How to attract top talent while you grow an IT company

By GK

Contents| Grow an IT company

Introduction

Context: 

-The foundations
-Solving problems for clients
-Hiring the right team
-Your ‘why’

Building an effective team: 

-Skills
-Collaboration vs competition
-Study: Collaboration at Google
-Hierarchy
-Attitude
-How to set yourself apart
-EVP

A practical guide and to-do list: 

-Identifying your culture and values
-Identifying missing skills
-Delivering for your customers
-Hiring tech specialists
-Tell the world (communicating with your target)

Conclusion and contact details

 

Introduction

If you are looking to grow an IT company, there are various nuggets of knowledge that you should be taking on board and applying into practical steps. The global IT industry is forecast to reach $5 billion this year, with the UK alone accounting for 19% of that.

You’re probably already aware that IT jobs are already, and increasingly so, in high-demand. In fact, 5 million IT jobs are expected to be added to the industry by 2027. Not only that, but a recent study found that IT jobs are the most important roles in an organisation’s success. The high demand for talent to fill the roles out there means it can be a challenge to find the right people to fit within your business. If you want to find out the reasons behind the demand, you can read our article here.

There’s certainly plenty of room within the sector to grow an IT company, but if you want to be successful, you need to ensure you build it with the right people who are not only effective in their roles but are also committed and passionate about what you want to achieve as a business.

This guide covers the basic touchpoints of what running a successful IT business looks like internally and provides you with a step-by-step approach to creating an effective team who consistently deliver for your clients. It also considers how this translates into communicating to the world about your company in a way that is going to generate more business and growth.

 

The foundations: What is it that you do exactly?

Firstly, let’s focus on what you do. If you’re trying to grow an IT company successfully, you’re likely to spend a lot of time thinking about the results you want to achieve, and the people you want to reach. However, the inner workings of your business are what need the most consideration, it’s the most crucial factor behind the generation of those results. Think of it as an inside-out approach. You have to have a strong core to create an impactful outward ripple effect.

The centre of the ‘core’ constitutes the ‘why’ and values that your business is built on. Your team make up the outer layer of the core. They embody the values of the business. Practises, followed by clients and revenue are the ripple effects of your core components. What your business is built on will have a significant impact on the size and duration of the ripple effect. Head down to the bottom of the article, where we going into practical actions, on how you can find your values.

 

What problems do you solve for your clients?

When you grow an IT company, one of your main selling points are the problems you can solve for your clients. If you’re able to prove that you and your team can consistently and effectively solve problems you’re going to generate more client loyalty. Acquiring new customers is 5-25 times more costly than retaining existing ones, so obtaining loyalty is vital for the profit margin of your business.

However, if you’re focusing on this, you’re still thinking about the end result, not how you get there. The way to get there and grow an IT company successfully is through your employees. For your employees to generate results, you need to hire the right team, to begin with.

 

How to hire the right team

Focus on your own skill set and the team you need to build around you to create something bigger than yourself, with an intersection of skills that cover all the necessary areas of expertise.

A study found that 92% of companies top concern is redesigning organisational structure to meet the needs of current workforces, moving away from the traditional hierarchical approach, and prioritising networks of teams instead. Placing emphasis on skills, collaboration and a collective purpose is at the core of effective teams.

A couple of useful tools to use when thinking about hiring and building an effective team are the EOS model and ‘Hedgehog’ concept.

 

EOS

The EOS model identifies ‘people’ as one of the main six components that have to be managed and strengthened to build a great business, alongside vision, traction, issues, process and data. If you hire people who not only have the right skills and experience but are the right ‘fit’ for your culture and values, they’re going to make a much more valuable contribution to your business and its customers.

It could be that you have an employee who fits really well within your culture but is in the wrong role. For example, there are salespeople and technical workers out there who have well-blended hard and soft skills which would probably make them more successful in roles such as IT consultants. Vice versa, you could make the mistake of hiring someone who is ‘right’ for the job, but they’re out of sync with your business’s culture and values, making work much harder than it needs to be.

