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Enlight Engineering


How to develop a winning strategy in the "war" for talent?


No one would argue when you say that having the right people is the most important thing for a company. Finding and keeping the right people tend to be one of the hardest things to do. This is especially the case in our (IT) industry.

We talked to our HR manager, Branko Vukovac, about the role of HR in the IT industry and how to win the war for talent. He doesn’t use this word because he doesn’t see it as a war and he will explain why.

Let us know in the comments if you agree with him.

Q: How does the role of HR in the IT industry differ from the role of HR in other industries?

B: Generally speaking, there is a shortage of labor in many industries. However, I believe this issue is more challenging in the IT industry due to the fact that the demand for work on commercial projects and software solutions is higher than the supply of qualified developers to work on them. Therefore, it’s more challenging to hire and keep developers due to the high volume of job opportunities they have.

I think this situation is normal taking into consideration the rapid development of the IT industry in the past few decades. People want everything to be easier and faster, and software is making that possible. Everything has been automated and digitalized. And that’s normal and expected. Probably this new labor market will stabilize at some point in the future as more and more fresh talents gain experience and education, but for now, the challenge of finding and keeping capable IT experts remains in the global IT industry.

Q: What are the biggest challenges for HR in the IT industry?

B: It’s hard to stand out as an employer. Most IT companies now offer quite similar employee benefits and conditions, including financial. I’d say that the IT industry introduced a more humane, people-oriented approach to the corporate culture. It’s all about putting your employees’ well-being first and enabling them to develop and grow. But now that’s a standard and not an exception in the IT industry, which brings us back to the first point.

On the other hand, every company still is unique in a certain way. So the question is — how to present your uniqueness and what distinguishes you from other companies on the market that is already oversaturated with offers from companies trying to do the same thing?

The challenge is to find the optimal way to present your offer and its advantages compared to the others.

Q: What is the strategy Enlight has when it comes to dealing with these challenges? How do you stand out as an employer in such a competitive market?

B: We aim to be a strategically driven company, which of course influences HR as well.

What distinguishes our company is our engineering culture, as I like to call it. It’s characterized by a great concentration on knowledge and specific procedures in place for managing that knowledge.

Variety of projects and a wide knowledge scope

We have many experienced developers oriented toward finding solutions using their theoretical and practical knowledge. ERP, software used in various industries, web applications, robotics, or chemical analysis — our engineers have worked on a lot of different projects. They possess a wide knowledge scope and they share it with their younger colleagues.

Development opportunities for every individual

Another thing that we really care about is the individualistic approach toward every employee. We have about 50 employees who are divided into teams consisting of 4-5 people. This structure didn’t come from our need for small teams, but from our objective to make sure every Team Lead can provide the right amount of support to every team member. On the other hand, every Team Lead also has a supervisor who makes sure they grow and develop. And of course, as HR, we systematically take notes of what needs to be done and improved at the company level and communicate our findings with the management.

This approach doesn’t manifest only in our relationship with current employees, but also in the creation of new positions. When we need a new position for a particular project, we create it together with the client, but we hire people for us — and we make sure they have a diversified scope of work if they want that.

The role of the Chief Knowledge Officer in knowledge management processes

Our third unique feature is the role of the Chief Knowledge Officer, who is crucial in supporting our developers and their career development. He also comes up with internal projects during which developers can expand their knowledge and skills, depending on their seniority and professional development preferences.

Community spirit

Last but not least — although I guess everyone will say this for their company — is the family atmosphere we nurture in the company. We are like a large family household and we even grow our own vegetables on the terrace. Our employees spend a lot of time together outside of work, they organize various activities by themselves and of course, we heartedly support that.

Q: What does the role of HR in Enlight include and how is it organized?

B: Our HR team currently consists of three roles: HR generalist, IT recruitment partner, and HR manager. The main tasks of an HR generalist are related to the organizational and administrative aspects of HR. The administrative aspect includes managing of benefits, leaves et cetera, while the organizational aspect is focused on internal and external events, internal communications, onboarding process…

IT recruitment partner is focused on the recruitment process, as the term suggests, and the selection of candidates. But an equally important part of their role is employer branding activities, which aim to present everything that makes our company a desirable employer.

My role as the HR manager is more strategic. Together with the rest of the management, I participate in strategic planning concerning the entire company, but I’m also responsible for our HR strategy together with my team.

In essence, my job is to align the goals of the company with the objectives of the HR team. Our whole team constantly works on the optimization of our HR processes. Of course, this is not the complete list of our tasks, but these are some of the most important aspects of our roles within HR.

Q: What is Enlight’s vision for the HR role?

B: Our vision is to have the right person in the right place at the right time. But that’s not enough — we want to have the right person for a long period of time.

The HR team aims to achieve this vision through the processes we develop, but also through our constant communication with both the employees and the management.

