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How to solve Australia’s tech talent drain

By: Eugenio Pace, CEO at Auth0

There is no doubt that technology is evolving at a fierce pace. And as enterprises race to catch up to digitally transform their apps and services, the need for hiring skilled staff to drive this transformation is higher than ever before. But the current reality in Australia is that the tech skills gap is deep.

A recent report by the Australian Computer Society (ACS) and Deloitte found that we’ll need an additional 200,000 tech workers (or an increase of 30 percent) in the next five years to become a world leader in the digital economy.

The Australian government and businesses have tried to tackle this issue in a variety of ways, with the Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, Alan Tudge stating last year that he wanted to “ensure that Australian businesses can access the best talent in the world, because this will underpin business growth, skills transfer, and job creation.”

The Morrison government promised to address a number of Australia’s skill shortage pain points in this year’s budget and as part of the recent election pledge, including $156 million in funding to strengthen cybersecurity teams. The NSW government also announced a plan to create Australia’s own tech industry hub in Sydney, but it will be years before it is fully operational and able to deliver the 10,000 jobs it’s promising (by 2036, to be exact).

And it’s not only the tech industry that is suffering: as digital takes over, all industries are in need of skilled workers who can fit into the new world economy. For example, the telecoms industry is suffering similar effects, with the Group Executive for Human Resources at Telstra, Alexandra Badenoch, recently stating that they’re in need of ICT and technology skills in software-defined networking engineering, cybersecurity, automation, and AI areas.

So what do you do when, as a tech (or any other) company, you require the best talent but it’s simply not available in the city or country you’re in?

Changing the way we think about work

Tech companies are good at disrupting things we never thought could be disrupted, so why not extend that to the way we work? At Auth0, adopting and nurturing a highly remote-friendly workforce has been invaluable. While flexible working has become increasingly common over the past few years, remote working is discussed to a lesser extent.

Taking into consideration the domestic talent drought and mounting evidence that the traditional, 8-hour office workday does not always work in the best interest of the employees or the employer, this is why at Auth0, we decided to follow a policy of hiring the best person for the job, regardless of where they are physically located. As a result, a large percentage of our workforce is already remote — and it works.

Making remote working work

Ensuring that all employees are – and feel – fully integrated with every team in the organisation is vital to establishing a successful remote working culture

At Auth0, we invest heavily in cultivating a culture of trust, respect, passion, and transparency between both employees and different teams. With these fundamentals in place, we find that where one physically works becomes far less important. It also exponentially increases the diversity of talent we are able to hire.

In fact, more than 50 per cent of our staff work outside of our main office locations, and they live in more than 35 countries.

We work hard to maintain a feeling of connectivity and camaraderie by investing heavily in the right technologies and communication tools, making sure all our staff are able to do their jobs effectively, efficiently and with impact – regardless of where they live. This includes reimbursing employees for the expenses of their home office or co-working space, as well as hosting team offsites and events to bring together employees from all around the world. We just recently hosted nearly 475 employees at our annual office in Cabo, Mexico, bringing our global staff from all over the world to meet in one place, for one invigorating, collaborative, and fulfilling week.

While we promote our remote-friendly culture, we invest in office space, too. We currently have five offices around the world: Bellevue, WA in the US; Buenos Aires, Argentina; London, UK; Sydney, Australia, and most recently, Tokyo, Japan. Offices for us are more than workplaces, they are “embassies” in locations that are important to us. They enable us to connect with employees, and also with the broader community we are part of: customers, prospects, education institutions, and more.

A rising trend

And it seems we’re not alone in our approach. Over the last few years, there has been a rise in “virtual career fairs” — the tech world’s answer to skills shortages. Virtual or digital job fairs not only provide access to a global pool of high-quality applicants, but they also make it possible for job seekers to meet and interact directly with hundreds of employers right from the comfort of their living room.

Tech startups, in particular, are benefiting from this trend, as they struggle to compete with the likes of Google, Apple and Facebook for the best talent.  But even Silicon Valley may need to adopt a greater remote-working policy in the future or risk losing talent, as the area’s cost of living skyrockets and tech talent is increasingly leaving the area for more cost-friendly alternatives.

So if you don’t want to compromise on the best tech talent, it may be time to consider embracing the benefits of a digital world to its full extent and roll out an inclusive remote working program.

You never know; you just may end up with the best tech team in the world.

Eugenio Pace is the CEO of Auth0, an Identity-as-a-Service company that authenticates and secures more than 2.5B logins per month, and supports staff and customers in more than 70 countries.

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