Attracting and Retaining Digital Talent

In an industry where trends are constantly developing, attracting and retaining digital talent is top of mind. But digital skills are lacking in a number of sectors, and employees with these skills are in high demand.


In a startup, the passion your employees have for what you’re creating is one of your more important assets. So you want to make sure that the employees you bring in are engaged and passionate about what you do. These are the sort of people who are going to want to develop their skills with you specifically and drive digital innovation.

And yet, more than half of all workers would consider themselves ‘not engaged’ due to a lack of recognition, and a sense of stagnation.

In today’s working environment, employees want and expect the companies they work for to be digitally mature, and to offer an environment where they can learn and develop.

So how do we attract this sort of talent in a digitally focused era? A lot of it comes down to your employer brand, but here’s a few practical tips for developing a reputation as a modern, up-to-date employer who can acquire, and keep, great talent that will drive innovation at your company.

Professional Certifications

Attracting and Retaining Digital Talent

As many recent graduates will be able to tell you, degrees aren’t usually enough to make a career out of these days. The best candidates are always looking for opportunities to develop their professional profile, and that means learning opportunities, additional qualifications, and practical workable experience.

That means if you’re looking to attract more talented graduates, and more talent in general, your first port of call should be to lay on training opportunities across the board. Transferable skills are ideal, they’ll help you put together strong teams.

 It can get costly if you’re not careful, but taking the time to consider options for training is going to result in a happier team that feels valued, and will let you guide the development of key members.

Here are some options to consider:

  • Tuition Subsidies

  • Onsite training

  • Opportunities to attend seminars and conferences

  • Opportunities to speak at seminars and conferences

  • Microlearning

This article discusses some of the training opportunities offered by some larger employers, to get you inspired.

But doesn’t this mean that you risk losing some of your employees to head hunters from other companies? Yes, it does. Which means….

Job Satisfaction Pays Off

Attracting and Retaining Digital Talent

Training up new hires means, eventually, they will become overqualified for the positions they’re in, and, logically, start looking for better ones. Employees that are happy with where they are will be less inclined to look elsewhere, and with opportunities for upward mobility, they’ll be even happier to stick around.

You can help employees feel more satisfied in a number of practical ways. Consider alternatives to the 9-5, encouraging remote work and the like where possible. Make sure you’re paying at market rates, and that overtime is accounted for. Encourage hard workers, without fostering resentment towards those who could improve. Perks are also an option to consider, depending on what you can afford.

It’s hard to consider upward mobility when you’re first starting out, you may not be looking to promote, or have a delicately balanced team dynamic. But what you should have is a solid idea of what your company structure will be in the long term- something that you can concretely point to as being an area for development in the future. That way, candidates will be able to see where they can go in the future.

Vagaries and hypotheticals, where it’s clear you have no idea what shape the company will take, is not an appealing prospect for any qualified, passionate individual. Putting off considering these things is just going to cause problems down the line.

Management Needs Support Too

Many people can report instances where they’ve seen people thrown into managerial positions without any support. In the worst cases, this means that you can attract great talent, but then lose them once you promote them to managers, or lose others around them, due to the upheaval this can cause.

Remember, management requires an entirely different skill set compared to the other kinds of work.

Send upcoming managers to leadership courses, have mentorship programs in place, and in general make sure your new managers are comfortable with where they are. You’ll create a more stable long term environment that encourages talent to flourish.

Developing as an employee requires risk taking, and a little bit of dynamism in places. People are much more comfortable doing this when there’s a strong support network in place.

Stay Up to Date on Trends

Attracting and Retaining Digital Talent

Problem: In today’s modern world, trends, data, solutions, and strategies can warp and change constantly. This means that, unfortunately, you can’t just set out learning opportunities and leave them alone. You have to keep checking in and updating your approach as needed.

Growth managers can help with this, as we’ve discussed here.

Equally, this doesn’t mean you need to uproot your entire system whenever there’s a tiny shift in technology. Focus on keeping ahead of the curve on big developments in your sector, and adapting incremental changes to your system as you need to.

But by providing a strong basis for understanding in emerging technologies, you’ll get a reputation as a dynamic employer, and minimise the risk of skill gaps.

Most people would prefer to work for digital leaders, don’t make the mistake of thinking this is solely the preserve of the youth. Target improvements, and develop into a digitally mature company, and you’ll reap the benefits.


“Passionate people are at their best when surrounded by other passionate people”


Be An Engaged Leader

Attracting and Retaining Digital Talent

Passionate people are at their best when surrounded by other passionate people. Nobody wants to be giving one hundred percent, and then turn around to find everyone else averaging at about sixty. It’s a drag down.

The same applies to upper management. Employees can sense when management doesn’t want to be there either, or when they don’t see them as valuable assets. Your leadership team needs to stand for and represent the values your company espouses.

Part of the draw of joining a startup, at least for a lot of applicants, is in getting to be part of something new and vibrant, distinct from the established corporate world. You lose all of the draw if your management can’t engage with your employees in a way that makes them want to stick around and develop their skills with you.

That’s not to say you have to be friends with everyone you hire, far from it, but you do need to be putting out signals that you’re approachable, and as invested in this endeavour as you want your employees to be.

Final Thoughts

Attracting dynamic talent that is going to fit into your company is a challenge, but creating an environment where they’ll want to stay and thrive is even tougher. Be flexible, encourage innovation and foster an open environment where people want to develop, and you’ll see returns soon.