When Covid flipped the labor market and the power dynamics between startups and talent became even more imbalanced, some emerging trends were accelerated:
- Engineers who were already considering optimizing their careers for lifestyle over office confinement began choosing contract work (or to even not work at all) while they patiently sought out FT opportunities that checked the income, personal/career growth, AND lifestyle boxes.
- Gen Z and Millennials opted for gig work over working for “the man”. They’re smart—they know that they can make a few K here and there, affording themselves a flexible lifestyle with autonomy and creative freedom as opposed to being controlled and boxed in by an already established system.
Lifestyle and creative runway have always mattered. Now, workers can demand them. They have all the bargaining power.
Yes, money still talks. Save your comments. But it’s not the only voice you hear anymore.
This is where startups that previously couldn’t compete on brand and/or comp, can now compete—and win— with lifestyle + growth opportunities.
Btw, if you’re not offering these, hiring (and retention) is going to be increasingly challenging and painful.
I’d be remiss to not call out what this is: a first-world problem felt by the most privileged. But a problem felt nonetheless. It’s not good or bad. It’s just something that those of us reading this are lucky to experience as a result of winning the birth lottery. Therefore, it’s relevant and worth thinking about. But let’s not forget its origins.
Ok, back to it...
These trends are significantly impacting tech’s ability to recruit competitive talent. Something that was already challenging pre-Covid.
But beyond this shift in the talent landscape, this market behavior is exposing something that high-growth startups need to own up to:
The vast majority of you have neglected to put any effort into talent marketing—or creative recruiting in general. Now, you’re experiencing the consequences of your short-term, hyper-growth, “butts in seats” mentality.
You’ve been 100% reactive, spending literally no time building brand, trust, or creating any semblance of value for your target market.
There is a silver lining however for the opportunists who are willing to take a different approach:
If you have product-market fit (Aka, a kickass job that checks the most important boxes for high-demand talent) you need to be putting significant resources behind marketing that story.
Hammering outbound messages to passive candidates—void of the relevant information and transparency that helps them opt-in or out—is not a strategy. Yet, for most startups, this is recruiting. They even buy tools to automate this garbage.
The labor market has changed. This is the moment to reform the way job seekers meet your company.
Otherwise, complaining that hiring is hard while you continue running the same recruiting playbook shows just how ignorant you are.