Get ahead of the game: the most important hiring needs for AWS talent

By Andy Fury

It feels like we spent most of 2020 and 2021 talking about ‘unprecedented times’, but there’s no escaping that companies are now faced with real challenges in the ecosystem when it comes to hiring.

As a result of a combination of skills shortages and a competitive talent marketplace, employees are finding themselves in a unique position where they can demand things like more flexible work-perks which suit their changed working habits and newly formed lifestyles, and have a multitude of other opportunities if they feel they aren’t on offer with a current or prospective employer.

That means organizations need to know what AWS professionals want in order to get the edge on their competitors when looking for new talent. And whilst in reality and undeniably, most employees are motivated by money, the culture and working strategies of the company are becoming equally as attractive to prospective candidates. The Jefferson Frank Careers and Hiring Guide: AWS Edition is one great way of getting to grips with what matters the most.

What is it?

Compiled using responses from nearly AWS professionals around the world, across more than 48,000 data points, it’s the most in-depth study of the community anywhere. This is not a generalist survey of tech employees, it’s the specialists that work directly with you that power your digital infrastructure.

From job satisfaction to platform trends, it’s a comprehensive snapshot of the landscape today, that adds value to the lives of employers and employee alike. For those hiring AWS staff, it’s a way to explore what makes professionals tick—and make sure you’re doing everything possible to keep your team engaged, as well as standing out to potential hires. For candidates, it’s a way to benchmark what your own employer is offering, as well as finding out how to become more valuable as an AWS specialist.

In short, no matter your place in the AWS community, the Careers and Hiring Guide is a valuable resource when looking at the hiring trends to be aware of.

What do employees want?

First, let’s start with the bad news. There’s no getting away from the bottom line: the dollars on payday will always be seen by employees as a clear representation of the value a company puts on them, and to succeed you need to meet these expectations—not just to attract talent but also to retain it. Playing hardball during salary negotiations may save you pennies here and there, but they cost far more when other companies take the talent and you spend longer without someone at a desk.

Make no bones about it, money matters. In this year’s guide, 58% of respondents have negotiated their own pay increases, 45% cite a pay rise as a motivation to gain AWS certifications, and a lack of increased earnings was voted as the most popular reason that employees consider a new role. While this might not be anything new, it’s important to keep in mind that if an employee feels valued, they will give more and be more productive.

However, this of course extends to more than just money, as there are many other reasons we’ll go into that also matter to candidates: work needs to be appreciated, opinions should be heard and your workforce wants to be respected. Being ahead of the trend when it comes to having an engaged team will help to frame that all-important company culture—which is so vital to modern, post-Covid working professionals—as well as helping to give you the edge when it comes to hiring and retaining the best talent.

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Beyond the money

It would be wise in these post-pandemic times to be more mindful of maintaining a healthier working environment, bearing in mind agile working practices and placing more emphasis on a strong work-life balance. For many employees, the pandemic showed that the rigid structured office locations and nine-to-five regimes aren’t always conducive to a productive working output.

That means that flexibility is required to help maintain those new working habits and lifestyles people have become familiar with over the past 24 months, and AWS professionals are leading the way on this particular path. Prior to the pandemic, 24% of employers were offering the option of full-time remote work, a number that jumped to 82% as soon as we became aware of phrases like social distancing, contact tracing and flattening the curve.

This figure is likely to creep down as companies re-adjust to post-pandemic life, but it won’t go back to the figures we reported back in 2019. And, of the professionals we surveyed, only 16% said they’d be happy to return to the office five days a week going forward, with 82% saying the ability to work remotely is important to them.

Of course, you also need to consider your benefits package when you’re looking at a remote and hybrid workforce. Previous perks, such as city centre gyms or travel schemes, may not be as attractive to somebody that simply won’t use them. That may require some creativity, as you look for fitness classes that can be done both in-person or virtually, but as companies are still looking to react to the changes needed, it can make you stand out as an early adopter if you strike now.

