June 3, 2021

Attracting and Retaining Purpose-Driven Tech Talent: 6 Tips and 2 Red Flags

If your company is in the market for tech talent, you’re no doubt aware the current landscape is a challenging one for employers. Great technologists are hard to find, attract, and retain. Understanding the changing wants and needs of candidates is more important than ever.

For younger Generation Z and millennial tech workers in particular, a sense of purpose and a focus on corporate social responsibility (CSR) play incredibly important roles in the decision to join a company. In fact, a study by Cone Communications found that 64 percent of millennials won’t take a job with a company that lacks a strong CSR policy. A study by WeSpire found that Gen. Z is the first generation to prioritize purpose over salary.

However, it can be difficult for job seekers to determine whether the companies they’re applying to are truly mission-driven and dedicated to CSR. That can deter them from engaging with your open roles.

How to Tell Candidates You’re a Mission-Driven Company

As a tech worker myself who chose my employer for its mission and impact (in our case, on the lives of students and teachers), I believe companies should emphasize the following items in external communications, job postings, and interviews in order to attract top tech talent looking for purpose in their everyday work:

1. The Company’s Talent Brand

A company’s talent brand is, put simply, how it is seen and talked about in the recruiting ecosystem. This may seem obvious, but the way a company publicly describes itself across all channels — from website to social media — has a huge impact on potential candidates. Make sure you’re celebrating social impact and employees as much as or even more than financial milestones and revenue. A practical tip is to lead off job descriptions with how the company positively impacts customers and users — instead of a laundry list of job requirements or tasks.

2. Authenticity and Support

It’s great to note that you are mission-driven, but actually walking the walk will add credibility to your statements. If you have data on average hours spent by employees on company-led community service, a commitment to diversity, or other mission-focused initiatives, share the details with interviewees to demonstrate that your CSR efforts make a measurable impact.

In addition, highlight concrete examples of how your company goes above and beyond to support employees. That might include stellar professional development, tuition assistance, employee crisis funds, and/or comprehensive mental health support.

3. Purposeful Work

Tech employees have their pick of great jobs. To set your company apart from a sea of businesses, stress the purpose behind their daily work. How will an employee’s everyday work benefit others? How will it change the world and make the employee feel like they have accomplished something for the greater good? Why does their work matter?

Answering these questions will attract tech workers who want to make a difference and put down roots at a company that takes its mission statement seriously. Put this information in prominent places in job descriptions and recruiting communications to help candidates see how they’ll connect with the work.

4. Mission-Centric Products and Features

A deep focus on mission should permeate all aspects of a company, including its products. As such, a purpose-focused company shouldn’t stop at highlighting how a product or new feature can bring in revenue or grow a user base. A purpose-focused company should also discuss how choices regarding its products further the company’s mission by driving positive outcomes, bettering lives, and positively impacting users.  Be ready to give candidates examples of when your company chose mission or purpose over revenue when it mattered most.

5. How to Voice of the User Directly Impacts the Product

Engineers at truly mission-driven companies should be given access to the people the products help in order to accurately determine user impact and experience. This direct connection keeps employees engaged and provides tangible, firsthand proof that they are making a social impact — a crucial differentiator for purpose-focused tech employees.

6. People-Focused Awards and Recognition

Make sure to emphasize people- and CSR-focused awards and recognition on social media channels, in job postings, and during interviews. Since these wins are often based on employee surveys, they serve as important indicators of employees’ overall satisfaction at a company.

Red Flags to Watch Out For

In addition to emphasizing the positive, recruiters should also keep an eye on any signs of trouble that may be preventing them from attracting the best mission-focused tech talent. Here are a few red flags to look out for:

1. High Turnover

Tenure for a technology worker is typically around two years, but purpose-focused companies tend to keep technology workers longer because employees enjoy the meaningful work, career growth, challenges, and access to cutting-edge technologies.

To ensure your employees are satisfied, check in with your employee base regularly. Anonymous digital suggestion boxes, quick pulse surveys, and executive office hours can help you catch attrition threats before they fester. Consider asking tenured members of the team what keeps them at the company, and listen for answers that show the meaning and impact of the work is a big factor for them.

2. Poor Reviews

Before interviewing with a company, most candidates do their research to get an initial grasp of its culture and inner workings, so negative reviews could create a bad first impression. Monitor reviews on Glassdoor and other review sites. If you notice a recurring negative sentiment from employees, work with the rest of the HR team to get to the root of the issue.

The best tech talent may seem hard to come by, but showcasing your company as a purpose-driven business will help you stand out from the crowd and attract employees who want to make a difference through their work. Successfully getting the message across to job seekers will ensure you’re recruiting and retaining the right talent for your business.

Adam Chace is the incoming CTO of Curriculum Associates.

Read more in Recruiting

Adam Chace has served as the vice president of software engineering at education technology company Curriculum Associates for the past seven years. He will be assuming the role of chief technology officer for the company in the fall.