During economic downturns, businesses resort to muscle memory and do what they used to do. This often means budget cuts, and the deepest cuts usually involve investment in technology and people.
However, this time it seems to be completely different. Companies increasingly see their technical talent as a hard-won strategic investment they don’t want to lose.
A new study by McKinsey & Company found that 55% of the 1,100 companies surveyed worldwide are having difficulty hiring key data and technology professionals such as data and software engineers, data architects, machine learning engineers, and data scientists. And most said it was only getting harder, despite the offer of ever more attractive compensation packages and flexible work models.
Thus, the real question for executives should not be how to cut technology costs, but how to retain and inspire their top tech talent. Or, more simply: how to make them happy?
Conversation with McKinseytechnology investor Marc Andreessen said companies should “find the smartest technologist in the company and appoint him as CEO.”
This doesn’t mean executives who can’t code will be out of a job—most business leaders have never been data scientists or software engineers—but they need to learn how to be true advocates and helpers of this limited group of top technologists.
Beyond coffee and foosball in the early 2000s, happy tech talent will gravitate towards cultures where executives assign them an active role in the business, viewing them as innovators rather than executors.
Gone are the days of IT departments gathering requirements and managing vendors. Instead, they are moving from a result-oriented culture to a culture in which results are the language of success. In a results-driven culture, companies allow their technicians to solve real problems with measurable and high impact results, rather than dictating what they should build from the top down.
Digital products drive business growth and enable sustainable and inclusive growth; projects have fixed budgets and deadlines, and are quickly disposed of when things go wrong. You cannot create a successful product in a project management environment; the technical talents, burdened by this bureaucracy, who feel they don’t belong at the business table, will soon be heading out.
If the happiness of tech talent begins and ends with having a product culture, what if in 2023 more CEOs think of themselves as top product managers leading a results culture in the same way that product managers think of themselves as “mini- managers.” general directors? This will create a working model that gives small, cross-functional teams of brilliant (and happy!) engineers and designers a clear mission to work on complex problems with measurable results that are important to the business or its operations, but not overwhelmed by them. processes. In other words: let them focus on their craft.
Preserving and developing your technical talent has never been more important. And product culture isn’t just for tech companies; it’s also how more traditional companies are starting to act like tech companies in order to compete. Almost every major problem facing businesses today—whether supply chain disruption, consumer demand spurring, geopolitical tensions, or fee collection—will be solved with the help of technology. And when technical talent is set up right, the best solutions often come from the bottom up, not the top down. Often the way forward is found by an engineer who has knowledge of the latest technology and what is actually possible.
This culture is critical if companies are to not only retain talent but also move quickly, create value, and be resilient in the face of a cacophony of headwinds.
Technical talents expect clear goals and quick feedback to know if they are on target. In turn, the best companies in 2023 will make the “happiness” of technical talent the main measure of success.