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4 rules for winning tech’s talent war in 2023

Competition is still fierce and potential employees care about their work environment.

4 rules for winning tech’s talent war in 2023
[Source photo: Kelvin Murray/Getty Images]

It might seem like the war for tech talent is over. After 12 months of brutal layoffs and hiring freezes from big names like Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft, U.S.-based tech companies have laid off a collective 150,000 professionals over the past few months—a considerable reduction of the companies’ workforces. But don’t let these numbers fool you: In key ways, the market for talent has seldom been more competitive, and it’s only going to get worse from here.

We’ve heard this interpreted again and again as an obvious signal pointing to an upcoming recession. Look a little deeper, though, and you’ll see the beginning of something else: the next phase in the tech talent wars.

The New York Times’s Silicon Valley reporter Erin Griffith quoted tech moguls from Elon Musk to Mark Zuckerberg as saying that past over-hiring is the main reason for the current cost-cutting. Big companies flush with cash had stockpiled talent, sometimes just to keep workers away from competitors.

That’s over. What we’re likely to see, now that the tech hiring bubble has burst, is a return to more conservative hiring practices, which means that talented professionals are about to encounter a market that is more competitive, from the job-seeker’s perspective. Although painful, the long-term result could be a win for both parties and help define great talent.

Even before the setbacks of 2022, companies already faced widespread challenges in finding the right talentKey sectors like cybersecurity experienced a shortfall of available talent with relevant and up-to-date expertise. What we’re seeing now is a reshuffling of the talent deck, as employers try to hold on to their most strategic cards. But more layoffs inevitably mean more work. And while AI and automation may replace certain workers in areas like HR or administration, finding and retaining talent with key experience, like software engineering, is going to be a top priority for business leaders in 2023.


How, then, should companies compete in this chapter of tech talent wars? As the CEO of BairesDev, a company that receives over one million applications for employment from IT professionals each year, I might be able to shed a little light. We surveyed our teams with questions about how to attract and retain top talent and were able to distill four golden rules for winning the talent wars.

#1: Avoid return-to-office mandates

There are consequences to saying “get your butts back to the office.”The majority of business leaders are saying they’ll require employees to return to the office, at least part-time, in 2023. That’s easier said than done. We surveyed our workforce of 4,000 people, most of whom are based in Latin America and all have worked remotely from the day we started hiring in 2009. We weren’t surprised to learn that a third of them live in small towns and rural areas, which required that they stayed remote. Some come from towns where they can remain in their communities while having a meaningful, well-paid job.

The same is true all over the world. Recent research shows that six out of the world’s 15 emerging IT hubs are in Latin America, which should serve as a wakeup call to those only focused on hiring in Silicon Valley or major U.S. markets. Talent is distributed across the world, so let’s also distribute opportunity worldwide.

If you want the best talent, don’t let geography get in the way. Hire and retain top talent where it is found. Allow them to pursue their dream careers, and they’ll do more than just thank you: Each successful IT professional who stays local also serves as an example to and boosts their community.

#2: Diversity goes deeper than you think

Diversity has become such a buzzword that it can be hard to remember its true meaning: identifying and empowering a wide array of people with different backgrounds, life experiences, and capabilities. For example, some candidates—such as neurodiverse professionals who might prefer the controlled but flexible environment provided by remote work—can make all the difference.

#3: It’s not all about the money

A good salary is still very important, of course, but when you talk to ambitious tech professionals about their priorities, few will tell you that they’re happy to simply go wherever they’re offered the largest paycheck.

Work-life balance and flexibility are far greater drivers of employee satisfaction, followed closely by the type of projects they’ll be working on and the nature of their team members. According to our data, 80 percent of respondents said they would gladly change jobs if a more challenging and interesting one came along, regardless of pay. There’s no clearer indication that meaning matters.

Keep it real. If the company doesn’t live up to the values it purports to believe in—for example, if it doesn’t make a very active effort to hire and promote women and other populations underrepresented in tech— superstars aren’t likely to stick around. Of total global applicants to BairesDev’s tech sector in 2020-2021, 41 percent were women, a 400 percent increase from five years prior.

#4: Rock the culture

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there’s the most elusive and most crucial component of retaining top talent: culture. As some companies are now learning the hard way, building a strong and empowering corporate culture is about much more than a free lunch or an office gym. It’s about being able to communicate clearly and candidly with corporate leadership, receiving constant and helpful feedback, feeling like you have visibility into all departments in the company, and stability and job security. It may sound a little bureaucratic, but the only way to create a thriving culture is by cultivating good and clear processes. Luckily, that’s something IT types do well.

The next phase of tech’s talent war is already upon us, but here’s the very good news: Follow these rules, and everybody wins.

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Nacho De Marco is the cofounder and CEO of BairesDev More

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