As tech firms struggle to hire, one bets its fortunes on a sweet culture shift

  (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

Over the past several months, technology businesses around the world have struggled to secure talent in a historically tight labor market. Here in Israel, that's led to tech firms going to unusual lengths to attract workers. But they're hardly alone. It's a situation that's playing out in every corner of the world and showing no signs of slowing down.

On the contrary, there's every reason to believe that conditions in the labor market will continue to get worse for tech firms. A recent study by Korn Ferry indicates that the shortage of high-skilled technology workers will reach epidemic proportions by 2030 — culminating in a talent shortage of over 85 million people worldwide.

In other words, it looks like the extraordinary measures we're now seeing tech firms employ to attract and retain talent are here to stay. Or, they can work to completely remake their recruiting processes and take a more systemic approach to the problem.

That's exactly what Scottsdale, Arizona-based connected communications provider Nextiva is opting to do. Their approach involves building an inviting corporate culture that speaks for itself. Rather than working to lure talent away from other tech firms — as is common in the industry — they're creating an environment that high-level talent will gravitate to on their own.

It's fair to say that Nextiva's efforts are already paying off. Late this August, the firm announced the addition of Alan Black, formerly the CFO of Zendesk, as well as Robert (Bob) Beauchamp, the former chairman and CEO of BMC Software, to its board of directors.

The two bring deep industry ties and a wealth of experience to the table that should cement the firm as a major destination for high-end tech talent. That alone should draw significant interest from workers in the VoIP and business communications industry. But Nextiva also has another secret up its sleeve that's helping them earn a reputation as a great place to work: ice cream.

Nextiva has partnered with one of its clients, Columbus, Ohio-based Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, to begin what it's calling an internal customer service campaign. It's the first major move that's reflective of Nextiva's broader efforts to reshape its culture. Going forward, it intends to prioritize forming partnerships with many of the 100,000 small businesses that use its services. And to start, the firm ordered 3,500 pints of Jeni's ice cream and shipped some of it to each and every one of its over 1,000 US-based employees.

It was a way of saying thank you to the team for all of the work they had put in to achieve the recent launch of the firm's latest product, NextivaONE. It's a SaaS product built to serve as a hub for both internal and external business communications. Early adopters describe it as a business phone system, videoconferencing platform, email system, and text-messaging app all rolled up into a single unified interface.

With all of the work that went into the launch, it seemed only natural to deliver a sweet treat to each team member's doorstep. And that wasn't even the only way that Nextiva put the ice cream to work. It also dispatched a pair of insulated and branded ice cream carts to serve attendees at Jalisco Talent Land 2022, the latest edition of a yearly global tech-industry talent gathering.

The appearance at the event was a public declaration that the firm was planning on doing things a bit differently with regard to its recruiting strategy. Instead of making a pitch as to why talented people should consider joining the company, Nextiva instead gave potential recruits a literal taste of what it's like to work for them.

Given the reception to the carts' presence at the event, it appeared that attendees heard the message loud and clear. Crowds flocked to the carts to partake in the ice cream and to talk shop with some of the Nextiva employees manning them. Before long, the roving carts became magnets for those on the floor of the event's main hall.

The other firms in attendance couldn't help but take notice. And given the challenges in hiring faced by technology firms writ large, it likely won't be long before some of those firms seek to emulate Nextiva's approach. If they do, we might be on the verge of a tech-industry culture shift the likes of which we haven't seen since the heady days of the dot-com era.

In many ways, the situation is forcing their hands. Amid a global war for talent that's driving up salaries and encouraging the poaching of talent from competitors, all of the power now rests firmly in the hands of workers. They can and will begin evaluating the way prospective employers do the little things and the firms whose internal cultures stand out will end up on top.

The global war for talent is intense. Salaries are escalating, poaching from competitors is commonplace. Companies that are winning are the ones that are going beyond and doing the little things - inviting prospective employees to get to know their culture, showing what makes them different from “just another tech company.”

This article was written in cooperation with Nextiva