Americans are not known for taking their allotted vacation time through their employers. According to the Washington Post, “Even when Americans get paid time off, they don’t use it all. And when they do use their days – it may not come as a surprise to learn – many of them fail to leave work fully behind.” According to Allianz, nearly three quarters of Americans take micro-vacations, amounting to less than 4 days away, often including weekends.
But as we move into the summer of 2021, hotel bookings, private rentals, and planned time off is surging. TripAdvisor is anticipating more than 67% of households taking an extended vacation during the summer months, a surge that is leaving many employers scrambling as many people have not had any leisure time off in nearly fifteen months.
The increased need for qualified technical talent complicates the interviewing process, training, and successful hiring of new employees this summer. For the first time in many years, vacation-goers are indicating that they will finally cut the cord during their time off and recharge without a direct line to the office.
How are companies coping with current hiring managers and TA decision makers who are slated to take back-to-back time off for the next three months? Organizations have gotten creative with their current employees – limiting the amount of vacation days that can be taken between Memorial Day & Labor Day, closing down operations to force paid time off, or offering incentives to use vacation time after the summer rush.
But this doesn’t address the pile-on of PTO usage when organizations are in dire need of help, particularly in areas like technology. Only 16% of tech jobs were filled in March – leaving over 300,000 open, according to CompTIA.
Companies need to take action now to ensure they’re not facing a double staffing shortage; back-to-back time off of their current staff, and the missed opportunity to have new employees onboarded and up-to-speed in Q3. Additionally, some flexibility will be required as new employees likely have their own vacations booked prior to joining a company. Beyond global PTO policy changes, clear communication and direction amongst individual teams will be critical in successfully making new hires.
Prepare your staff by defining every person’s role in the upcoming hiring process. What is expected of them, and when? If they will be on vacation, set boundaries and choose potential alternative interviewers who can fill in.
Get Buy In
Leaving your team in the dark about hiring goals means that no expectations have been set or preparations made. It’s difficult to get buy-in when you’ve left them out of the loop. Prepared staff are more likely to take an hour out of their vacation time if they are anticipating it.
Empathize & Validate
We’re all exhausted. It’s been 15 months of uncertainty and we all need a break, whether it’s on a beach in Mexico or building a deck in the backyard. Time off is valid; no matter how employees spend it.
In addition to preparing your own employees and getting buy-in from them, it is valuable for your team or TA to know general hiring timelines. Setting up a framework of timelines sets expectations and provides more clarity into how they play a role in the upcoming weeks or months.
Create a Process
When preparation doesn’t account for unexpected projects or shifts in organizational goals, create a process that delegates responsibility. Consequently, If you are hiring a new team member or if a team member leaves and needs to be replaced quickly, everyone understands their role in the interviewing, hiring and onboarding process.
If you are faced with staff turnover, a surge in PTO requests and are understaffed this summer, consider bringing in consultants who can hit the ground running and relieve the immediate burden that your tech teams may be facing. If you have questions about the process of hiring a consultant, reach out to the Talener team for more information.
Over the last year, we’ve adapted, learned, and transitioned our jobs in ways we’ve never thought possible. Remote work has become the norm. Teams were picked up, scattered, and put back down across cities and time zones. Physical proximity changed; but overall, teams understood their hierarchy and team dynamic, even remotely.
As companies begin to re-hire and consider permanent remote positions for many people, the bubble of employees who have worked together before and during the pandemic is being altered. Increased hiring across industries is great news. However, the remote setup that was assembled in a hurry isn’t destined for long term growth and overall success of growing teams. Great thought is needed to develop new work norms and creating a culture of fulfillment.
Keeping team members remote for the sake of being remote isn’t enough. There must be purpose and it must be sustainable. Employees who were too afraid to leave their jobs during the height of the pandemic may begin to search elsewhere, upsetting the familiar balance and bond that teams have created over the past year. It is inevitable that new people with join these teams and we must be ready for the impending change.
So, how do you create a remote culture that isn’t just about having employees at home?
