“Don’t be rigid about flexibility”: 3 tech talent experts on how to keep your best people right now

Talent retention is becoming increasingly challenging in the current startup landscape. Startup Daily asked an Aussie unicorn, a rising fintech star and a modern HR platform how they’re tackling it head on.

One of the hottest topics in the Australian and New Zealand startup ecosystem today is talent.

Employee priorities have changed with The Great Resignation (or Reshuffle, as we’ve since come to see it). Teams are more dispersed than ever. Combine that with the pandemic talent shortage and the more recent market downturn, and you have a storm of reasons why great talent is getting harder to keep.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Startup Daily recently hosted a webinar, The Great Retain: How to keep your best talent right now, in partnership with HR platform HiBob, to see how the best of the best are keeping talent at this moment. Our panel included:

Damien Andreasen, Country Manager of HiBob for Australia and New Zealand, one of the world’s fastest growing HR tech companies. The platform powers productivity, engagement and retention for businesses around the globe, and locally for businesses like Airtasker, Seer, PEXA and Novatti.

Anna Wenngren, Chief People Officer at SafetyCulture, a global technology company valued at $2.2 billion AUD in 2021. Since Anna joined in March 2020, SafetyCulture has grown from 300 to 550 people, and has achieved ‘Best Place to Work’ recognition across four continents.

Lucy Chisholm is the HR Lead of Zeller, an Australian financial services and payments technology business. Zeller’s team has grown by more than 100 employees in the last 12 months.

They shared valuable insights around employee engagement, company culture and initiatives and incentives that are driving loyalty. Read highlights below, or watch the full webinar here – sign-up is free:

Transparency during uncertain times

According to Damien, companies are doubling down and looking at their strategies a little closer. One of the biggest concerns for any business and any employee at the moment is the stability of their role and their company.

“No one really knows where the market is right now,” says Damien. “Maybe we’re all waiting for the second shoe to drop, but it feels to be a bit of a pause and a big holding of breath until we understand where it’s all going.”

Lucy from Zeller says it’s been even more important now to be transparent during the interview process about where the company is at, because people are asking questions.

“We have been really transparent with our existing team and anyone coming in,” she says. “They can see we are full steam ahead, but we’re also really cognisant there are pressures in the market and we’re talking to people about them.”

When it comes to holding onto great tech talent, Lucy says one of the most common blindspots for founders and leaders is only hiring for skill set.

“We’ve had great success when we hire for say 80 per cent of the skill set, and then we really dig deep in what their attitude is like,” Lucy explains. “Do they have an awesome attitude and a growth mindset?”

Anna from SafetyCulture adds that the companies with retention issues normally stem from a lack of transparency across the team.

“The more that you can be transparent with talent about what’s actually going on in the organisation before they’ve joined, it really lets them come in with eyes wide open about problems to solve,” she says. “It’s really important if you’re going to retain great people, then all of the things that you profess to be as a business and the values you put on your wall, you’ve really got to live and breathe all of those things and make sure that there’s a felt experience of it too.”

Improving employee engagement

With the globalised nature of the tech industry and hybrid working conditions, engagement has become just that bit more challenging with teams here, there and everywhere.

According to the experts, the solution lies in a free flow of communication, and semi-regular retrospectives to realign on the vision and strategy.

“You might be able to attract people with great big fat salaries, but when times get tough, they’re not the people that are gonna stick behind the business and help you get through those more difficult times,” warns Anna.

Taking a leaf out of his own book, Damien attributes the teams’ positive engagement at HiBob to the platform itself.

“I was onboarded remotely a year ago – 80 per cent of my team that I built here were onboarded remotely. And we use Bob [the HRIS – or HR tech platform] as a central place to come together,” Damien says.

The platform is used by HR professionals and managers to connect businesses more seamlessly and productively. It has features specifically for milestone recognition, as well as pooling workflow, payroll, timesheets, performance management and real-time analytics into one place.

“It puts some of the control back into the hands of the employees who want to feel engaged,” Damien explains.

At Zeller, learning and development is a key area for driving employee engagement. In the last 12 months, Zeller has introduced an allowance for each to explore an area of their professional development.

“The team member says, ‘This is what I’d like to explore a little more and learn more about’,” says Lucy. “And then the leader and myself will come in and support them where we need to.”

Making connections meaningful and value-driven

With staff reconsidering why they get up each day to work and how they want to do it, the role of business values can’t be underestimated. These days, it’s not just about the transactional conversation of salary – emerging employees are looking for purpose.

“It’s about being connected to the mission of the outcomes and showing that people are still achieving goals they have and feeling supported in the role as well,” Damien says.

He adds: “We’re talking more about bringing authentic self to work and if that’s the case… then there is going to be the blend between professional and personal. So supporting those two aspects and making sure that everyone has real connections, I think is a real key.”

With more people returning to the office, Lucy encourages companies like her own to still offer flexibility and balance with working from home.

“We’re pretty excited to see what we can achieve in person given what we’ve achieved working remotely,” she says. “We’ll just continue to listen to our team. We’ll ask them for feedback.”

According to Anna, the focus on “partnership over policing” has been the biggest shift that she’s seen while working in Human Resources over the past 20 years. Like Zeller, SafetyCulture has recently invested in building a workspace that reflect the values and philosophy of the business.

“We wanted to create a space that people actually wanted to be in that inspired creativity,” says Anna. “We’ve left it to the teams to work out what hybrid means for them and what they know what they need to accomplish.”

Something the panel can agree upon is that while hybrid working has introduced a sense of freedom for workers everywhere, it’s important not to get stuck in your comfort zone – as tempting as your Ugg Boots and tracksuit might be.

As Anna puts it so eloquently: “Don’t get rigid about flexibility.”

Watch the full webinar further up this page or at The Great Retain: How to keep your best talent right now.

Find out more about HiBob’s modern HR platform for productivity, retention and engagement and request a demo here.

This article is brought to you by Startup Daily in partnership with HiBob.

Feature image: Supplied.