Tech talent: Amid upheaval, how can companies attract innovators?

11.23.22 / 3 min read

The “war for talent” is back on the map, with tech squarely in the center.

As executives and companies respond to news of layoffs at Meta, Amazon and more, this quarter’s latest analysis points to three key trends that can help companies and executives recruit–and retain–tech talent in the months ahead.

Talent increasingly matters for CFOs and their Investor Relations teams. This past quarter, mentions of talent attraction and retention within financial discussions grew by 15%. However, amid a looming recession, the overall growth conversation declined. The result: conversations on talent grew noticeably, framed increasingly as a key way to generate sustainable returns for shareholders.

 In response, executives and corporate communicators primarily highlighted short-term plans—for instance, reallocating employees within their existing workforce. Fewer leaders communicated holistic, long-term strategies for attracting, retaining, and supporting talent with cutting-edge skills. For companies bold enough to commit to a longer-term vision for hiring, our data indicates a potential opportunity for companies highlighting how they will turn tech talent into a revenue engine.

 Tech-led positioning boosts favorability. According to a recent McKinsey report, tech talent particularly values flexibility, autonomy, and compensation. Companies that invest in and effectively message opportunities to work flexibly and receive competitive compensation may see a boost in reputation, particularly among employees in tech.

 Within Aerospace & Defense, for instance, Lockheed Martin CEO Jim Taiclet highlighted four-day workweek experiments, hybrid work from home models for “most of workforce,” and improved working conditions for SCIF (top secret) projects. Raytheon Technologies’ CEO Greg Hayes similarly highlighted flexibility, including approximately 50% of Raytheon’s workforce that continues to work remotely. Northrop Grumman CEO Kathy Warden spoke about raising salaries, improving benefits, upskilling and pursuing pathways for less traditional sources of tech talent. 

Each executive earned rave reviews–each received at least 50% net positivity for the quarter–with Taiclet earning an extra boost for his tight focus on flexibility and autonomy.

Talent conversations are also increasingly risky. In the third quarter, companies faced critiques and challenges on their workplace policies, particularly when storytelling outshined action. Within the Aerospace & Defense industry, for example, the data showed that benefits and perks, talent compensation, and employee wellbeing received three times more negativity compared to the prior quarter. Critics pointed to lack of collaboration within companies, as well as failures to improve talent pipelines due in part to a myopic focus on profit margins.

Similarly, within the Life Sciences industry, workplace topics have emerged as a potential reputational risk. Workplace stories generate more negativity than any other purpose-driven storyline – drawing particular scrutiny over the past two quarters.

How can companies win?

Reputation is inextricably linked to a firm’s ability to recruit and retain tech talent:

  • Dial up long-term strategic visions;
  • emphasize flexibility and autonomy where possible;
  • and invest in compensation and benefits.

Having robust narratives and goals in these areas, coupled with concrete investments in employee experience, can differentiate companies looking to hire and nurture tech talent in the months ahead.