Inside the minds of tech talent: What startups need to know about hiring and retaining in 2022

Renald Loh
Renald Loh
May 12, 2022

If you’re a startup in Singapore looking for tech talent to grow your business, you’ve got quite the mountain to climb.

New businesses are increasingly producing tech-enabled products in the 21st century. Today, approximately 80% of the world’s top 100 tech firms have a substantial presence in Singapore, with 261 software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies based here, meaning highly skilled tech professionals are sought after by just about everyone.

What’s more, a 2021 Qualtrics study showed that more than half of Singaporeans are planning to switch jobs this year, so even if your startup manages to grab a hold of them, keeping them happy is just as much of an uphill task. So amid the phenomenon known as the Great Reshuffle, how can founders prime themselves for the continually changing expectations of tech talent?

Here’s what startups need to know about hiring and retaining tech talent in 2022.

1. What does the current hiring landscape look like?

According to the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), Singapore has the most headquarter jobs from global Fortune 500 businesses compared to its Asian counterparts. The city-state ranked top of KPMG’s leaderboard of tech innovation hubs outside of Silicon Valley and San Francisco last year, and its international appeal means that the local talent pool is shrinking at an alarming rate.

Even though Singapore sees 4,500 ICT students graduate from polytechnics and technical education institutes each year, the situation is still stark for those looking to recruit them. These tech talents might be in high demand, but their skillset often do not match up to tech companies’ needs. For instance, businesses are seeing an increase of candidates for more junior positions, while applicants for higher positions frequently lack the necessary qualifications.

This lack of tech talent has been described as an “existential crisis” for businesses, who consistently require innovation in order to grow, scale, and remain competitive. A survey conducted by Udacity last year found that 59% of 2,000 employers report not having sufficient skilled employees has “a major or moderate impact” on their business. Startups are destined to struggle without the right talent to enable their growth.

Related: Can companies find skilled tech talent during a talent crunch? Here’s how one Singaporean startup did it

2. Which tech skills are in demand today?

Tech talent skilled in AI, data science, engineering, cybersecurity and software development are the most sought after in 2022 – and the global tech job market of today, which Forbes describes as “blazing hot”, is showing no signs of cooling off.

Singapore had 19,000 tech jobs unfilled as of 2021, and it is estimated that it would need another 1.2 million workers with digital skills in the next three years to make up for the talent deficit. Industries like banking, rapid consumer goods, and professional services are particularly affected. However, startups are bearing the brunt of this talent shortage, with 91% of those surveyed struggling to find suitable applicants.

This increased demand for tech talent with the ability to build, execute, and support digital blueprints has resulted in a hiring revolution of sorts. With a slew of options available for qualified tech talent, they now have the upper hand in the labour market and are increasingly selective in choosing the jobs that they want. This begs the following question.

3. What does this generation of tech talent look for in a new company?

Employers now have a larger obligation than in the past to persuade existing high performers and potential tech talent why they should join their organisations, given the increased value that tech talent places on choosing positions that best meet their particular needs and ambitions.

The first non-negotiable is competitive remuneration. According to a Glints employee survey, respondents ranked an attractive salary package as the number one key motivator when searching for a new position.

Early stage startups may find themselves struggling to keep up with tech giants who have larger spending power, with local companies like Shopee and Grab paying at least 12% above market rate, with foreign firms even going up to 25%. These salary trends mean that startups are increasingly looking overseas for tech talent to scale their businesses.

“However, startups can take solace in the fact that tech talent are placing more emphasis on non-financial incentives. The report found that other salient factors which influence tech talent acquisition include good career progression, a positive work environment and culture, and opportunities for professional learning and development (L&D).

These are avenues in which startups have a slight-edge due to their smaller teams and less-hierarchical structures, allowing for more flexibility in crafting careers that matter to their employees.

