Winning the War for High Tech Top Talent

Winning the War for High Tech Top Talent
from the Turning Good People Into Top Talent blog series
By Bob Moore, CMC, Managing Principal, Talent Management Institute

work perks quote

High tech startups are recognizing that they can level the playing field and attract and retain top talent—even millennials. Culture can be more effective than any other marketing strategy to attract and retain the best talent.  Because of their exponential growth, the smallest change in strategy can make a far bigger difference for a high tech startup.  Didier Elzinga, co-founder and CEO of Culture Amp, a human resources software startup said, “These companies do in two years what most do in 10.”  He believes the reason culture matters is because you have so much to gain if you get it right.

Millennials, now the largest segment of the workforce, make up a significant portion of the employees in tech startups. Keeping things fun is a very effective attraction strategy.  In my tour of startups and incubators, I frequently notice opportunities for impromptu ping pong matches that can lighten the mood and reduce tendencies for a young company to create a band of workaholics. “If you’re too focused on productivity in an intensive environment like a startup, you’re going to burn people out,” said Dave Seibold, vice chairman of the Technology Management Program at U.C. Santa Barbara.

Because of their entrepreneur attitudes, tech companies are more willing to experiment with their workplace atmosphere to get employees to perform.  Leaders of high tech companies want their employees to at least think twice about jumping ship.  For example, generous vacation policies, free lunches and awards for top employees tend to pay bigger dividends at early-stage tech companies.

An article in the LA Times recently reported another example:  a pair of eight-seat golf carts that the company calls the “party wagons,” which are outfitted with speakers and lights for taking staff to the beach near their office. Management thinking is creating a fun, wild, different environment where employees want to come and perform their best. Rather than be concerned about the cost of golf carts, consider the high cost of losing and having to replace talented employees.

The style of management is also a major influence on employee engagement and turnover. It is well documented that employees leave managers—not companies.  Ineffective managers are a significant source of stress, particularly in high tech startups.  Joel Goh, Harvard Business School assistant professor of business administration, says that the workplace is where we spend a lot of our time—a third of our day.  Mr. Goh’s findings indicate that employers can take measures to potentially improve employee health by engaging in managerial practices that mitigate or reduce stress. It’s in the employers’ best interest to look into this connection, both for the good of their employees and for the good of their own organizations.

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Bob Moore, CMC
Managing Principal


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