How to win the war for talent when you can’t compete on pay and perks


Building on last month’s article on Gen Y’s and the up and coming Gen Z’s, in a market where demand for IT workers is high, what can you do to lure the best candidates?

Clients often ask if money is really the only lure that counts at the end of the day.  The answer is no.  Salary is a part of the carrot, but it’s only one piece.  For technical specialists, challenge matters – just as much.  And depending on the IT worker’s age and specialization, it can matter more than a paycheque.

I came across a recent survey in the British newspaper, The Guardian, that reported the young, best and brightest in digital said they’d be “easily persuaded“ to join a tech start-up – even if other employers offered bigger salaries.

Of course, large established tech company have unmatched powers of persuasion. Any company that can pull a Google and offer interesting work combined with great salary, free beer, and other perks has its pick of the crop.  To no one’s surprise, in a recent listing of the top US companies in terms of pay and perks, large tech dominated.  Google came in first, followed closely by Facebook with Adobe coming in fourth.

The result is many employers are left wondering how they can attract high achievers in IT when they can’t offer the promise and excitement of a feisty start-up or the fame, fortune and free haircuts of a Google. The good news is those who aren’t hipsters of the high-tech sector can take some steps to give them an advantage.

A US survey of most desirable perks listed by software engineers and specialists in cloud computing, big data and mobile developments mirrors what I hear from candidates here.   Where salary offers are competitive, such perks as I’ve summed up below can help sway a candidate.

  • First and foremost, the latest technologies.  IT pros are extremely motivated to work on cutting-edge projects with similarly high-end technology.
  • A free lunch.   It is safe to say the no-pay eating plan has appeal.
  • Free upgrades to education.   Tech pros know they must stay up-to-date to be relevant and they are attracted to employers who encourage and pick up the tab for certifications, advanced degrees, and other schooling.
  • Free gym memberships. Even the most dedicated IT specialists like to get up and run.
  • Room to play.  A Ping-Pong table, some beanbag chairs, a casual and collaborative environment can go a long way to making digital natives feel at home.
  • Flexibility.  For my part, I understand why employers want their team together in one place.  That said, it is worthwhile to recognize that tech experts rarely hit the off button on work when they leave the building.  Thus, there is value in holding open-minded discussions on why, when, and where it makes sense to compromise.

Perks help attract candidates, but motivators help retain employees.

To level the playing field, I remind my clients that perks won’t make employees work harder or better – only motivators will.  And these are cost-free.

Perks and motivators are two different species.  Perks are external incentives – everyone enjoys them, but they don’t foster a genuine connection between an individual and his/her work.

Whereas motivators are what make tech specialists want to get to their desk in the morning –– for reasons that are far more meaningful than a free bagel.

Discuss motivators even during the hiring interview

Many of my clients have reported that they found it truly beneficial to anticipate and answer the questions that I suggest below when they prepare to interview candidates. The discussions that may result can crystalize the interest of the candidates and help determine a strong match.

  • What is the true importance of the candidate’s work?  High-achievers want to know their goals, and the purpose of their work.  What could change for the better as a result of their contribution?
  • What resources are available to help the candidate succeed? Candidates are interested not only in the technology they’ll use, but also in the support they will be able to count on.  What can they expect of you?  How can they be assured that they will join a team that respects and recognizes each member?
  • What small measures of success are deemed valuable? An interesting multi-year Harvard study of how to keep employees engaged, detailed in the book The Progress Principle, confirms a sense of progress, no matter how small, is associated with positive emotions and high motivation, particularly for technologists.
  • What stories can you share in the interview about related achievements of team members, during work or on their own? As mentioned, high-achievers are motivated by challenge and are enthused by a community of like-minded people.

Finally, to be more competitive, consider building your profile with the up-and-coming talent.

As many who work with me know, I am a passionate advocate of unleashing the imagination and aspirations of the next generation of tech employees.  To that end, I urge clients to look for opportunities get involved with high-schools and post-secondary institutions, whether it is by sponsoring competitions, guest-lecturing, mentoring, etc,

This not only builds your name and reputation, it starts a goal-oriented conversation between you and digital natives that can spill over into the workplace for an ongoing positive, and productive relationship.

— Joanne Boucher
D: 416-847-4962; E:;

Joanne is the General Manager for Bagg Technology Resources, bringing over 20 years of industry experience in Project and Solutions Resourcing, Solutions offshore and near-shore for application development and data warehouse project delivery, Information Technology, Engineering, Management, Contract/Full Time Resourcing. Joanne’s goal is to deliver distinct flexible resource solutions to meet and exceed the requirements of her clients and candidates by understanding their goals and challenges, by leveraging technology and by respecting the intrinsic value of our each person she comes in contact with. Joanne believes that the relationships developed in resourcing are lasting and works with both resources and clients on long term plans and goals. This consultative approach has enabled her to be proactive in forecasting clients’ requirements and assisting resources with their career direction. To enhance her ability to understand the requirements of her clients, Joanne has enhanced her post-secondary education with Information Technology courses at Ryerson University. – See more at:

Comments are closed.