Design a strategy
We sent people out of the door with laptops and well-wishes last year. But in any other circumstance, a plan and strategy would have been formulated prior to making such an important decision. Many companies are just getting back to building back their teams. This is the perfect time to take a hard look at what is working and what isn’t. Your strategy should include a basic hierarchy, even within a relatively flat organization. This alleviates any confusion, particularly for any newly onboarded employees. Who do they look to for expectations, for help, and collaboration?
Defining the type of communication that needs to be undertaken is also a critical part of building your strategy. What warrants a phone call, a video chat, or an instant message? Additionally, a system that accounts for employees in different times zones will avoid potential confusion. Communication extends to the expectation surrounding how and with whom files are housed and shared.
Transitioning seasoned on-site employees remotely was challenging, but it wasn’t impossible. Rapport already existed and managers knew their employees’ strengths and weaknesses in the office. It is difficult to imagine treating new employees the same way that as your current team. Be clear about your expectations of work hours, work-product, and goals. Set boundaries by creating check-ins that are scheduled and have a clearly defined purpose.
Individuals Make up the Team
On-site, it is easy to pass by a colleague and read their body language. You can observe if they’re sick, exhausted, happy, or struggling. A successful remote culture means finding new ways to connect with individuals. Individuals make up the larger team. Their struggles and successes need to be addressed and celebrated. Establishing and maintaining rapport with your team builds trust, loyalty, and provides you the opportunity to follow their work more organically.
In-office, you define expectations of work product. Other expectations come naturally as part of the flow of the company’s culture — working hours, lunch breaks, social events, etc. Employees, especially those joining a company now have no reference point as to what is acceptable and expected remotely. Without micromanaging, you can still set expectations from work product to working hours. Be clear about what is expected from day one. Define core hours, methods of communication, performance measurement, check-in frequency, attendance, etc. It is far easier to outline expectations from the get-go.
How many impromptu meetings did you call in the middle of your employees’ day that interrupted their work? Likely, very few. If you wouldn’t call an impromptu team meeting in-office, then you shouldn’t do it virtually either. Will an email suffice until you can get something on the calendar that doesn’t disrupt workflow? With the exception of an urgent matter, consider building in a recurring time slot on your team’s calendar that allows for unforeseen issues. You avoid disruption while also giving your team members a time slot opportunity to raise any issues or bring the group together at a dedicated time.
Build in Professional Development
Virtual professional development through webinars or workshops can feels as tangible as in-person training. But learning and training from one-off questions that occur at the desk are eliminated when the team is working remotely. It is imperative to build a well-defined professional development plan and training process with milestones, check-ins, and support. Beyond the training goals, choosing the appropriate delivery for your virtual team members is vital.
Examine the Virtual Work Environment
The right tools enhance the remote working environment. When we closed office doors last year, we left with laptops and monitors in hand. There wasn’t a second thought about other tools that would help remote workers thrive in their new environment. Examine what tools have been or could have been most beneficial to you when you started to work remotely. These tools range from file management systems, document collaboration, communications equipment, office supplies or something as simple as a desk chair meant for 8 hours of daily work. What do employees no longer have access to at home that they would have otherwise used in-office?
Every team and every team member should have a plan that guides them through remote work from day one. A clear plan defines their professional progression, outlines expectations, and supports them just as they would be supported in the office. Virtual teams need structure and goals in order to find a common purpose to deliver work product and remain engaged within their organization. A company that operates remotely is not equivalent to a company that builds a remote strategy as part of the organization’s operations.
How Madeline transitioned to her new career as a full stack engineer during the pandemic
The Talener team has only recently gotten to know Madeline Stalter over the past few years. Her story and progression from a psychology student to a full stack engineer (with a tech recruiting stopover at Talener!) is an important one to share.
As we celebrate International Women’s Month, we acknowledge the achievements and visibility of women, particularly in STEM. But it is also a reminder to all of us that women are a minority in technology positions. Women make up half of the workforce, but only occupy a quarter of high-tech jobs. This number diminishes further in a tech-based, executive level job.