This allows us to develop the right organizational conditions in the aspects of personal and professional development, as well as company culture. It comes down to making sure people work in the positions which allow them to thrive in the fields they are interested in. How do we achieve this? By creating processes both the employees and the management can use in creating the right organizational conditions for everyone to be satisfied with their work and the environment they work in.

Q: What does an IT company need to do to be competitive in today’s labor market and be perceived as a desirable employer?

B: To be authentic. In order to stand out among so many companies offering pretty much the same conditions to the candidates, you need to show your authenticity. I believe that’s the secret to successful employer branding — together with being transparent. No one wants to see the made-up version of your company, they want to see how it really is.

Another thing you need to do is be consistent in your communication with potential candidates, not only during the recruitment process. You should use online and offline platforms at your disposal to constantly communicate to a wider audience of possible new employees and send your authentic message.

In a nutshell, authenticity, continuity, consistency and transparency are the recipes we use at Enlight.

Q: What does Enlight do to stay relevant on the market and win the current war for talent?

B: First and foremost, I don’t see that as a war for talent. The market, filled with our competition and many different opportunities for talents, should encourage us to do exactly what I mentioned earlier — be authentic. That’s the only way to stand out. Every company nurtures an authentic unique type of company culture, and that’s the case with us as well.

Another reason why I don’t see it as a war is the fact that this situation enables us to learn from our competitors. And not only from our competitors but from any company on the market that shows good employer branding practices.

When it comes to appealing to prospective employees, the key is in understanding your target group and build awareness around it through continuous and strategic communication. This is why we create an individual recruitment plan for every position, which takes into account all characteristics of that target group, position, and technology.

The second thing is — we should not employ people only when we need them. We should work on developing internal learning centers for all seniority levels because they can draw people who got tired of working on some project for years and would like to take a moment to work on their own professional development, which our internal projects encourage.

Another good practice is proactive recruitment, which doesn’t have to end in hiring the person right away. Instead, it’s about networking, knowing that in for example 6 months, we will open this or that position.

Q: How to find and keep good employees?

B: It all begins with a good selection process. We always aim to define the candidate profile and conduct the selection process in a way that makes it possible for us to find a culture fit in the very first phase.

But we should also keep in mind that the fluctuation level in the IT industry is high and that it’s normal that your employees stay for 2 or 3 years. Of course, we still work on keeping the valuable employees for a longer period of time, but we should understand that the time when retention rates in IT were 90% are long gone.

A good way to make your employees want to stay with you is to create a community while also practicing the individualistic approach. This is what we do at Enlight. We have processes and procedures in place which make communication smooth and our employees heard. At the same time, we work on making our company a hub where people will want to come and stay.

There is no universal recipe on how to build such a community in your company, it varies from place to place, and also across the employee life cycle.

Q: What is the retention rate in Enlight? And what is the secret behind that number?

B: Our retention rate is approximately 80%. I think that this community atmosphere we have at the company largely influences that. People come here because they want to hang out with each other. On the other hand, every individual is seen and heard. They are included in the decision-making process when it comes to their role, we continuously communicate with them and ask for their opinion.

We aren’t perfect and it may take us some time to respond to the needs of our employees, but the important thing is that we always listen and we try to find a solution. Our employees know they can always say what they think and express their ideas. They don’t have the fear of speaking up or being judged.

But maybe the secret could also be our terrace, which has a magnificent view of Novi Sad. People gather there and cook together, from the vegetables they grew themselves on the same terrace. And that’s just another example of the community culture I was talking about.

Q: How do you think HR in IT will change? What are the main trends and tendencies?

B: A trend that has been around for a couple of years is HR working on more and more precise metrics used in the HR processes. People analytics is developing fast and AI is starting to play an important role in this field. It’s one of the specific trends I have noticed.

I also think that leadership development will continue to be one of the most important aspects of HR work, especially because it’s an important tool in hiring and keeping employees.

Lastly, I think we — as HR managers — will have to learn how to create a remote culture. The trend of this hybrid, remote work is causing companies to become hubs. So the task of HR will be how to create a place where people just stop by once in a while because the days of staying in the office from 9 to 5 are behind us.

Another trend that will present a challenge is the labor market, which has been greatly influenced by the COVID pandemic and the realization that most of the work in IT can be done remotely. I think recruitment is going to get harder and harder. In the next 5 years, our competition won’t be just local, it will be global. HR and the entire organization will have to adjust to this.

Q: How will Enlight keep up with these trends?

B: First of all, we will observe the labor market through extensive local and global research. At the same time, we will listen to our employees, and find out what their needs are and how we can help them. Taking all this into consideration, we will try to anticipate our future needs and create a strategy based on these anticipations.

We have already started doing this — we have a strategy in place, based on internal and external inputs. Simultaneously, we test new ways of working and new ways of recruitment, exercise flexibility… We open up to new things, test them and realize whether they work for us or not, so we can continually improve our processes and organization. In short, we observe, we test, and we learn.

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