War for tech talents: Three ideas how startups can beat corporates

War for tech talents: Three ideas how startups can beat corporates

In almost every business digitization has been changing value chains and business models over the last years and will so so over the next years.
As a consequence more and more companies are facing the challenge to develop themselves to technology companies, as technology will be a dominant lever to success.
And for sure IT talent is a limited ressource and almost every company I know calls recruitment in this field as a problem.

It is as simple as it is: in Germany there is a lack of skillful developers.

From the traditional point of view big corporates are in a leading position to win this war for talents: they have big names, proven business models and the financial power to pay high salaries.
Three advantages compared to young early-stage startups, that cannot be neglected.

So how can also young companies enthuse highy talented developers and IT-experts for themselves?
The only promising way is to make use of the big advantages startups have compared to large, mature corporates: they are cooler and more flexible.
So what can be some ways to lead this trump? Here are my top three examples.

Company language
Even if we have a lack of talented IT-experts in Germany, this is not in equal measure true for other parts of the world.
In Eastern Europe for example we see a huge number of well educated and highly experienced developers.
From my experience many of them are interested in working in Western Europe in general and Germany in special. The only problem: they do not speak German. As in most corporates German still is the company language they simply could not work there.

As a young tech company you have the chance to define English as your company language from the first day on.  As those potential employees do to speak German but are fluent in English – whoosh – suddenly you become a potential employer for them.
(That tech companies that want to scale internationally on the long run should always have English as a company language is just a different kettle of fish)

If you succeed in hiring a great developer from abroad you will always face the situation that (s)he still has family, friends and social relationships in his/her home country.
So why don’t you offer, to work for some weeks from his home town from time to time?
Sounds strange? Maybe for a corporate. But let’s be honest: a fast internet connection and skype make it possible to be in touch almost in realtime – even if your employee is thousands of kilometers away.
And if it supports your developer’s well-being to see friends and family from time to time without using his leave days, this can be an easy way to make this possible. And I have never seen a corporate offering this possibility.
There is only one thing you should consider: time zones. Working remotely is not a problem if you are in (almost) the same timezone. Collaboration with a time difference of 5+ hours is not impossible but definitely need better planning and has some risks you need to manage.

One thing that always has been part of an endless number of rounds of collective bargaining between corporates and trade unions is the number of leave days for employees, that companies always try to limit.
So why don’t you turn the tables?
Couldn’t it be a good idea to offer your employees as much vacation as they want? Might sound strange, but here is why I think it can be a smart move:
Firstly: If you can hire a true developer-rockstar who can be more productive and valuable with 40 days of vacation than another developer with 30 leave days: who should be the one you hire? Easy, he? If more flexibility can be the tool to convince this superstar from your company: that’s it!
Secondly: My experience from some companies following exactly this idea shows: in average the employees use less leave days than in companies with a fixed number of vacation days.
Why? Because in many cases your employees will have a feeling of freedom, as they know the always could take some days of it they wanted to do so. This is an advantage and feeling of personal freedom that hardly can be replaced by higher salaries.
Some might argue: but what if an employee exaggerates and exploits this freedom? Theoretically he could be on vacation for 300 days per year.
Yes, true. But simple answer to that: if this was the case you hired the completely wrong person and the number of leave days is not your biggest problem. You have to ditch him. Full stop.

For sure there are many other advantages that employees can benefit from in a startup compared to a corporate (just to mention employee shares, endless fresh supply with Club Mate, the inevitable table soccer games, better and more parties, etc…).

These ideas shall just give an idea, how HR requirements change and how companies have to change their way of thinking if they want to recruit real tech rockstars.
The best salary is just one influence factor and there are many other ways for young startups to become super attractive employers – also without the financial power of super-corporates.

For all of you who are not only interested in this topic but questions of coporate culture or freedom and flexibility of work  in general, I highly recommend to have a look at Netflix’ company values and principles

(This blogpost has been originally been a guest post, I have written for the startup Jobspotting. The original post can be found here: