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How to Win the Competition for Top Talent—And Keep Your New Hires on Board

Ernest Yuen July 3, 2019 Fast Company

What is the biggest obstacle right now to recruiting and retaining great talent? Simply put, there is not enough supply to meet demand—and there may not be any time soon. The most recent jobs data put the national unemployment rate at 3.6%, the lowest it’s been in half a century. Across the country, there are more open jobs than people without work. That means employers in industries from tech to teaching to trucking are having trouble finding the right people and keeping them once they’re hired.

The situation is especially competitive in tech. Net tech employment in the US grew by 260,000 workers from 2017 to 2018, and the industry will add more than half a million more jobs by 2026, per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even if you’re hiring outside the major tech hubs you’ll probably run into this issue, because “the demand for tech talent routinely exceeds supply in most markets” across the country.

Every organization needs creative, skilled, enthusiastic employees to grow and innovate. How do you find them now, when so many employers are going after the same job seekers? As the Director of HR at Agari, I see three elements that bring the right people on board and keep them around—even in one of the most competitive and dynamic tech markets in the country.

Competitive Pay is Table Stakes

Great talent doesn’t come cheap. The job seekers who bring the most to the table know what their skills and experience are worth. For them to seriously consider working for your company, you have to offer a competitive salary and benefits package. The exact amount of that offer varies by position and experience and also by region.

Median tech wages in the US are $81,900 per year now, per CompTIA’s Cyberstates database. In some tech hubs, the median is much higher. For example, in Agari’s hometown in the San Francisco Bay Area, the median tech wage is $110,800. In Raleigh, where Agari has a remote office, it’s $85,000. Knowing the local median for your industry matters for your offers. It also matters for deciding where to recruit, especially if your budget is tight.

With competitive pay, you can catch the attention of people with the skills and experience you want. But money alone won’t hold their interest for long.

People Want Meaningful Work

The next element for recruiting and retaining the best people is your company’s sense of purpose. Nearly everyone wants work that accomplishes more than paying the bills. In fact, the Harvard Business Review reported last fall that more than 90% of employees would be willing to earn 23% less money to do work they believe has meaning. Workers with meaningful jobs are also “69% less likely to plan on quitting their jobs within the next six months” and they stay longer with those employers.

This is good news for organizations with a mission-driven culture—especially those that can’t quite match the competition’s salaries. There are so many jobs out there for people to choose from, but not all of them offer a substantial sense of purpose. You can set your company apart by clearly stating your mission and showing prospective hires what your mission accomplishes.

Here at Agari, our mission is to protect digital communications to ensure humanity prevails over evil. It’s how we present ourselves, how we define ourselves, and how we describe our company’s values. It’s an appealing mission for tech workers with a strong sense of justice who want to work at the forefront of the cybersecurity industry. But a mission statement is only words until you show potential hires how you live it.

Your marketing messaging needs to show potential employees how your company affects the world. In our case, testimonials from our customers show how we protect them from hackers and fraudsters so they can safely pursue their own missions. When job seekers research your company, will they see your mission in action on your website, in your social media posts, and in the articles your executives publish? The more ways you present your mission and impact, the more likely you are to spark interest in people looking for meaningful work.

So now you’ve caught talented workers’ attention with your pay and sparked real interest with your mission. The next element comes into play during the interview process, when you and the job seeker decide if you’re the right fit for each other.

A Positive, Supportive Work Culture is a Must

Money and mission matter. So does your organization’s culture. Ideally, your leadership fosters a positive environment where people feel valued as individuals and as part of the team. How important is a healthy company culture? The researchers who studied meaningful work also explored the effects of loneliness and social isolation in the workplace. They found a strong correlation between social support at work and employee retention. “Employees who experienced above-average levels of workplace social support were… less likely to plan on quitting their job in the next six months.”

Combining a friendly, positive workplace with a sense of purpose has an even stronger impact on retention. Workers in the study who had strong social support and a sense of shared meaning were 24% less likely to leave than other workers. In industries where employee poaching is an issue, a supportive and mission-driven culture is a must to reduce turnover and control hiring costs.

Candidates should also experience your company culture in person. When they arrive for interviews, they should feel welcomed. When they leave those interviews, they should want to come back. And make no mistake, candidates observe your culture carefully when they arrive to talk. What makes them most likely to reject an employer after an interview? Witnessing rudeness toward co-workers.

Workplace community is a two-way street, of course. Behavioral interviews give you the opportunity to see if a candidate is the right fit for the job and your culture. Do they believe in your company’s mission? Do they give you a sense of enthusiasm and positive energy? Will they be a positive addition to your company culture? These are as important for retention as the skills the candidate brings to the table.

It’s a job seeker’s market right now in most industries. But if your organization offers the three elements they’re looking for—reasonable compensation, a mission they can believe in, and a good fit in a positive workplace culture—you’re in a strong position to recruit and retain the right talent for your company.

Ready to help humanity prevail over evil? Consider joining the Agari team! Check out our open positions for more information.

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