What you choose to put in the job specification when you’re looking to take on a new employee should take this into account. It’s very much dependent on the solutions you offer and how you implement them for clients and within your business, alongside your values. If you still don’t know what this is, then the following activities will help:

 

The hedgehog concept

You can apply Jim Collins’ ‘hedgehog’ concept to your hiring strategy. It consists of three principles: what you’re passionate about, what you can be the best at, and what drives your economic engine. The concept suggests that you need an intersection of the three for a business to be more likely to succeed. Hiring someone whose principles are similar to those of the company will only increase this fortification.

 

What is your ‘why’?

Your ‘why’ is one of the most integral components to grow an IT company. It will likely determine who you hire, your work culture, your values, and what you choose to pursue and how you strategise. Whatever these are made up of will additionally shape the types of clients you will attract, too. Ever wondered how your best client can sometimes become a long-time close friend?

Ultimately, your ‘why’ should be the reason behind everything you do. There’s going to be a drive or passion behind your ‘why’. After all, it’s the reason behind you starting your venture. Perhaps you saw a gap in the market or a solution to a problem that no one else has solved? More likely it’s going to be a better lifestyle with improved work-life balance you want to attain or a long-standing ambition you want to fulfil. It’s a genuine and authentic reason behind the existence of your business which drives what you do and how you do it.

Simon Sinek analysed why Apple consistently performs in everything they do- from laptops and phones to music; They can sell pretty much anything successfully. Whereas HP has always performed well-selling laptops, but when they attempted to try their hand at TVs, their product flopped.

But why? The ‘why’ is literally the answer. Sinek pointed out that HP was keen to convey what their product did. Alternatively, Apple promotes its products by emphasising the fact that they are passionate about challenging the status quo. Consumers want to invest in a brand because they identify with their ‘why’, not just because the product features make their lives easier.

 

How to build an effective team.

Skills:

If your starting to grow an IT company, your business likely comes under the umbrella of SMEs, and you may have around 1-3 employees. If you’re in these very early stages, each employee should have their own specialism(s), which complement and overlap with their co worker’s skills. However, 80% of businesses struggle to find qualified staff. A solution is sourcing your talent through an IT recruitment agency, who already have a pool of great talent, with the right intersection of skills for small businesses. Read more about the benefits of hiring through an agency in our article here.

Collaboration vs competition:

Every business wants their employees to work well together and excel collectively. However, the grey area between workers excelling through teamwork and the motivational aspect competition brings is somewhat contentious.

Competition depends on who you hire. 50% of people improve their performance with competition, while 25% of workers do not benefit and it makes little difference for the remaining 25%. The level of competitiveness you want to initiate in your employees comes back to your values and ensuring you hire people who will thrive within your culture. If competitiveness is a prominent part of your values, you need to be mindful that competition can potentially turn sour, damaging the growth of your IT business.

Collaboration is much more universal. Teams who work well together will communicate more, improving efficiency and the overall quality of work. 86% of executives and employees say poor collaboration and communication are behind workplace failings. If you’re going to prioritise either competitive or collaborative traits in finding a new employee, collaboration is the clear winner to help you grow an IT company.

Collaboration in Google:

Google is often considered to be the pinnacle of exceptional work culture. In Fact, for six consecutive years, it’s topped Fortune’s list of Best Companies to Work For. A study done on their workers’ success born out of collaboration found that regardless of hierarchy, teams with an ‘equal speaking’ code had lower turnover, increased revenue, benefitted from diverse ideas, and were twice as likely to rate their team leader as ‘effective’.

But what can we learn from this? Creating a working culture where employees are encouraged to speak freely and bounce ideas off each other without fear of being shot down is going to increase the quality of your teams work produced and the revenue it produces.