Related: These Are Greater Southeast Asia’s Top 3 Emerging Markets to Find Startup Tech Talent

4. How can companies retain their crucial tech talent?

When it comes to retaining talent, what’s striking is that an attractive salary package is not the chief concern for employees. Glints’ findings show that today’s tech talent value business culture, work-life balance, advancement prospects, and workplace flexibility as much as they value pay.

Harvard Business Review (HBR) also recently reported on research that showed how benefits and rewards do not necessarily correlate with engagement and retention. Perks like insurance and pool tables are fine and dandy but material offerings are mere side dishes; the main course being the way employees feel about the company that they work for. So what can companies do to keep their talent where they are?

For example, research from Glints found that a whopping 66% of employees believed their current company’s L&D opportunities were inadequate, with most citing the lack of time to take them up. Employers must create a healthy cycle in which people are empowered to acquire and apply new skills at their own pace in the workplace.

Such initiatives are a reflection of just how much companies value their people. Not only would such an environment attract those who are ready to challenge themselves, it will also lead to long-term corporate success by retaining their best and most motivated employees.

Similarly, incorporating flexible work arrangements (FWA) is another key method for retaining employees in 2022. Glints’ surveys find that 40% of employees prefer flexible working hours, with 22% favouring a hybrid work model, and it’s not surprising to see why. The pandemic has radically changed perceptions on work for employees as many have gotten used to the flexibility of working from home (WFH).

Employees with families largely appreciate the freedom to spend time with their loved ones without compromising on their careers. By affording workers the autonomy to work at their own pace and with conditions they find conducive, an element of trust is built between talent and management.

These shifts in opinions are crucial; employers may find it difficult to attract and retain a new generation of top tech talent if they stick to traditional working arrangements without good reason. Devising a system where employees are given the freedom to choose where, with whom, and what they work on can go a long way in keeping them happy.

Related: 5 ways to establish work culture in your remote teams

5. How much do tech talent today command?

Using expert analysis and data points from their career discovery platform, Glints also assessed the right compensation for key tech and digital roles across the fastest growing sectors over the past year, namely: banking and financial services, internet, software, and digital marketing.

In the banking world, engineers and product specialists are among the highest paid, with salaries going up to $17,000 depending on level of experience. Data scientists are also highly sought after, commanding around $5,000 to $9,000 per month, slightly higher than their counterparts in marketing roles.

The trend of highly paid professionals is consistent across the software and internet sectors. It is interesting to note, however, that staff working in digital, tech-adjacent roles such as human resources are also seeing a rise in compensation (consistent with global trends), with talent acquisition managers earning up to $14,500. This is likely due to ascending responsibilities courtesy of the pandemic, and the increasingly apparent cruciality of hiring capable tech talent from a progressively smaller pool.

What’s your next move?

For a startup to succeed in the new age, it is vital to understand the ever-changing interests and perspectives of tech talent as opposed to simply placing bags of money on the table. Good pay is crucial and should match industry standards, but it’s equally important to demonstrate that the company cares about them and encourages them to grow.

Companies that are unable to shift with the times will struggle with hiring and retaining tech talent. By investing time and money in creating a positive work culture, startups can keep their employees happy, and entice the right people to join their endeavour to the top.

Download the Singapore Salary Guide 2022 to discover the latest insights on the tech talent hiring landscape, including a more detailed breakdown of compensation across these industries, its impact on the tech landscape, as well as the challenges they face.


Build your workforce from anywhere. Start your remote hiring journey with Glints.

This article is brought to you by Glints for Employers, the trusted partner of global startups and enterprises for talent recruitment and management in Southeast Asia and Taiwan. Half the time, half the cost – our expert, tech-enabled team of recruiters will help match you with skilled candidates locally and across the region, and onboard new remote talents to your business quickly and affordably. 

Discover our full range of hiring services and start building great teams and capabilities today.

Join our Employers Community!
Subscribe to our newsletter to receive all our latest news and offers delivered right to your desk.