Madeline’s transition from a psychology degree to completing her full stack engineering training at the Flatiron School in NYC is important. The traditional four-year computer science degree still dominates the software engineering job market. But the demand for talent outweighs the pool of four-year CS graduates. Madeline sat down with us to talk about her transition, the challenges she’s faced, and some of the decisions she made along the way to change her career path.
My background is diverse. But there are three motifs that have been evident in all facets of my professional trajectory: the desire to be challenged, the ability to act to actively seek out what challenges me, and aligning myself with my passions. I stand by the phrase “you didn’t come this far to only come this far.” My desire for learning is ever present. My path to software engineering may seem curious, but it isn’t.
I studied psychology to focus on discovering the ways of the world; understanding why people behave the way they do. This is not all that different from computer science and engineering. At the end of the day, technology is all built around, for, and by people. We influence buying habits, build visually stimulating websites, and curb security threats from malicious minds.
But learning psychology wasn’t enough. I needed more. I sought out a student research position that relied heavily on statistical analyses using software like R, SAS, and SPSS to test hypotheses, create and maintain databases & publish scholarly articles. I was hooked and I worked harder. My mentor recognized my desire to push for more and promoted me to a paid position running the laboratory. From there, I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2017 and embarked on a research fellowship at the world-renowned McLean Hospital. Unfortunately, the position didn’t offer a lot in area analysis and I realized that research was likely not my forever career path as I had previously planned.
How could I have already hit my professional ceiling and growth when I had barely left college? It was time for a reevaluation. Not one to remain idle, I started my own pet care business and planned for my future very carefully. I didn’t want a job; I wanted a career.
I looked back at what I loved about psychology and immediately thought about manipulating data and creating databases– my link to software engineering. I wanted to build and maintain applications. But without a technology background, I needed to get as close to technology as possible without previous experience. This was a stepwise process, but I trusted it; knowing that I would put my full weight behind being successful. This led me to technical recruiting. I used my vast network of engineering candidates and tech-talent seeking clients to learn more and ultimately piece together how I could further pursue a career in technology.
I started independently studying open-source languages outside of work. This continued for a year until the pandemic opened an opportunity for me to go back to school and learn full stack web development. The most efficient way was through a fifteen-week software engineering bootcamp. Those fifteen weeks stood between me and the ability to build robust full stack web applications and completely transform my life. I chose the Flatiron School in NYC for its comprehensive program, distinguished staff, and post-graduate outcomes.
This process hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth it. The initial knowledge acquisition in the bootcamp was difficult. I had to rewire how I approached problems – becoming more creative in my solutions (as there are seemingly infinite ways to approach code). I also had to bolster my self-confidence. The term “imposter syndrome” has become quite colloquial these days, but it is real; especially with my non-traditional background and working in such a male dominated field. To ward off this feeling of inadequacy, I remind myself daily that I am worthy and capable of making significant impacts in tech as I “didn’t come this far to only come this far.”
I advise those who are considering making a career change/shift into technology to do so! However, do so wisely. Take the necessary steps to ensure your success. If you combine this methodological approach with your passion, very little should tangibly get in your way. Love the life you live – work included
Nearly a year ago, companies were put into a position that seemed unfathomable: let your employees work fulltime from home. Teams that were willing to pivot and invest in a fully remote workforce are thriving. In many IT based positions, deliverables are up and companies are enjoying a more diverse pool of candidates available to them.
The forced changes over the past year make it clear that most technology positions should be considered remote first. Thriving employers shouldn’t mandate their employees’ return to on-site work and should continue to hire a remote workforce after the pandemic is over.
The argument to bring successful, productive employees back to work is impractical. According to Gallup, nearly two thirds of workers in the US who have been working remotely during the pandemic would prefer to continue their new routine.
Remote Work Doesn’t Hurt Company Culture
Increasingly, the Talener team is hearing the call from leaders and HR teams to bring employees back-on-site because the company ‘culture’ is hurting. What is company culture, how is it measured and quantified? And what is the link between the time spent in a physical office and productivity?
Culture should not be an argument for bringing a successful remote employee back into the office. Using culture to explain lagging company performance due to broader economic factors like changed customer behavior or pandemic related restrictions is not the answer.