Hierarchy:

Traditionally companies have had a hierarchical structure. However, if you’re beginning to grow an IT company, and want to have a team that works well together and can share ideas freely, it’s beneficial to have a sense of equality and open-door policies.

You can achieve this by modelling your team around a ‘clan’ company culture, which focuses on a shared sense of purpose, shared goals and cohesive participation.

Attitude:

The attitude of your new hire will be reflected in the quality of their work, their engagement and productivity. 40% of new hires fail within the first 18 months because of poor attitude. Remember, customers will interpret your employees’ attitudes as a reflection of your business’s values, so hiring someone with a poor attitude has the potential to damage your reputation. Highly engaged employees show 21% greater profitability than unengaged teams who don’t think your company is worth their while, ultimately impeding your business’s growth.

 

How to set yourself apart

The same goes as you grow an IT company. Inspiring your customers goes so much further than saying you can provide the latest tech. There are probably other companies out there that can do the same. 64% of customers claim that shared values are the primary reason they have a trusted relationship with a brand. You need to convey your personality through every aspect of your business; building an effective team is an integral part of the process. Your values and your ‘why’ are what can set you apart and resonate with the consumer’s own identities.

 

Employee Value Proposition

You can achieve this partly through your Employee Value Proposition (EVP). An EVP is the rewards and benefits your workers gain throughout their employment with you. Some of the best EVPs have a direct impact on your business. It can make your employees feel valued and improve morale. For example, if you provide free healthy lunches and free gym memberships as part of your EVP, it could result in your workforce being healthier and having more energy to work throughout the day.

Your EVP should also be aligned with your values, so when your employee is telling anyone about their work benefits, the values of your business will be communicated at the same time.

 

Follow our practical tips on how to grow an IT company with effective people

Now that you’re all brushed up on the context of what it takes to be authentic and setting yourself apart from your competitors, you need to start thinking about the practical applications. Follow the advice below to increase the likelihood of succeeding as you grow an IT company.

 

Identify your values and culture

Culture is arguably one of the most vital aspects of finding a recruit who is the right fit. If implemented well within your recruitment process, your staff retention will improve, and worker wellbeing, motivation and productivity will be better.
34% of employees claim they have felt unwell due to work-related stress, and positive work cultures reduce stress. So, if you hire a team who fits your business’s culture, you should also see a reduction in the occurrence of sick leave.

To do:

Create a list of your values. There should be some link to your ‘why’. Create a list of your values. There should be some link to your ‘why’. If you’re not sure what your values are, ask your family or friends what they think to see if there are any patterns or similarities in their answers. If you know what culture you have or want to attain, think about what drives every day and the values that underline that drive.

When reviewing applications or interviewing for a role, you should aim to understand whether the values of your company and the candidate align. If they do, the right candidate will share your passion and motivation to champion your company values day-to-day. For example, when you come out of an interview with a candidate, you never think first, oh their skills are impressive, you think, they were nice or I didn’t like their attitude.

 

Identify missing skillsets

If you’re hiring the same ‘type’ of employee each time, with the same skill sets and experience, you’re going to experience a skill deficit. Your team might not even recognise this deficit exists because they’re so focused on their own area of expertise, and they don’t have the knowledge to recognise what’s missing.

When you have the right balance of skills within your team, they can begin to collaborate. This is an opportunity for each employee to educate their peers on their own specialisms. Alongside a thorough development program, this will help develop ‘T-shaped’ employees, who have the depth of their particular specialism, and the breadth of knowledge, skill and experience to work outside of that area. Given time, your team should be rounded enough to develop specialisms outside of their original one, while being able to perform in many other areas too.

For example, imagine you’ve got a team whose skills are segregated by specialisms in ‘hard’ and ‘soft’, e.g. a techy and an IT salesperson. You’ll need to focus on broadening their skills, so they can collaborate and vary their responsibilities more. The result will be better team cohesion, idea sharing, and a broadly more capable team.

