Companies across all sectors are struggling to find tech workers to implement everything from in-demand automation technologies to digital workplace solutions. A Gartner survey
found that 64% of IT executives see the talent shortage as the most significant barrier to adopting emerging technologies, compared with just 4% in 2020.

Why the tech talent shortage exists is often debated. Many blame universities for not training graduates in the advanced skills needed today. Others point to retirements and resignations, COVID accelerating the need for virtual solutions and rapid advances in tech making it hard to keep skills current. There are also retention issues that start with onboarding and continue throughout the employee lifecycle. Typically, it is a combination of challenges that contribute to the problem.

A frequently overlooked factor in the tech talent shortage is the role played by the employer itself. Business leaders can often be like today’s consumers, wanting everything in real-time and expecting each employee to be “plug-and-play” — or ready to dive into work right out of the box. But people are not products. It takes time to adjust to a new company and role, especially if not physically in the office.

Best Practices to Elevate Onboarding

When employees leave a job, they often indicate that a poor onboarding experience influenced their decision. Getting off to a bad start can create tension that lingers long past the first few weeks. Even a delayed start date can set a negative tone. According to Glassdoor research, a strong onboarding process can improve new hire retention by 82%. To attract employees, companies need to provide competitive pay, top-notch incentives, training programs and flexible work options. To retain them, they need to invest money and time into onboarding.

For companies looking to provide tech talent with a rich onboarding experience, there are some short-and long-term solutions that can make all the difference.

  1. Create an onboarding blueprint: At its foundation, the blueprint should include information on the company mission and values, organizational charts, reporting structure, contact information, systems and processes, and state and local laws. It can provide resources and tips for navigating the company and should be customizable for different roles. This is also a good time to assign a peer to provide the new hire with guidance on small issues that they may not want to bring to a manager.
  2. Perfect the tech set up: One of the biggest red flags for new employees is when they do not have the correct tech set up on day one. It is imperative to ensure each new hire has a working laptop that includes all the necessary access passwords, security codes, and software programs so they can immediately get started. They should also have a point of contact with knowledge of their specific role on the project to help troubleshoot any tech snags.
  3. Rethink the office: Distributed teams are not new to the tech world. But now, some people are fully remote, others may be back in full-time, and still others hybrid. The biggest challenge in this environment is setting expectations up front. To do so, companies need to rethink the purpose of the office and communicate the priorities for bringing people together. It might be advantageous to conduct onboarding and training in-person, but hold all SCRUM meetings online, for example.
  4. Reinforce company values: An employee value proposition (EVP) is critical throughout the employee’s life cycle, from interviewing through separation. During the onboarding phase, it can help new hires understand the internal culture, work-life balance, career advancement, training opportunities, and social responsibility, to name a few. It is also an opportunity to talk about affinity groups the organization has in place that help underrepresented communities feel welcome.
  5. Conduct security training: A recent Tenable study
    revealed that 80% of security and business leaders said their organizations have more exposure to risk today as a result of remote work. While companies need to make cybersecurity investments to help combat the problem, many hacks could be avoided through employee training. Cybercriminals often gain entry through phishing attacks or by targeting personal devices. Spending time during the onboarding process reviewing security practices can help avert an unfortunate and potentially costly mistake down the road.

To attract and retain tech talent, business leaders need to expand their outreach to a more diverse candidate pool, including emerging talent, and provide more flexible work arrangements for employees. In this environment, onboarding is more important than ever as companies seek to help new employees quickly adjust, understanding this may take longer for some than others. Ultimately, it is less about the total time it takes to onboard a new employee and more about the effectiveness of the onboarding program.