7 Initiatives for Finding and Retaining Digital Talent

Posted by Jason Stidworthy On March 25, 2015

There isn’t a perfect strategy to finding and retaining good digital talent. It is and will continue to be an ongoing challenge as the industry evolves and fragments into specialisations.  

One notable difference between the UK and Australia is that due to the size of the market in the UK, there are more specialisations compared to Australia where staff are multi-skilled.

Looking at the challenges with a holistic and long term approach however, will help position you and your digital team as the ideal work place and environment in that people want to join.

1. Know yourself as the  a leader

If the general consensus with management theory is correct, an employee leaves a business because of their manager and not because of the business. How well do you know yourself as a leader and manager and do you fully understand your strengths and weaknesses?  Being able to demonstrate to your team that you have areas to improve and you are addressing this, shows your team that you know yourself and you’re transparent and open leader.

In a recent McKinsey & Company article – Deciding leadership: What really matters?, it highlighted 4 kinds of leadership behaviour out of a list of 20 which: Be supportive, operate with strong results orientation, seek different perspectives and solve problems effectively. How do you fit in with these?

2. Keep the conversation going

As a leader you will need to be able to have various different conversations.  Be ready to have conversations when you don’t want to have them.  If there is uncomfortable conversation required, then get it out the way and move on to getting back to good conversations.  How often do you speak with all your team individually and as a whole and is ad-hoc or calendared? 

3. Avoid a bidding war

Generally speaking don’t get into a bidding war for digital talent, unless you’ve been remiss in your role and not kept up to date with the going market rate.  Figure out where your team and business fit into industry pay scales and don’t forget to include other benefits; flexible working hours, training budget, extra holidays, health care, other allowances etc. 

In my experience, employees who are only chasing dollars haven’t quite figured out what job satisfaction is to them and broadly speaking, these employees may never have been truly happy or settled in your team no matter what you pay.

4. Continuous and ongoing development opportunities

There are a several important drivers for digital people, 1) Opportunity to learn and work with new technologies, 2) Training and development – conferences, workshops, courses etc and 3) working with other smart, motivated and driven digital people. Point 1 & 2 will generally create point 3.  In a recent blog series Building Digital Capability, Part 4 – You as the Leader, I also discussed employing smart people.

5. Singular recruiter focus

LinkedIn is great, but it requires either you or your HR team to be very diligent to sort through the profiles and approach candidates. Rather than trying the drift net approach and giving a job to multiple recruiters, find one recruiter and work closely with them.  Don’t be afraid to be very honest about the candidates they put forward and spend time getting to know the recruiter, so they get to know you.  Over time and with the more roles, the recruiter will hone their skills because they have already placed candidates with you. This recruiter may only send through 1 or 2 candidates, but you will know they are quality candidates and generally will have a longer tenure in the business.  I have found this process very successful and efficient over the last few years both in Sydney and in the UK.

6. Build your team’s reputation and digital voice

Develop your voice on industry topics via blogs, LinkedIn and get your team to attend more conferences and trade shows as speakers or panel guests etc.

When I started this blog, I honestly didn’t think a side benefit would be interviewees discussing my blog and various opinions during the interview.  These discussions are very insightful, because it allows you to get a better grasp on their digital knowledge, passion and drive.

When you combine staff development with staff exposure, your team become recognised internally and externally for their expertise and opinion. It is a win win for you, you digital team and the project you deliver or propose to deliver and of course, the organisation you work for.

7. Understand why employees leave

Understand and accept people will leave. People will leave your team for various reasons and hopefully they are leaving for reasons beyond your control.  An example is where someone leaves because there are no more opportunities within your business for them.  A happy ex-employee will always tell people it was a good place to work!  Work with the employee and help manage their exit from the business and keep in touch with them and check in to see how their new role is progressing because you should be genuinely interested.

Jason Stidworthy, Head of Online at IG

Jason Stidworthy