Essentially, the workforce has seen the benefits of virtual offices. They’ve moved beyond the initial, improvised offices on kitchen tables, and turned corners of their home into fully-focussed and functioning workstations. In turn, they’ve benefitted from a more seamless working week that combines home and work life. It’s no surprise they don’t want to sacrifice that, which makes for a difficult question for employers looking to hire talent that is already difficult to attract: do you want to dissuade such a big percentage of the workforce from considering a role with your organization? And what else do you need to do beyond just allowing remote work in order to stand out as an employer?

Finding hidden talent

Glass, bamboo and canvas ceilings are all invisible barriers preventing certain demographics from rising beyond stereotypical hierarchy levels within a business (glass ceiling – typically applied to women, bamboo ceiling – Asian Americans and canvas ceiling – refugees and asylum seekers). Inclusive hiring practices don’t just help your business become more productive and profitable, but when adopted they can also give you access to pools of talent that are often inadvertently dissuaded or overlooked.

For example, job ads with masculine-sounding terms such as builders, warriors and ninjas can put women off applying, so look to make listings more descriptive. If you’re looking to sell your organization as a place to work, use hooks such as your inclusive culture and the perks you offer. Additionally, flexible and remote working options will make it easier for working parents, again giving you access to a demographic that can find it incredibly hard to find opportunities that fit around childcare commitments.

It’s easy to overlook, but an organization that offers remote and/or flexible working can save an individual thousands per year in childcare costs, meaning a rival employer doesn’t even need to undercut your salary package for a candidate to be better off making the switch to them.

And once you’ve attracted people from different backgrounds into your organization, don’t overlook the importance of retaining them. Around half of women quit tech by the age of 35—what are you doing to support people in the workplace? Whether that’s having support mechanisms in place such as mentors, to clear developmental and career pathways to make sure people aren’t overlooked for roles or opportunities, it’s critical to make sure that your focus isn’t just on finding talent, but also keeping it in the long-term. The digital workforce is too fluid now to think your work is done purely by working on attracting candidates—only 42% of employees told our Careers and Hiring Guide that they expect to be working for their current employer in the coming year, with 24% actively seeking out their next role already.

Getting great AWS talent through your doors is only half the battle.

Investing in learning

The market is exploding at an astonishing rate, with a number of statistics highlighting the growth that cloud computing hasn’t just gone through, but is also still seeing ahead. That means the skills shortage will only become an even bigger challenge as we move into 2023 and beyond. Put simply, there are not enough professionals in the market to meet current demand, which means employers are turning to upskilling their current teams in order to help as cloud adoption (and functionality) increases.

As you look to increase the range of your own AWS implementation, the answer isn’t always external. That may sound counter-intuitive for a recruitment firm to tell you, but we also believe that the AWS community is better served when it’s made up of an engaged workforce. Learning and Development is one of the number one ways you can do this. In the Careers and Hiring Guide, career progression and training and development rank lowest in factors that cause job satisfaction. Considering they’re things that are less engrained in a long-term culture, that should also mean that they’re relatively easy fixes.

So, as you set out your own digital plan for the next 12 months, and look at the talent needed to power those projects—why not look at upskilling existing members of the team rather than bringing in a new hire? You may require short-term assistance to help, but even that can be a cheaper option in the long-term, and you’ll end up with a highly-skilled and motivated employee armed with a new skillset as a result.

It goes without saying that one of the primary obstacles is the time commitment involved with studying, but offering an hour or two as part of the working week is within your gift and if you have someone who actively wants to learn and improve, adopting this instantly makes you more attractive.

Anything else I need to know?

Well, yes and no. Finding those professionals who can power your AWS projects may be so difficult that it feels like you’re hunting for unicorns, but the reality is that they’re human beings, and hiring and retaining them doesn’t require superhuman power—just an in-depth knowledge of what they want, and the flexibility to adapt to those ever-changing needs.

Of course we can offer you that expertise, through our specialist AWS recruiters, but also resources such as the Careers and Hiring Guide. But ultimately, it boils down to a handful of key areas: adapting to remote work and updating your perks and benefits package to reflect that, having a more open and inclusive hiring process and culture that supports that in the long-term, and investing in training and development.

Once you have that in place, you can enjoy the view from the front of the queue of people looking to attract AWS talent.

Want further exclusive insight into the sentiments of the AWS community?

The Jefferson Frank Careers and Hiring Guide is the most in-depth study of AWS professionals anywhere in the world.

 

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