The Current State of Technology Talent Acquisition and Retention

Please, before reading this post, we ask you to put your “logic hat” firmly on until this ride comes to a full, and complete stop. Thank you.

So it seems it has come to this. DeveloperAuction just raised $2.7 million dollars and the premise, as the very straight forward name implies, allows developers to set up personal sites that showcase their ability with the hopes of landing a new gig. For a concise article that will offer you a bit more detail, check out VentureBeat’s coverage of the story. We’d like to point out that we are by no means knocking this idea or in anyway questioning the technology talent gap that makes a market such as DeveloperAuction quite palpable. Bottom line, they have had early success and have already received financial backing. The idea was brought to market by the founders of 99Designs and LiveOps, respectively, (amongst others) so it is clear they understand what they are after and this isn’t their first rodeo. These are smart entrepreneurs who have recognized a dearth of talent, and created a neo-market that allows willing clients to access it. With that said, we would humbly suggest there are other ways, and yes, we would say, better ways to access technology talent from around the globe. Before we get to our solution – and you can probably guess what we suggest – let’s take a look at a complimentary piece of the HR pie. If DeveloperAuction is all about acquisition, what are some trends that we are seeing when it comes to retention of this top talent?

Are You Hiring a Director of Happiness?

happy face in the crowd of blue facesThere is likely a fine line between setting up an internal culture that enjoys “weisure” time (the balance of work and leisure) and that of going as far as to hire a “Director of Happiness” (or otherwise titled) that is in charge of setting up expansive internal programs all created to make your employee’s life “easier” in some capacity. We have, and likely you have as well, read about companies that pay for health conscious meals every day, offer memberships to local gyms or pilates/yoga classes, pick-up the tab and the dry-cleaning (literally) on site and much more. And as we stated above, we understand the premise behind this. It is incredibly expensive and detrimental to your team’s productivity if you are consistently losing your talented employees to other companies. And, we are not at all arguing that a potentially healthier employee can be a more productive one as well. But the fact remains, those in charge are willing to do more, and more, and more… and yes more to keep their talent “happy”. But where is that fine line? How much can you possibly do and what happens when all of your competitors are offering the same neo-fringe benefits? Again, no knock intended as we at TopCoder are keenly aware of enterprises’ need and often inability to source and retain the type of talent that truly delivers new value to their organization. But, we will say with conviction; there is a better way to create value. For one moment, think about the word choice just above. We specifically didn’t say: “… there is a better way to access talent.” Why? Accessing talent is not your end game, is it? Your goal as an organization isn’t to amass the greatest potential value right? Your goal, in very macro terms, is likely to create the most kinetic value, to create the most innovative assets, and to do so repeatedly to beat your competition, stay on top, and even, widen your lead. You go through amazing lengths to keep your talent “happy” because you want to win! There is nothing wrong with that. But you can approach it far differently.

Self-Selection and the 21st Century Open Innovation Community

Would you prefer to enter a public bidding war with the hopes of sourcing one talented individual OR in a fully transparent manner post projects and very specific pieces of the project to an Open Innovation community where talent from around the globe with the specific skill-set needed to create a valued output, register & compete for you, with multiple contributors competing, where you own and pay for the winning submissions? Would you prefer to hire a “Director of Happiness” in the hopes of improving your retention percentage by some decimal deemed “worth it” OR engage an innovation community where individuals self-select the work and projects they choose to join and compete in based on their personal preferences, their expertise, and their desires? If we are sincerely talking about acquisition, why bid on individuals when you can source valued outputs through an open innovation community? And if we are sincerely talking about retention, why go through all these great lengths to amass what you believe might register some gain in your employees “happiness” when we already know what makes individuals happy? People’s ability to select the work they are passionate about & love doing makes them happy. And as lovely as a mid-day massage likely is, the individual’s outputs and your success will be tied directly to how passionate they are about the work they are engaging in. If you still have your “logic hat” on, we encourage you to keep it right there and read this exceedingly short post as a follow up.

The Reason Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing Work in 5 Short Sentences

We fully understand the technological talent gap. It is real. There is a lack of high-caliber technologists. There is a lack of innovative UI/UX creatives. There is an extraordinary lack of data scientists and algorithmists. This is all true and depending on your company’s physical location, clout, and many more factors, your ability (or inability) to attract the right talent varies greatly. The point of all this is to simply share: There is a better way forward.

image credit: fastcompany.com, onlineauctioneerreviews.org

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