital generating a combined turnover of £161 billion, with a Gross Value Added (GVA) of £87 bn. Average salaries are £45,108, according to the Tech Nation 2016 report. Digital tech workers, which encompasses every profession from iOS app development to UX design, also have the option to work remotely for companies abroad.

The war for tech talent

All of this adds up to one headache for recruiters and HR professionals. More choice, higher expectations, salaries, and greater flexibility makes it that much more challenging to recruit tech talent, especially if your organisation needs those skills but you are outside the sector.

Research from global cloud services company, Appirio, found that 90% of C-suite executives consider recruiting tech talent a significant business challenge. According to the report, the IT Talent Wars and the Gig Economy, “The intense competition for tech talent has placed a major strain on the enterprise, and it is costing companies millions.”

Not only are digital agencies and software firms competing for talent, but at least 28% of staff undertake ‘gig-based work’, supplementing full-time employment. Making many consider freelance work a more viable option, compared to sticking to long hours in larger corporations.

How to attract and retain digital tech workers?

#1: Recognise that recruitment needs to be continuous

This shouldn’t mean that your organization's’ staff turnover is so high that recruitment needs to be continuous, but to recruit the best talent employee branding needs to be an ongoing focus. It’s a job seekers market. How a brand appears, what its reputation is amongst job seekers will influence the calibre of candidates you can attract.

Active candidates, particularly those without a job are few and far between in the tech sector, particularly in some regions of the UK, such as the North. The majority of candidates are passive. Getting their attention means promoting brand values, showcasing exciting projects, highlighting training schemes and allowing current employees to talk about the benefits of working in your organisation.  

#2: Embrace greater workplace freedoms

Yahoo, once a tech pioneer, won no friends when they banned working remote. Modern digital workers don’t like to be chained to a desk for seven or more hours a day. Now, this isn’t to suggest that beanbags, sandals, jeans and hoodies need to be embraced, especially if this is against your company's culture and values.

However, there are greater gains to be made by embracing a certain amount of freedom for tech employees. Whether this means using Slack, casual Fridays or the option to work occasionally from home; these perks will help you attract and retain the talent your organisation needs to gain a competitive edge.

#3: Give them real responsibility

Real responsibility, even early in their careers. The tech sector is full of twenty-somethings starting companies, creating jobs, raising more money than average house prices. Not every Millennial – a term many in that demographic cringe at – is trying to be Mark Zuckerberg, but undeniably an entrepreneurial streak runs through younger tech-focused employees. Embrace this.

Give them room to run. To make the odd mistake. Support them, listen to their ideas and implement when they make a good business case. Responsibility, training and career progression are three ways that inspire brand loyalty far more than beanbags, hoodies and casual Fridays.

Attracting digital tech workers would be easier when those you do employ have the freedom and responsibilities that make them want to promote your brand.

Companies that work hard to create and promote appealing employer-focused brands attract the lion's share of digital talent. Recruiting talent becomes easier when workplace freedoms and responsibilities increase in line with pay and benefits because current employees become your best brand advocates. When employer engagement content comes from having genuinely happy staff, you never run out of new job applicants.