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Tech hub or not: What matters for attracting tech talent

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The Robin Team
Published on

According to Glassdoor reviews, here’s what tech talent is looking for at companies inside and outside of Boston.

Easy commutes, free lunches, and everything between. Startups and developed tech companies alike are offering a lot to their employees. As an IT manager, how do you compete in attracting tech talent? We mined feedback on Glassdoor of tech companies both inside and outside of the city of Boston. Tech talent had a lot of similar comments, with a few geographical differences.

Here are the top ten things they had to say:

  • Support for the commute
  • A lot of positive reviews inside and outside Boston wrote about commuter subsidies. Some companies offer a full subsidy up to $250 a month.
  • Outside the hub? Over 60% of reviewers wrote about how challenging the commute can be. Compete with the city slickers by alleviating this somehow. Provide a free car wash service every so often. Offer a playlist of podcasts to keep them entertained (like How I Built This). Give your employees a magnetic phone car mount and earphones with a mic -- et voilà, a mobile conference room.
  • Flexible work schedules
  • Employees unanimously listed companies that have flexible schedules or results-only-work-environment (ROWE) as a positive. People are proud and flaunt it. Some companies suggest specific days and times when everyone should be in the office (ex: Tuesday through Thursday, 10am-4pm). This helps maintain collaboration with schedules in flux. It also sets a guideline, as some employees were critical if the policy was unclear to them. To help those who work from home, try video conferencing solutions like Zoom.
  • Outside the hub? Flex scheduling also helps lighten the commute. People could work an earlier or later shift and avoid traffic.
  • Free Food
  • Lunch starts to make sense economically at a certain number employees, especially as it encourages them to stick around their workspaces. Reviewers wrote glowing entries about companies who offer a plethora of snacks and/or free lunch every day. You can up your cool factor by hosting snacks in vending machines, too, as long as the price is still $free.99. The key here is to make sure most snacks are healthy. Offering filtered water is the baseline -- if you provide bubbly water on top of that, now we’re talking.
  • Outside the hub? Free food makes a lot of sense in suburban office parks. Otherwise, employees are forced to drive at least 10-15 minutes away to find grub.
  • High healthcare coverage
  • Employees are raving about businesses who pay 100% of the health insurance premiums. We found the minimum to start at 75%. This is a great retention technique, as we can assume needs will only rise as people get older and have children.
  • Outside the hub? Reviewers praised this topic more for companies outside of Boston, so it appears weighted more.
  • Generous vacation and paid time off
  • Unlimited vacation may be more of a standard in the industry, but the key here is to encourage employees to actually take it. Tech workers are calling out companies if they promote a culture that doesn’t allow you to take any of your unlimited days. Not to mention, you’ll have better productivity with staff not getting burned out. If not unlimited, we found comments mentioning three weeks as the minimum. 
  • Professional development opportunities
  • Several reviews voice the importance of offering support for continuing education. The main thing to avoid is having gray area -- this policy should not be contingent on “who you know” in the company. Lost? You can explore low-cost options by providing talks put on by the company's network of leadership and investors. Encouraging mentorship and career growth appear positive in reviews.
  • Competitive salary
  • Many employees mention concerns over high enough compensation. They commented that companies appear to base salaries off the national cost of living instead of Boston’s cost of living, which is higher. Reviewers also prefer salaries with a clear career trajectory based on performance versus time. Several entries called out the lack of 401(k) matching. For some early-stage companies, this may not be possible. If it’s on the radar for the future, communicating that to the staff can help ease tension.
  • Outside the hub? The compensation complaint is more frequent with a location outside of the city. While the cost of living may be lower than downtown, you have to compete with the financial and mental cost of a driving commute.
  • Fun and energetic culture
  • A lot of tech talent insists on a fun, open culture and high energy. Examples included a laidback environment, awesome holiday parties, summer outings, and encouraged hobbies. However, some entries argue that spending for these events should not get excessive. People also have concerns that a casual office can lead to overly casual convos and dress code, so it helps to establish guardrails.
  • Open and honest leadership
  • The Boston tech pool writes that the best leaders are down to earth and involved. People appreciate experience, passion, drive, trust, and approachability in their executives. Employees encourage leaders to remain open to change and new ideas. Reviewers also prefer leaders to invest in an employee's growth, personhood, and career. Be careful of too many status meetings and overly regimented reporting, as the culture can get lost.
  • Modern office facilities
  • Employees favor modern, open office environments. Glass walls encourage transparency and light. People continue to revolt against the cube farm, even in traditional office parks. Tech workers love the mix of using open workstations with conference rooms and other shared spaces. Establish ground rules so people can avoid the potential noise issues in an open space. Make sure there are enough conference rooms so space isn't tight.

Tip! Space can be limited when you’re growing quickly, so make sure you’re expanding efficiently. People often complain about squeezed resources and competition for conference rooms. Here's another way you can clean up meeting room woes.

Hiring is half the battle -- onboarding new employees well from day one means they’re more likely to stick around longer. A few reviews mention lackluster training at the beginning of their new gig. Not sure where to start? We put together a few questions that new employees want to ask on their first day.

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