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Technology industry executives talk talent: Part 2

Strategies to keep the talent you have in the tech industry

INSIGHT ARTICLE  | 

Our featured panelists

  • Arion Long, Founder and CEO, Femly
  • Shira Kramer, Founder and CEO, Sterilex
  • Smitha Gopal, CEO, Rendia
  • Kristen Valdes, Founder and CEO, b.well

Demand for highly skilled talent in the technology industry is growing. From cloud and software engineers to cybersecurity specialists and other technicians, the need for top professionals is at the forefront of the minds of technology leaders in this ever-expanding industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, for instance, growth in employment opportunities for software development is expected to grow by 24 percent. Likewise, cybersecurity employment opportunities are expected to grow by 28 percent in the coming years.

RSM recently addressed the topic of attracting and retaining talent in the technology industry at TEDCO’s Entrepreneur Expo where we facilitated a panel discussion with technology company founders and CEOs. What follows is part 2 of their discussion summary covering their insights.

What are some strategies in terms of compensatory benefits that you’re offering your employees?

Kristen Valdes, Founder and CEO, b.well: One of the things we do, especially for early folks—because one of the biggest challenges when you’re a start-up is hiring those first employees because you don’t have the cash to pay the market value—is we’ve asked them to take market-level pay cuts in order to come join the team to really stay with us long-term. For those early folks, definitely granting them equity, making them feel like an owner in the company is huge. But, you can’t do that forever. Otherwise, you’ve given away your company before you’ve done any significant raising. We also feel that it’s important early on to establish yourself as a legitimate company that always operates bigger than you are. And so, we’ve always offered full benefits and a 401(k). If we couldn’t handle the compensation for traditional benefits, then we really didn’t think we had the right to ask people to be on board with our company and already sacrifice compensation for what could be a good long-term outcome for them.

Smitha Gopal, CEO, Rendia: We found that offering a flexible work environment has been a huge benefit and costs us nothing. That can mean different things at different organizations. For us it means that we have some employees that work remotely full-time. But for most people it means they work one or two days remotely or in some cases they shift their schedule so that they can accommodate something in their personal life, whether that’s child care or a personal passion. That has been something we just implemented about four years ago, and the change in terms of morale, retention and just people’s enthusiasm for the organization has been so palpable and so dramatic.

Shira Kramer, Founder and CEO, Sterilex: Offering a professional growth opportunity is a very important motivator. We’ve had success in hiring somewhat younger but very talented individuals who might have 10 years of experience and who are very motivated to advance in their careers, but find that in working in a larger organization, they’re somewhat restricted and stymied from doing so. I think that’s been very successful for us. In terms of company culture, we’ve heard time and time again the importance of that level of respect and friendship in our organization as well as offering real flexibility.

Arion Long, Founder and CEO, Femly: One thing we’ve tried to do because we’re social-impact driven, is have volunteer days. So, we have one day a month where employees can leave and go out and donate their time to a charity of their choice, and still get paid for that day.

We implemented our work-from-home policy several years ago and accountability was a concern. How do we know if people are doing work? You know people are doing their jobs because they are doing their jobs. If you’re running an environment where you have to see them sitting at their desk pretending to type at their computer to give you confidence that the work is getting done, there might be a disconnect with your overall accountability or with just deadline setting, prioritization and strategic objectives that each team has.

- Smitha Gopal, CEO, Rendia

With a remote workforce, in some cases, how do you maintain your core culture and employee accountability?

Long: We have weekly meetups for one or two days where we meet in person together, and when not in person, we leverage CRM platforms like Asana. And we make sure that the lines of communication are open and responsibilities are outlined. It’s really just making sure that everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing and we have some sort of method for tracking that it’s actually getting done, then coming together to forecast what our initiatives are for the next week, the next month and so on.

Kramer: We have state-of-the-art video conferencing facilities, so offsite employees are included in all the business meetings in which they would be included anyway if they were onsite. And they’re expected to participate. They’re expected to travel whenever necessary, but also, we have planned in-person all-company and then divisional in-person meetings. The sales team meets four times a year. The entire company comes together at least twice a year. There are always social events as well as business events that occur during those multiday meetings.

Gopal: We implemented our work-from-home policy several years ago and accountability was a concern. How do we know if people are doing work? You know people are doing their jobs because they are doing their jobs. If you’re running an environment where you have to see them sitting at their desk pretending to type at their computer to give you confidence that the work is getting done, there might be a disconnect with your overall accountability or with just deadline setting, prioritization and strategic objectives that each team has. I feel like if you have that part taken care of, you know what work needs to get done and you can trust that people are going to do it regardless of whether they’re in the office or at home, whether they’re working at 2 p.m. or 11 p.m.; smart people will get their jobs done. I think as a good manager it’s just about removing obstacles from getting the work done and not so much, “What time did you log in?” We also use teleconferencing a great deal. We do not have a state-of-the-art set up. We use Google Hangouts and it works totally fine for us, but I think it’s pretty easy between Slack and Trello and all of these product management or collaboration tools, to figure out how select teams communicate with each other regardless of where they’re all sitting.

For additional insights on this topic, check out the following:

Technology industry executives talk talent: Part 1

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Technology industry executives talk talent: Part 1

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Steve Ingram  
National Technology Practice Leader

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