Guest Column | September 3, 2019

Talent Strategy: Why Your Company Is Only As Strong As The Talent It Retains

By Dr. Uzma S. Burki, BitTitan

Attract And Retain Millennial Talent

Whether it’s in regard to small businesses or large Fortune 500 companies, human resources ultimately comes down to attracting and retaining exceptional talent. It’s a highly competitive market out there – and a buyer’s market for talented individuals. No matter your company size, finding and retaining the right talent is critical to propelling your company on the pathway to success.

The unique opportunity for software companies lies in identifying its talent brand. Software companies are known for the products or services they offer. But what distinguishes one company from another is the strength of the employees it attracts, the perks and benefits it can offer prospective candidates and the value proposition that it offers to existing employees – in short, its talent practices.

It’s typical for a software company to spend significant focus on research and development and getting its product to market. But the importance of attracting the right talent should never be overlooked. Many companies compete for employees with similar skillsets. What separates one company from the next is its talent strategy. This determines how a company can effectively employ talent to aid and augment getting its product and services to market with speed, agility and a strong customer focus.

A Creative Approach To Hiring And Retention

Market competition is a significant challenge. Depending on where an organization is situated – in the case of BitTitan, it’s the high-tech environment in the greater Seattle area – software companies are likely competing with corporate giants and other ambitious and adept startups. BitTitan competes directly with tech monoliths like Amazon, Microsoft and Google as well as early stage players. In a decidedly buyer’s market, vying for critically skilled talent becomes even more challenging.

This requires organizations to think resourcefully and imaginatively in terms of how to attract strong talent. Not all companies can compete at the pay levels of the Googles or Microsofts of the world. Yet several creative benefits can be offered to lure the best and brightest.

A company can tout its environment to innovate and create. It can highlight the ability it offers employees to work with a large degree of flexibility and agility, and the exposure to learn from seasoned and respected industry experts, peers and mentors. Creative HR pros can shape a talent branding message that illuminates how a new hire can meaningfully contribute and help create a strong, innovative and possibly disruptive brand with the opportunity to work hard while also having fun.

Assess Compensation And Performance Metrics

Critical to most software companies is the development and recruitment of a strong sales force. Those in sales are driven by different criteria than other employees. They tend to have a specific mindset – that of a rainmaker. This entails specialized skills that fuel a different set of sales compensation factors, including variable pay and incentive-based commissions.

The real metric for determining value is the key performance indicators (KPIs). For sales, these can include how many sales are closed over a period of time and whether or not there is a resell of a particular product. For engineers or those in product design, the KPIs may include speed to market or how many defects occur in a product launch, using more of a 6-Sigma methodology. Variable awards aligned with KPIs can be effective enhancements to traditional compensation models for employees outside of sales.

Adopt And Embrace Onboarding

While important to building a strong sales team, onboarding is a much stronger concept for an entire enterprise. Many companies struggle to grasp effective onboarding practices and often confuse it with orientation. Discerning the two is important for every company. Orientation is a concise process of providing new employees with essential job information. It lasts no longer than a full workday. Think of orientation as the micro approach and onboarding as the macro.

Onboarding should be a significantly longer purpose-driven process, which can take up to a year. It should clearly and positively influence the employee experience. Understanding and improving the employee experience is critical for companies like BitTitan since it operates in a highly competitive job ecosystem. A networked and team-based structure becomes both important and more complex to drive the employee experience. Providing an engaging experience helps companies like BitTitan succeed in attracting and retaining skilled employees as well as driving a strong customer experience.

For sales, there are several important steps for onboarding new hires. First is familiarizing the new hire with their sales territory and the product or service they’ll sell. Second is identifying for the new employee the business, channels or demographic groups the company intends to target. Third is determining the leading and lagging indicators of sales in the new hire’s territory and identifying how to address them. Lastly, the company must consider the acculturation process of assimilating the new hire with their peers.

Collaboration Is Key

When we talk about talent and talent brand, we’re talking about utilizing people resources in the most beneficial way. It’s key for new hires to feel they are contributing to the end product. Not just within their own specialty area, but also through cross-functional collaboration, which is fundamental to the success of any team. This collaboration enhances business learning by immersing talent in different work streams. It leads to employees growing exponentially across different functionalities and business lines.

Cross-functional collaboration can define and lead the company to higher overall performance. It’s paramount that key teams – engineering, sales, product and marketing – operate as a single cohesive entity. If, for example, the engineering team can’t engineer the end product to address a unique customer need or value-add, then the marketing team is unable to formulate an effective marketing campaign, forcing the sales team to struggle with how to sell it. From inception, it’s fundamental to develop this collaboration and not introduce it at later stages.

Elevate Your Talent Strategy

A focus on your company’s talent strategy is critical to dictating the strength of your company. The traditional nature of employment is changing, with an influx of the gig economy and temporary jobs emerging. The Harvard Business Review reports that 150 million workers in North America and Western Europe work as independent contractors. A survey from Deloitte found 43 percent of millennials are inclined to job-hop within two years, significantly affecting the institutional knowledge of companies. It can put a company on unstable ground when the investment in employee education walks out the door every two years. It’s a different world, and it will pay to articulate and enact a strong talent strategy to help build your company.

About The Author

Dr. Uzma S. Burki is Vice President and Global Chief Human Resources Officer for BitTitan.