How do you tell an employee whose production and delivery are good that they need to come back on-site because of corporate cultural insecurities? With so many remote opportunities, forcing good employees back to the office sets them up (particularly in tech) to potentially look elsewhere.
It would be easy to blame attrition on lack of culture rather than a lack of employee growth or better compensation elsewhere. Not every job has an unlimited ceiling for growth. People change jobs for real personal and professional reasons – not because of physical proximity to their co-workers.
The Transition is Over. This is Transformation
Last year, we upset decades of work culture and business standards in the blink of an eye. We completely altered how we work, when we work, and with whom we work. It was a fast and furious transition that left many organizations and employees behind in its wake. But now, it is time to stop treating the move to remote work as a temporary transition period.
It is certainly a period where we continue to learn about how to function successfully, but it is not a temporary situation anymore. Changing the fundamental 9 to 5 routine, bookended by a daily commute has not been easy. There was no roadmap for such a transition. This was and will continue to be a learning experience where organizations are quite literally rewriting the history of labor, productivity, and business relationships in real time. We are transforming the future of hiring, employing, and retaining talent.
It does no one any favors to fall back into comfortable norms like curating an on-site culture of standard production hours. In fact, it stifles the very thing that companies are trying to do; innovate and be the best in their industry. We have the opportunity to use this forced change as a catalyst to expand workforce possibilities, erasing regional borders and tapping into a more diverse (and potentially more talented) candidate base.
The Talener team is ready to help you streamline your remote IT recruiting and hiring process. We can give you the tools to build a remote technology team. For more information, get in touch with us today.
Over the past year, companies have scrambled and adapted to the chaos of the pandemic. Even software engineers, who are typically in high demand (and often insulated from layoffs) have found themselves looking for new jobs. But looking for a new job and committing to your job search are two very different paths.
This year, we break up with the casual job search. Maybe not forever, but for now. We move into 2021 with the prospect of an effective vaccine, traveling, and seeing friends & family again. We’re also looking forward to more stability in the job market. And for some industries, 2020 has catapulted businesses into rapid growth. This year we expect that the fintech, online gaming and health tech industries will continue to grow and hire.
The way businesses are hiring and how they are deciding to expand their teams is undeniably linked to what has happened over the past year. Casual job seekers who are not motivated to make a move or aren’t dedicated to the jobs they are applying for will be overlooked.
Take it Seriously: It’s expensive and time consuming to hire a new employee. Some TA or HR teams may be short staffed as furloughed employees have not returned. Hiring managers are stretched thin; trying to rebuild and reorganize teams to meet demand. Just as your time is valuable, so is theirs. Take your application and interviews seriously.
The First Impression is More Important than Ever: Not only do you have to get off to the right start in the interviewing process, but you also need to show that you are an employee capable of transitioning to your new job. This is particularly important if you are working remotely or partially remotely. You are asking a new employer to trust you without them ever having seen you interact in-person with clients or co-workers. Your first impression isn’t contained to the first video interview. It is extended into your first days or weeks of work, where you must build their trust in your abilities as you meet (or e-meet) your team one-by-one. You will be making a first impression over and over again. Even living room video meetings need to exude professionalism.
Ask the Right Questions: It has always been important to ask useful questions in an interview. But now, more than ever, you need to research and prepare your questions (with follow up questions & researched responses) prior to your interviews. Time is a premium – your ability to ask insightful questions will start a conversation in lieu of a back-and-forth Q&A. This is the time to show your investment in the job and the company.
Know the History & the Market: You know the company and the job inside and out. But do you know what their hiring looked like pre-pandemic? How have they adapted or changed their structure over the past year? Know their pain points and show them how you can concretely contribute to solving their business needs.
Be Ready: Your resume, or at minimum, a strong foundation for a resume should be ready to edit and send on-demand. While many companies are abandoning cover letters all together, it is important to have bullet points and a general format prepared. Expect potential technical tests and think about how you will need to plan your time – especially if you are home with children or other distractions.
If you’re not sure how to get your technical job search started, the Talener team can help to guide you as you consider whether a change in position is right for you.