Across the globe, a harsh reality is dawning upon thousands of startups – layoffs and hiring freezes have begun to surge amid high inflation and declining investments. A whole slew of companies that expanded rapidly during the pandemic are now bracing themselves for a recession.
As of this year, tech companies worldwide have laid off 35,000 workers, as reported by Layoff.fyi. The hiring outlook remains bleak with May being the worst month of layoffs since 2020 and June off to a similarly rough start.
Unfortunately, the blistering storm has hit home quickly. Singapore alone has seen more than 2,600 layoffs. Even e-commerce giant Shopee has kickstarted a mass layoff among workers in food delivery, online payments and global teams.
With this economic downturn lurking in the backdrop, attracting the right talent has never been more critical as startups struggle to stay afloat. Where quality is prioritized over quantity, the onus is now on founders to be more strategic in their talent acquisition game plan as they hunt for employees of the right fit.
“If you’re running a startup, you would intuitively know that talent is everything,” said John Tan, CEO and Co-founder of Doyobi. For this local edtech startup, innovative workforce planning has sealed its position as a tech talent magnet in these brutal market conditions.
Founded in 2020, Doyobi is on a mission to empower educators to bring STEM education and 21st-century skills to the classroom. Since its launch, Doyobi’s Virtual Learning Environment has been used by nearly 2,000 teachers in over 10 countries. Indonesia and the Philippines are two of Doyobi’s biggest markets, with an increasing number of schools in Africa adopting Doyobi.
With an aim to equip students with a more futuristic skillset and develop coding skills early, Doyobi is disrupting the traditional classroom setting through the use of technology. It goes without saying that such a technologically-demanding endeavor calls for a team who are ready to go the extra mile.
“We must offer our talent work that is interesting and exciting to them,” shared Tan. In a fast-changing sector like educational technology, it is especially crucial that businesses stay abreast of fresh developments and in tune with the needs of their talent.
Here are four tips Doyobi has for companies looking to scale their recruitment plans economically in the fast-moving digital landscape.
Employees want more than just the ability to pay the bills, but also a sense of fulfillment and purpose – without which the employee-employer relationship turns into a mere transaction devoid of extrinsic motivational value.
According to a LinkedIn report, 6 in 10 millennials cite a “sense of purpose” as the reason they chose to work for their current employers. The report also found that purpose-driven employees have 20% longer tenures and are 50% more likely to be in leadership positions.
Tan believes that part of Doyobi’s attractiveness lies in its mission, which he feels would be something that strikes a chord with most – to help children grow into critical thinkers and develop a sense of purpose through technology.
Tan adds, “This is a really important factor when it comes to engineering talent. We want to offer engineers work that is interesting to them because they want to learn things that excite them, where they can see a future with the company.”
In a bid to provide exciting learning opportunities, Doyobi recently changed its tech stack and adopted Elixir, a relatively new but dynamic programming language which a lot of engineers are excited about. This move, as rationalized by Tan, would allow engineers to master new programming languages in their professional endeavors, apart from the common languages such as Python, Java or C++.
Although the initial phase of finding engineers familiar with Elixir was not easy, Doyobi managed to attract those who are keen on the opportunity to work with the new tech stack. Among those interested in Doyobi’s adoption of Elixir was software engineer Muhammad Hilmy Fauzan.
Fauzan spoke highly of Elixir, whose ecosystem he calls “well documented” and allows for “simplicity and maintainability”, a refreshing contrast to other programming languages or tech stacks. Beyond the learning opportunities, Fauzan deeply resonated with Doyobi’s goal of solving root problems in education, given that his “personal North Stars are education and health”.
According to the Singapore Salary Guide 2022, 62% of employees responded that a positive work environment and culture is the most important factor when it comes to workplace satisfaction.
Additionally, Covid-19 has placed a stronger emphasis on how companies function as a whole while workplace transformations take place. More than ever, employees are looking into the behavior of their leaders, how the company treats its employees and communication at all levels. Thus, it is essential that employers focus on building a company culture that incorporates shared beliefs and values while sustaining productivity.
Communication is key, and even more so within a largely remote workforce. Understandably, more effort is needed to maintain constant communication, particularly for new employees who have never worked with existing employees in person.
This is why Doyobi conducts daily check-ins and regular reviews with its employees, which Tan firmly believes is needed for remote working to operate at its optimum. “The most important thing is not to make them feel like second-class citizens just because they’re remote.”
It is often said that companies need leaders more than managers in order to flourish. At Doyobi, respective team leads are entrusted with the task of cultivating a sense of inclusion through regular check-ins with individual team members. During these sessions, team leads check up on each member’s well-being and figure out what they may need to better fulfill their responsibilities.
Besides serving as a pillar of support for their team members, Doyobi’s team leads are also seen as role models. For instance, their Product Lead and Tech Lead are self-taught Product Manager and self-taught Software Developer respectively. Their hunger for knowledge and drive for continual improvement have certainly set the stage for a relentless attitude in the team when it comes to career growth and personal development.
Once a positive work environment is established, programmes aimed at fostering employee engagement would be easier to implement. Based on PwC’s global survey of 3,200 workers in 40 countries, 72% of business leaders believe that culture drives successful initiatives such as upskilling.
Investing in upskilling programmes signals to potential candidates that the company is willing to bet on its employees’ future success, in turn boosting their confidence to join the organisation. Besides incoming employees, current team members also stand to gain from upskilling as they hone their soft and hard skills.
Over nine in 10 Singaporeans agreed that upskilling helps them to stay relevant and perform better at their current jobs. Overall, building a skilled workforce that is well-rounded and cross-trained aids contributes to a company’s long-term growth.
Having completed a few online courses on establishing and enriching one’s online presence, Tan understands the relevance of upskilling as he witnessed first-hand how the courses helped him to communicate what Doyobi does. As such, Tan is willing to bear the upskilling expenses, “If they come to me and tell me about a course that will help them in their roles, I would be open to paying for it.”
At the height of the pandemic, companies were thrown into make-or-break situations, where only the adaptable would thrive in the new market reality of an increasingly remote workforce.
Amid tides of change, Doyobi proved its capability as a dynamic startup by expanding its hiring opportunities beyond borders and allowing for a more diverse talent pool.
“One thing we learnt during the pandemic is that talent is everywhere, not just in Singapore.” said Tan. Prior to the pandemic, Doyobi sourced for talent locally. But given the heightened restrictions, most had to work from home. Doyobi seized this opportunity to start remote hiring and they successfully built a remote tech team at a lower cost than if they were to hire locally.
In addition to lower hiring cost, a borderless workforce can increase a company’s exposure to a global talent pool to suit the needs of the business while building a culturally diverse team that can tackle business challenges from a completely different perspective.
While remote working can certainly broaden hiring horizons for companies, it is also a win-win situation for employees. Less commute stress, location independence, increased productivity – these are just some reasons why one would prefer remote working.
Fauzan, who is based in Indonesia, is content with his remote working arrangements. “It helps me adjust my work-life balance because I can control my own schedule and there’s a high degree of autonomy and flexibility.”
For a startup, finding the right talent fundamentally impacts the bottom line, as a company’s output is only as good as the talent behind it. To emerge victorious from increasingly volatile times, businesses need to implement sustainable and scalable workforce building strategies to ensure long-term resilience and success.
Attracting and retaining the right tech talent is a market differentiator for Doyobi – from both a consumer and employee perspective. As we approach the new era of Web3, Doyobi’s game-changing strategies would put them in an advantageous position as they continue to build teams beyond borders.
Doyobi is a winner of the Glints Best Employers Award 2022: Beyond Borders in the Tech Talent Magnet category.
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