Best Practices

How to secure tech talent at non-tech companies—and close the digital skills gap

Lauren Shufran

Lauren Shufran

Content Strategist

Posted on

May 14, 2023

One hundred and sixty-eight thousand workers have been laid off by tech companies so far this year—and it’s only May. The tech industry started showing signs of uncertainty in 2022, which saw more layoffs than the previous two years combined. It seems the trend has lately accelerated.

Of course, the majority of non-tech companies are also now making digital transformation a priority, though their initiatives are often held back due to digital skills gaps in their organizations. Even before the recent layoffs, tech job growth actually wasn’t centered on the tech industry: Bain & Company found that since Q4 of 2020, non-tech industries have listed twice as many tech jobs as tech industries have. That means job searchers are more likely to see open roles in manufacturing, financial services, and life sciences, for example, than they are to see an open opportunity with a Silicon Valley firm. 

And now they’re more willing to look at those opportunities. This is great news for non-tech companies in need of software engineers, data scientists, cloud architects, security engineers, and other roles that are key to building their digital platforms. However, these candidates have come from some of the biggest employer brands in the country, and they know their worth. They’re also likely to be hyper-aware of how corporate employers differ from the startup vibe that defines the tech industry. Which begs the question: what, exactly, have tech companies done all along to attract and hire the best and brightest digital talent?

Winning top tech talent to your company isn’t as easy as having an open position when they’re actively looking for one. You have to be more aggressive and data-driven in attracting, engaging, and recruiting them. You need to understand what they expect from work, show how your company can meet their needs, and successfully—and proactively—communicate the perks of stepping away from tech. In a December 2022 report titled “Turn Digital Giants’ Layoffs into Your Talent Gain,” Gartner, Inc. analysts emphasized that “CIOs seeking to attract and recruit top IT talent” need to “modify their talent sourcing and recruitment strateg[ies].” Tech talent needs to be convinced to work for you; “post-and-pray” isn’t a strategy that will work for these roles. Here’s how to refine your talent brand with value propositions that inspire them, strengthen your outbound recruiting with targeted campaigns, and leverage data to recruit and close tech talent faster. (Just like your counterparts in tech have been doing.)

Build a company brand that appeals to tech's top employees

For organizations serious about digital transformation, the time is now to close the digital skills gap. In order to take advantage of this once-in-a-generation opportunity, non-tech companies need to differentiate their employer brands and adjust their employee value propositions to guide their communications with candidates from tech backgrounds. Talent sourcing and brand refinement need to be priorities for any company serious about attracting digital talent—but it doesn’t make sense to source them if your messaging doesn’t resonate with them yet. Here’s how to refine your brand with an EVP that will attract them:

Offer professional development and career advancement opportunities

Technology is constantly evolving, so workers must keep up with industry trends to stay competitive. Many Silicon Valley companies recognize this with in-house learning & development (L&D) programs or annual stipends employees can use to earn certifications, attend conferences, or otherwise upskill. Career development opportunities are a top factor tech workers consider when deciding whether to accept a new job or stay at their current position, according to McKinsey.

Workers considering stepping away from the tech industry may need reassurance that they’ll be able to keep up with industry news and best practices. You can support on-the-job learning with programs that mimic successful Silicon Valley efforts. Some tech companies (like Google) form employee networks where skilled workers can help their peers learn new skills. Others offer the opportunity for employees to step into other teams or roles for a brief time, so they can learn from a different perspective.

The ability to learn on the job is also tied to advancement opportunities. Many tech companies determine duties and compensation by placing employees in “tiers” or “levels” based on their skill or experience. This structure makes it easy for workers to see what they need to learn to move into a higher role.

If you don’t have this structure in your technical department (and can’t implement it), do your best to showcase available career paths. Leverage employee-generated content by asking tenured workers at your company to explain how they grew into their current roles. Or, put together a brief that lays out the different seniority levels and expectations for each.

Allow remote or hybrid work and flexible schedules

WFH and flexible schedules became a new normal when the pandemic hit, and perhaps no industry took to the new arrangement more than big tech. Morning Consult surveyed 750 tech employees in 2022 and found that 85% had fully remote positions or worked under a hybrid model. The majority (around 3 in 5) said they were “not too interested” or “not at all interested” in returning to the office full-time. When it comes to starting a new position, 80% of the full-time (non-freelance) tech workers interviewed by McKinsey said they would rather work remotely than move.

McKinsey researchers also dug into the importance of flexible work arrangements. They found companies’ willingness to work around employees' needs, both in terms of work location and hours, was especially popular among specific demographics. Women and workers in the 35-54 and 55-64 age groups were much more likely to prioritize positions that would allow them some leeway. Non-tech companies will miss out on experienced workers and a diversity of backgrounds and viewpoints if they require candidates to be in the office from 9-5 daily.

Companies looking to launch remote or hybrid work programs should invest in tools like videoconferencing and robust messaging platforms, McKinsey suggests. Cloud-based apps allow remote workers to join meetings and discussions as equals. Organizations may also consider how company culture is communicated and reinforced within the office and ask how that can be translated to digital interactions.

Look beyond the paycheck for compensation

Competing with tech companies for compensation will be difficult for most other industries: CBRE found the tech industry offers wages 16% above the national average and has the highest share of employees who bring home more than $150,000 a year. With current inflation rates and economic uncertainty, workers are less likely to accept a pay cut in exchange for other perks.

