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Recruiting & Fostering the Next Great Tech Generation

Chris Wright, Product Manager
#Phase2 | Posted

In our commitment to impacting the future of technology and nurturing rising talent, Phase2 has recruited an extraordinary group of 2017 BuilDesign interns. Through the hiring process, we learned a lot about the upcoming generation of tech talent and what they are looking for in top employers.

Here are our top five tips for recruiting junior tech talent from Phase2 BuilDesign mentors and the interns themselves:

1. The best recruits need to see the impact of their work.

In addition to posting the BuilDesign internship publicly, we relied heavily on a network of contacts at code and design schools and local meetups to connect us with the most passionate talent. This approach resulted in 90 amazing applicants, over three times the number we had last year.

One of the reasons we were able to attract such a robust pool of applicants: We worked hard to build a program where our interns felt empowered and were given real project work that offered them the opportunity to grow professionally. Out of our pool of six interns last year we hired three of them into full-time positions. All of them are still at Phase2 and their success is the best advertisement our program can have.

We’re not alone in understanding new talent’s need for meaningful work. The 2017 Deloitte Millennial Study highlights one powerful way to keep millennials around: Let them see the impact of their work on the business and their clients, and the company’s overall impact on society.

Whether through client work or charitable opportunities provided by their company, upcoming talent wants to see the positive impact of their work.

“…Whatever the size of an organization or the issues with which it chooses to engage, there is a strong correlation with positive employee sentiment,” finds the 2017 Deloitte Millennial Study. “For example, we see that millennials intend to stay longer with those employers that engage with social issues.”

Source: 2017 Deloitte Millennial Study. Graph showing how level of loyalty, social optimism, and business impact
Source: Millennial Survey 2017 - Deloitte 

Nobody wants to be the intern who is left in a corner to do the most menial work – people value doing meaningful work. For some that means working with socially-minded clients, for others, it is working with major consumer brands that their family would understand. Whatever that passion is, employers need to foster it. That’s the easiest way to attract and keep the best and brightest.

I knew Phase2 was where I wanted to intern as soon as I saw the company's work history. From the UN's Humanitarian.ID app to Teach For America's storytelling platform, Phase2 has worked with some of the most respected NGOs and nonprofits in the nation. I want to be part of a team that can pinpoint the problems that these organizations face and help them solve it. - 2017 BuilDesign Intern

2. Focus on culture and values over silly perks.

There’s a trap a lot of tech companies fall into; when talking about company culture, they lead with all of the hollow perks: ping pong tables, beer fridges, nap rooms, etc.  But, in general, great junior talent is far more interested in practical needs, such as training, work-life integration, and assistance to grow professionally.

I know what they are not looking for and that is the 'foosball table and beanbag chair company'. They are looking for the guarantee that there are mechanisms in place to help them succeed. Young talent wants to learn and devleop and they need the support to do so. - Chris Bloom, Phase2 Front End Lead 

Everyone loves perks, but tech employees are savvy and they know when those perks are only there to cover up a toxic work-life balance. Millennials want to work in an environment of smart, hardworking, decent people where they’re respected and given opportunities. Data from Gallup backs this up – Baby Boomers are more likely than Millennials to say that “fun and creativity” are important to them in the workplace.

3. Embrace mentorship and professional development.

Building on this, young tech talent is thirsty for knowledge. The #1 question I was asked when interviewing intern candidates was about how much professional development we offered.  According to the 2016 Gallup study titled, “How Millennials Want to Work and Live” training and professional development are millennial’s top priority.

New tech employees are looking for an environment where collaboration and teaching are encouraged across the company. Our program runs 14 weeks, but the first four weeks of that program are solely dedicated to learning. What we do is complicated; we want to make sure we set our interns up for success and make sure they have a comprehensive understanding of our business, their opportunities, and the impact they will have on projects.

Many companies throw their interns into a Hunger Games scenario that involves coffee runs, copy machines, and the demise of passion - but no real learning. That's why we focus on mentorship in our BuilDesign program. In fact, over 30% of employees are BuilDesign mentors. - Chris Bloom, Phase2 Front End Lead

If you provide mentorship, a collaborative environment and the resources they need to succeed, young tech talent will acknowledge the investment you make in them and strive to return it.

4. Bringing in junior talent is just as much of an opportunity for your company as it is for the recruit.

Our industry is always changing, and it is one of the reasons junior talent are so passionate about learning. You have just as much to learn from your junior folks as they have to learn from you. No matter what industry or what stack you work in, you need to keep on top of trends and turnover or you risk stagnating. If you’re not evolving your tools and processes every 18 months or so, you are already behind.

Most of our interns are self-taught or fresh out of code schools where they’ve been learning the tools and languages of the next few years. This excitement for new technologies is the perfect opportunity for us to give our whole company education around these new tools. The curriculum and classes we developed for the interns are open to our entire company, and the opportunity to learn and teach these things keeps us all fresh.

5. Don’t ignore the power of diversity.

This last point is one I am particularly passionate about, especially given our current climate. LinkedIn paints a demoralizing and depressingly accurate picture of the current tech landscape. “…In general, the tech industry suffers from a ‘frat boy’ reputation — one where “hoodie-wearing young white men who attended elite universities” are the boss. “If the issue of Millennial turnover at tech companies is to be solved, hiring a more diverse pool of employees is a great place to start.”

According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the high-tech sector employs a larger share of whites, Asian Americans, and men, and a smaller share of African Americans, Hispanics, and women. The picture is worse the higher you go into a company’s structure; 80% of tech executives are men. Junior tech talent thrives in inclusive cultures and they value the perspectives that come with a diverse workplace.

The 2017 BuilDesign class is a reflection of Phase2’s commitment to equality and diversity. Our interns have a wide range of cultural backgrounds and women represent the majority of the class.

Tech talent is hard to find and they may come from unexpected backgrounds. Understanding how to recruit and retain is critical to a fresh, passionate, and massively talented workforce.

Learn more about Phase2’s BuilDesign program, and check out our upcoming DrupalCon presentation on fostering new recruits.

 

Chris Wright

Product Manager