In recent months, the shifting economic conditions have posed real problems to the Tech sector.
Is there a danger that the mass layoffs, the subsequent fallout, and the court of public opinion may have tarnished the world of tech forever? Or is this merely a bump in the road?
Talent Acquisition in a changing Tech Landscape
There’s no doubt the rounds of recent layoffs have impacted future growth plans. Teams are being asked to “do more with less”, remain competitive and “focus on the core” products and/or services of the business. For many organisations, this can mean a cultural shift from being customer-led and innovation-focused to a purely sales-led environment that only focuses on improving or extending current features.
Relationships between the Product, Sales and Engineering departments will begin to be tested like never before as corporate purse strings tighten around shiny “nice to haves”. The battle to be compelling will become intense in a manner not seen before.
This will not go down well with technologists who want to do meaningful work and break new ground. Doing more of the same gets old quickly.
Big brands (think FAANG) have traditionally been seen as stable, with good benefits, good salaries and with opportunities for professional growth for those seeking it. But with downsizing and cuts back this may no longer be the case. The newer young upstarts (Atlassian, Canva, Nvidia etc) will be seen as the new desired locations.
These are scenarios that will present new challenges for already stretched Talent Acquisition teams.
The commodification of workers
These layoffs have undoubtedly contributed to the already growing sense of commodification with tech sector workers. With many tech companies laying off staff in order to cut costs, there is a rising tide of online talk about the tech workforce feeling interchangeable and replaceable. This will require employers and TA teams to rethink their approach to recruitment and retention.
With the rise of remote work, there will be an increased focus on workplace experience and probably the building of trust between employers and employees. This could involve adopting new approaches such as worker autonomy, flexible hours, regional hubs and localised benefits as well as adapting their recruitment strategies as needed.
However, despite the rise of remote work, people are still social beings who crave human interaction. So whilst remote work may become more common, the workplace itself will never die out completely. Physical downsizing mixed with on-demand & co-working options across multiple locations /regional hubs is going to become more common.
Brand Attraction vs Brand Repellant
Whether it’s been outsourced or developed by internal teams, the fierce competition for talent in recent years has seen many organisations invest in employer branding. However, in the wake of mass layoffs, there is a danger that employer branding becomes seen as a meaningless word salad. A brand repellant starts to emerge when there’s a very public difference between what is said and what is actually done.
How these organisations maintain or rebuild their reputation will be interesting to see. Maybe they won’t need to. Maybe their brands are resilient enough to outlast any short-lived bad press. Today’s newspaper is tomorrow’s chip wrapper after all.
That being said, this also presents an opportunity for smaller tech companies to show their true value and create their own compelling employer brands. It won’t be hard to fly a flag against the cold, corporate corridors of big tech. Some of the workers that had their system access denied before being informed of their impending unemployment will never again work for big tech.
But are most of us just creatures of comfort who long for a return to the warm embrace of a new Mac, RSU’s, a well-stocked corporate kitchen, catered meals and Napa Valley team-building sessions?
Talent Acquisition teams around the world will be brainstorming ideas and A/B testing new initiatives whilst having the same conversations about accurate data sources for competitive salaries, hiring for values alignment and of course ETA’s for all the new hires.
Automation and Artificial Intelligence
If ever there was a profession that automation was supremely suited to it’s Talent Acquisition. It’s a function inundated with highly repetitive, linear processes. Which is why many organisations don’t do well at it.
It’s also a process that requires high levels of cognitive input. Again, a reason why some organisations are so dire.
When it comes to reducing manual tasks and providing more streamlined communication, AI can be an absolute godsend. For example using AI to provide personalized candidate feedback, as well as providing them with real-time updates on their application status is a great place to be for TA teams.
But while AI can help reduce the time and cost associated with recruiting, we’re still not at the point of relying on AI to make the final hiring decision. The final decision-making process is and always should be, a very human one.
Recruiters for the most part value the human interactions that come with the territory. Their reputations and in some cases bonuses are tied to the quality of the hires they impact. The rise of automation reduces the amount of time they spend on essential yet low-impact work. This is why many recruiters embrace rather than fear AI. Expect to see more investment into this space.
The tech sector recruitment landscape has changed dramatically in the last three years & tech recruiting has faced many challenges and no doubt will continue to do so.
Time will tell if we gradually return to the good old days or if the next few years bring more uncertainty. What is true though is that TA teams will continue to work with whatever means they have at their disposal, with budgets akin to a teenager’s cheap night out and sometimes whilst still continuing to champion organisations that dont deserve them.