A Tech Pulse Q&A with MassTLC’s Tom Hopcroft

MassTLC President and CEO Tom Hopcroft talks to Talent Works’ Jody Robie about the technology leadership council’s recent Tech Pulse Executive Survey, and top investment areas cited by Massachusetts tech leaders. Key report highlights can be found here

Q: The research found that companies are seeking greater visibility to support talent acquisition – what did the results show? 

A: At a high level, the report paints a picture of how the pandemic is fundamentally changing the tech business and talent landscape, including: the Great Resignation, compensation trends, competition for top talent, and the dynamics of hybrid teams.

We know that talent is the number one reason companies choose to locate in Massachusetts. We also know that the inability to hire enough of it is the number one constraint to growth once they get here. This can often come down to the challenges associated with brand visibility for many companies. In our report, we found that 83% of executives surveyed identified brand visibility as a top priority for investment, which was not surprising. 

What we are seeing is a need to differentiate when it comes to brand visibility. Five years ago, brand visibility was more about product. Today, it’s about showcasing your culture and letting people know you exist as a company, and what your mission is as an organization. 

This is particularly the case with Gen Z: they want to know what a company stands for, why it exists. If you want to attract this generation of workers, you need to showcase your mission and values in order to gain an advantage in hiring. 

Q: The report says that Company Brand, Talent, DEI, & Training are top investment areas, in that order of priority. Can you explain what you’re seeing in terms of both the challenges and opportunities tech companies may see in each? What are they doing to meet the challenges and rise to the opportunities?

A: Talent is the lifeblood of technology companies: It’s really what fuels innovation. Having a brand and a culture that helps companies to attract and develop talent is key. Companies are increasingly seeking to differentiate themselves in the eyes of potential employees by showcasing their core values and culture.

Talent is also important. Companies are investing in developing their teams and building ‘sequels’ to roles, which is upskilling workers and building loyalty with that person through an investment in them, and in their future and growth. This is especially important when it comes to retention. 

The third area that we referenced in the report was the historical composition of tech. It’s a largely white male dominant industry and that can be a deterrent. The challenge increases for women in tech, or leaders of color, who may, by the way, find the exact same job in healthcare or a  life sciences company – or somewhere else that may not have quite the imbalance. 

In addressing it, companies must be intentional about how they build culture. When it comes time to change, for example, you don’t just ask the opinion of your engineering team who’s largely white and male. Companies need to be intentional about creating a culture that’s going to be inclusive and welcoming to all people.

Q: A few months ago, Talent Works surveyed 200 tech leaders to determine the state of hiring tech talent in New England. What we found was a real contradiction in claims towards prioritizing diversity. Ninety per cent of leaders said they were dedicated to hiring diverse and female tech talent. In the same survey, 80% of respondents surveyed indicated that they prefer to hire from their Alma Mater, or previous companies. Is this aligned with what you are seeing? 

A: It is aligned with what we see, but we do also see that companies are recognizing inherent bias for what it is. If you’re fishing in homogeneous pools, you know that the outcome is going to be not surprising. While your survey demonstrated that there is still much work to be done, I think companies are becoming more intentional and broadening the places that they look for candidates. 

When some companies are unable to hire the top data scientists out of MIT because maybe Google or Amazon had a lock on them, you know, they’ve started going to adjacent domains, and looking at, for example, mathematicians. If you really want to find the talent that you need, you need to be intentional about it and broaden your search criteria.

This is a big part of our Tech Compact for Social Justice. One hundred companies have signed on to work together and elevate their commitments around diversity, equity, inclusion. 

Q: What does 2022 look like for tech companies in Massachusetts? What are big opportunities for employees and employers alike?

A: The pandemic has had a tremendous human and financial toll on people around the world, but it also has been one of the greatest technology adoption events of all time. The report shows that some companies see a silver lining in that the Great Resignation and remote working are really unlocking a lot of talent that wasn’t available for them before.

While this uncertainty can be scary, it is also an opportunity to shuffle positions in your company: if 30% of your workforce is turning over, you’ve got a great opportunity to rebuild with a more diverse workforce. There’s a lot of talent moving around, and it’s down to companies to build an organization that appeals to the talent that matters to them. The ‘work from anywhere’ movement is also helping this. 

Entrepreneurs look at times of change and disruption as times of opportunity rather than the glass half empty. With all the change over the past 18 months, this is certainly an exciting time.