To do:

On a spreadsheet, create a column for imperative skills and a column for desirable skills. For the skills that your IT business has an abundance of, highlight green, the skills you could do with more of, yellow, and the skills you don’t yet have, in orange.

Most of the imperative skills should be a mixture of green and yellow, and the desirable skills are likely to be a mix of yellow and orange, depending on the size of your business. From this, you’ll have a clear picture of what skills you need in a new hire, helping you grow an IT company with effective people.

 

Delivering for your customers

You can’t expect to grow an IT company without fulfilling the needs of your customers. What your customers expect should influence what you look for as you build an effective team. 67% of customers say that their standard of good customer experience is higher than it’s ever been. 76% say they expect companies to understand their needs and expectations.

It goes without saying that good experiences insight brand loyalty, and your team will constitute a significant aspect of how a customer interprets their experience. When you have a person with the right skills sets and the right attitude, how are your management skills? Are you able to communicate effectively what your idea of delivering customer experience is and what that process looks like? A new employee might have everything going for them but if they don’t understand the needs of the customers through lack of experience, how are you able to transfer that knowledge to them?

 

Attributes of the perfect techie

If you’re not sure what constitutes great technical candidates, you can read our articles on What makes a successful IT consultant? and What should you look for in a software developer?

Technical roles are never stagnant; technical employees need to continually expand their knowledge as new tech is continually introduced into the market. Therefore, it’s important to note that you should always prioritise skills and attitude over experience. A candidate who is otherwise lacking in specific experience can apply their transferable skills and exceed with the right training and most importantly, the right attitude.

To do:

Start by creating a list of what solutions you provide for clients and how you solve their problems or how you optimise their productivity. Then list skills that are required to deliver these solutions. Decide on the level of experience you need to implement the solutions or improve a client’s service. Then, as you grow an IT company and hire a technical recruit, you can cross-reference their skills against the services you provide to see if they’re a good match.

Finally, list a number of training solutions you can implement into the business so that skills remain high and it doesn’t become a one-time thing at the start when you’re most likely to be enthusiastic.

 

How to tell the world

Your sales team will be one of the main lines of communication to customers as you grow an IT company.

Some of your non-technical clients could have a difficult time understanding the technical terms that your tech team is used to. Your sales team needs to bridge this gap by avoiding jargon and explaining how they can solve a problem with the tech, not the intricacies of how the tech works.

Whoever you hire should have a positive attitude towards ongoing learning and development, be a natural problem solver and empathetic, amongst other qualities. Read our article about the Top 7 attributes to look out for with IT salespeople to find out what you should be looking out for.

To do:

List the top seven attributes of IT salespeople. If you haven’t read the article they are:

  • Track record for success
  • Relevant work experience
  • Knowledge of technologies/solutions
  • Location
  • Culture and Values
  • Attitudes and behaviour
  • Career aspirations

When you interview and then later weigh up a sales candidate, you can give each one a score out of 5 for each category. It will help you get a clearer picture of which candidate is the most suitable.

Some categories might be more important to you than others. If that’s the case, rank them from most to least important when you list them. If a candidate scores 3/5 on the top-ranked and 5/5 on the lower-ranked ones, they might not be as good a fit as someone who scores 5/5 on the top, and 3/5 on the bottom-ranked categories.

 

Conclusion

Hopefully, this guide has given you a lot to think about as you grow an IT company with an effective team. If you’re planning to expand and hire a new team member, there’s a lot of pressure to make the right decision. It could impact on the growth of your whole business. IT recruitment agencies can take this stress away. They are already experts in finding the perfect fit for each business, based on their individual requirements. If you want to find the ideal match for your IT business, get in touch with GK recruitment.

 

At GK recruitment, we have over 20 years of IT recruitment experience. If you need help in recruiting a new IT employee, we can help you find your perfect match. Contact us on 01257 429 499 or email us at info@gkrecruitment.com.

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growing an IT company in Lancashire