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How to attract and retain tech talent in an uncertain world


When the UK entered lockdown in March 2020, even the most traditional companies had to rapidly transition from office-based to working from home. It was clear that ‘work’ was about to be redefined, and for many organisations a new digital toolset was needed.

While there are still many unknowns since the first lockdown, businesses have learned a lot about the processes and tools they need to be successful as the world of work continues to evolve. Changing expectations among employees means firms need to deliver the flexibility and autonomy people increasingly want if they are to attract top talent. 

Slack’s latest Future Forum global survey found that only 12% of knowledge workers want to return to full-time office work, showing that hybrid working will become the future for many once it is safe to do so.

The rise of remote and hybrid work opens the door for employers to hire from anywhere and offer location flexibility for any role including technical positions. It also means the war for talent is set to intensify as firms compete with companies not just in the same city or country but across the globe.

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The future of technology and talent is now

It’s no secret that exceptional tech talent is one of a company’s most valuable assets. In a hybrid world, such talent becomes even more critical to underpinning the success of an organisation.

The last few years saw a series of technological advancements that facilitate hybrid working, such as the rise of collaboration platforms and cloud computing.

In 2020, there was a forced acceleration in adoption of all digital tools. But simply having them is not enough. The firms that will emerge strongest from the pandemic understand how to optimise their use.

Business leaders need to equip teams with technology that allows them to do high-value work autonomously – and asynchronously – while creating an open workplace that promotes knowledge sharing.

Luckily, these approaches can reinforce one another. The tools which add the most value to an individual also help to establish processes and an openness that benefits the business as a whole.

Channel-based messaging platforms like Slack do this in several ways. Channels, which bring all the messages, docs, team members and integrations needed for a project into one digital space, can help streamline communication and provide greater transparency on how decisions are made.

Once all communication is moved into channels everyone knows where to go to ask their question, to give their update, to get caught up on work. The impact of this is transformative: it breaks down the silos created by closed email communication.

Making a workplace attractive to top tech talent is also about reinforcing openness through behaviours. Leaders need to:

  • Include everyone, wherever they work – instead of favouring those who happen to work at HQ.
  • Rethink internal comms – the tools you use to collaborate inevitably shape the work itself.
  • Increase all-hands communications – and preserve them for future reference.
  • Make listening as easy as talking – openness goes both ways.

The focus on tools and behaviours in 2021 has to be on facilitating increased collaboration and alignment in a hybrid asynchronous world. For fast-moving tech teams to attract and retain the talent they need, this is vital.


Streamlining work at Starling Bank

One company embracing the benefits of channel-based collaboration is Starling Bank. The first bank in the UK to offer mobile-only checking, Starling delivers efficient customer service while ensuring all compliance with banking regulations is still met.

Starling’s management portal, an operations and customer support web app which runs payment queues, feeds relevant information into private Slack channels. Within these channels, sensitive requests can be approved or rejected with one click, before being archived in an accessible location for future audits.

Those reviewing the requests also get extra automated help from a bespoke Slack bot, Starbot. It assigns junior developers temporary escalated privileges to deploy releases or diagnose issues, helping to automate the company’s developer operations processes.

To ensure growth at this time, organisations must support an open culture and give their tech teams the right tools to spark innovation and stay aligned in the face of disruption. They also need to empower employees to work the way they want too.

Doing this will not just safeguard existing talent, but also attract new like-minded people, who want to be part of a company that is on the front foot in the world of work.


Stuart Templeton is head of UK at Slack