Your company needs to offer competitive compensation to have a chance at winning tech workers over. This is especially true if you’re hiring in hot markets like AI/ML, data science, cloud computing, and cybersecurity. The good news is, tech workers are used to compensation packages that extend beyond the paycheck. Many Silicon Valley players offer equity as part of their compensation package—though even that may be less appealing in an uncertain market.

Compensation also covers perks like health insurance and PTO/vacation days. If you can’t offer a higher salary, can your company increase its contribution to employees’ insurance premiums? Can you switch to an unlimited PTO policy or offer paid parental leave or volunteer PTO? Tech workers might also appreciate lifestyle perks like childcare benefits, health and wellness stipends, and fertility assistance.

Refine (and champion) your company's mission and scope

Tech workers want to feel like they’re making an impact and are moving toward grandiose goals. These are employees who have been motivated by Facebook’s (Meta’s) call to “bring the world closer together” and Google’s mission “to organize the world’s information.” You’ll capture their attention by showing how your company is part of something bigger.

In your outbound messaging (more on this below), explain your impact by telling tech candidates about your company’s reach. For example, are there thousands of businesses that rely on your systems? Are your products used in 80% of hospitals? These details will get ambitious, big-picture thinkers excited about making a difference.

Make sure you devote some of your recruiting communications and interactions to discussing the company’s mission. If your company’s guiding principles sound highly corporate, consider reframing overarching team or departmental goals into “mission statements” that present the problem employees will be solving.

Tout your record of stability

Workers who were burned by tech layoffs (or who are worried they may be next to go at their company) are likely to want something less risky for their next position. Silicon Valley companies like to “move fast and break things,” but many have claimed recent layoffs were caused by moving too fast at the start of the pandemic. 

Corporate America may be suffering some from the economic downturn, but it’s nothing compared to the loss of VC cash that’s hollowed out Silicon Valley. Companies with a record of moderate but sustained growth may appeal more than moonshot ideas that are as likely to IPO as they are to shutter after burning up their runway.

If your company hasn’t performed layoffs in the latest economic downturn, or if you made it through the worst of the pandemic lockdowns with minimal workforce disruptions, highlight that information. The promise of having a job that will still exist next year may help you balance out the places where you can’t quite meet tech industry standards.

Proactively engage in outbound recruiting 

Deploying the best-in-class strategies that tech companies have used to recruit digital talent means starting with the right message and ending with the right communication. After all, a rich culture and competitive benefits package are only as good as the tools you use to communicate them to potential tech employees. You’ve now clarified that (and how) your organization is a place where digital talent can find purpose, flexibility, advancement, and more. Now you need to be proactive in that messaging—because tech talent isn’t going to come actively looking for you on their own. 

Tech hiring remains highly competitive: ZipRecruiter found that nearly 8 in 10 laid-off tech workers will land a new position within 3 months. That means it’s worth investing in marketing and outreach materials solely for this audience. A targeted, multi-channel outbound recruiting strategy builds deep, high-quality pipelines and reduces time-to-hire (sourced candidates are 4–5x more likely to be hired than inbound candidates are). 

Gem sits alongside the places you seek out candidates (LinkedIn, GitHub, SeekOut, and more) and automates your workflows, from 1-click upload of candidate information—including emails and phone numbers—to set-and-forget follow-ups in your outreach sequences. Our dynamic email templates use tokens automatically pulled from prospects’ profiles for personalization at scale, so you can build candidate lists and segment your talent pools, creating messaging specific to various digital demographics. Gem’s send-on-behalf-of (SOBO) feature also allows you to exponentially increase response rates by sending outreach “from” hiring managers or executives. But whatever platform you use, build out nurture sequences to communicate your employer brand and keep your company top-of-mind. 

software engineer sequence

Leverage data that helps you recruit and close candidates faster

Once tech talent has applied, leverage data to identify and remove bottlenecks in the hiring process so you can close top candidates faster—before they slip away to your competitors. Gem’s Pipeline Analytics allows recruiters and recruiting leaders to monitor roles and individual candidates to better understand how their hiring process is faring. Reviewing specific job breakdowns allows the team to observe pipeline risks across roles, and spot any troubling candidate bottlenecks or drop-offs throughout the process. 

passthrough rates by department

What’s more, Gem’s Talent Pipeline allows recruiting teams to use SLAs to set clear expectations for all stakeholders and flag reqs and candidates at risk of stagnation. With a single view of all their candidates, recruiters quickly see who needs immediate attention, so they can hold the hiring team accountable on the spot. Which means no more candidates falling through the cracks.

Pipeline Management

With the right approach—which means optimizing every dimension of your recruiting funnel with data—your organization can successfully compete for the most prized digital talent in the market. With Gem, Celestica was able to hire 9 engineers in just 30 days and Unity saw a 20% improvement in their offer acceptance rate for technical roles.

Zwicker time to hire

With big-name companies like Shopify, Clubhouse, and Dropbox having announced layoffs in the past month, it’s clear this period of upheaval is far from over. Now is the time for non-tech companies to make a play for ex-tech workers and land the talent they need to compete.

Get more insight into hiring tech workers with Gem’s industry benchmarks and insights based on years of data collection. Contact our team today to get started.


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