Let’s face it: Most of us leading technology teams amid this unprecedented pandemic are very much focused on the here and now, as we should be. Our businesses and our lives are being challenged in ways we have never imagined. However, it’s important to make time to look up from where we are today and look out toward where we will be a year from now. It’s almost a certainty that the landscape for technologists of the future will be vastly different from that of the past.
A 2018 survey conducted by HackerRank found that many technology professionals want to work remotely. Over 80% of respondents stated that working remotely — whether that means from home, at the local coffee shop or some other location of their choosing — would improve their work-life balance.
Despite the availability of technology that enables remote productivity that was not available to previous generations, the fact is remote work is not currently the norm in the U.S. — or at least it wasn’t prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. According to research conducted by Global Workplace Analytics, only 3.6% of the U.S. workforce works remotely at least half of the time. One of the most frequent reasons given for not allowing remote work has been FOMO, or a reporting manager’s “fear of missing out.” In other words, if I can’t see employees sitting at their desks, how do I know they’re actually working?
Whether the argument is valid is no longer going to be up for debate post-pandemic. Companies now are either getting comfortable with remote work or they are not going to come out on the other side of this crisis. When things go back to normal (whatever that means), technologists are going to see a whole sea of new opportunities that weren’t previously available to them, as geographic restrictions will be a thing of the past. Many companies that did not consider remote teams as an option prior to the pandemic will likely be forced to reverse course.
I believe that six months to a year from now, technology leaders are likely not only going to be competing with the local suspects for talent but also those from across the map. This means salaries are going to vary widely, as technologists will be applying for the same position with all manner of cost-of-living expenses. In short, the post-pandemic landscape is likely to be an employee’s market for individuals in technology fields.
Building a team of rock-star engineers is no easy task. As leaders in this space, many of us have spent years creating the team and culture that enable our current success. It’s important during the present state of this pandemic to not lose sight of how you treat your employees in the coming months. It will speak volumes to what your team looks like once the pandemic is over.
Here are a few things leaders should keep in mind for the coming months and beyond:
1. There will be no place in the technology landscape of the future for micromanagement. It simply can’t be done at scale with a remote development team. Leaders will need to get comfortable with communicating the “what” and trusting the “how” to the team members charged with execution. The good news is that most great leaders are doing this already. But if it’s something you struggle with personally, now more than ever is the time to level up.
2. The present is also the time to really distill the essence of your organization’s culture. It needs to be something more substantial than free snacks and a conference room with beanbags instead of chairs. In the technology landscape of the future, culture is one of those intangible items that will help you stand out when trying to attract and retain highly sought-after talent. Every leader says having a great culture is important, but now is the time to ask yourself the tough questions around what that means and how you’re actively investing to ensure it’s more than just lip service.
3. If you don’t already have a process in place for hiring and onboarding entirely remote, it’s best to get that ball rolling. As technology leaders, we tend to focus on the technical aspects such as how to do the whiteboard coding portion of the interview digitally, but if your organization does not currently have a remote hiring process, it entails a lot more. Does your HR have the ability to get digital signatures of forms? When a new hire joins, how will you get them all the cool new hire swag? Does your recruiting pipeline even advertise positions outside of your geographic area? These are the type of tactical questions that should probably get asked sooner rather than later.
While there are no easy answers, I believe being as transparent about the situation today as you can and being open to embracing a new way of working going forward is the most likely path to success. Strive to make sure that the whole team feels they, their leadership and the company is “in this together.” As technologists and business leaders, we know it’s rarely the easy projects that make us better but rather the challenges thrown our way and how we learn and grow as a result.