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How to win Taiwan’s war for top tech talent
In the last two years, there's been a huge shift in demand for software talent, especially in mobile applications, language programming skills, front and back-end development as well as user experience, interface and design in Taiwan. This is true across organisations regardless of their maturity — young start-ups, multi-national corporations (MNCs), IPO-stage companies.
On the other hand, demand for candidates in traditional hardware manufacturing companies is very low compared to five or 10 years ago. Many of these have moved to China or developing countries like Vietnam where labour costs are cheaper or where Taiwanese companies have set up satellite factories and plants.
Here are three tips that will help a company win the battle for tech talent in Taiwan.
Tip #1: Take advantage of Taiwan’s reputation as an R&D hub
At Michael Page, we work with many different kinds of companies start-ups — 50 per cent of our business is with start-ups (with funding from Silicon Valley/China) and 50 per cent from MNCs. The majority of them decide to set up research and development facilities in Taiwan mainly because of the lower cost of labour. They are looking for strong technical experience in areas such as front and back end mobile app development as well as a range of language programming skills. For example, one of the most promising Taiwanese start-ups we work with is a social platform which hit 20 million downloads since 2015. They've grown to about 30 people in less than a year.
A tip for candidates is that besides a strong technical background, the ability to speak English is a huge advantage. Overseas working experience and a foreign education are also a big plus. In my previous post, I said that as more and more multinationals move senior-level positions out of Taiwan and into regional headquarters like Singapore and Hong Kong, middle managers needed to up their soft skills or relocate in order to get ahead. This is truer more than ever.
Tip #2: Have a clear company vision – and be prepared to pay
Demand for software talent is so high that it's common for candidates to get offers of up to 50 per cent salary hikes, way above the standard 5-10% we used to see.
Another trend we see is that the concept of company loyalty doesn't really apply in the tech sector. In Taiwan, companies used to value candidates who were committed to the company, so if we saw a CV with lots of job-hopping, it was usually a red flag. But this doesn't apply for software talent because they have so many offers from headhunters and corporate talent acquisition teams — it really is a candidate-driven market now. My advice for clients who are trying to retain or recruit such talent is to have a clear, long-term company vision and a really competitive salary.
Tip #3: Hire for culture fit
It's hard to stop the talent brain drain to Chinese tech companies who offer attractive salaries whether the position is based in China or Taiwan. But before relocating overseas, candidates –and clients! -- need to be mindful of company culture: many Taiwanese are traditional and conservative by nature. In certain companies, the culture is very performance and sales-driven. Even the R&D division is assessed on targets and performance that will support the bottom line. No matter how senior you are, line managers and direct supervisors rate staff purely on performance. So while these companies recruit aggressively, turnover can also be high.
For example, a company heavily backed by investors from China moved into the prestigious Taipei 101 building with a very fancy office. They used headhunters to recruit aggressively from competitors and offered salary hikes of over 50 per cent but in May this year, the company decided to shut its entire Taiwan office because they couldn't get traction and achieve results quick enough. My advice to clients is to do their homework and evaluate candidates for culture fit. On the flip side, candidates also need to do their due diligence and see how viable the prospective company’s business model and strategy is.
Here are three tips that will help a company win the battle for tech talent in Taiwan:
- Take advantage of Taiwan’s reputation as an R&D hub
- Have a clear company vision – and be prepared to pay
- Hire for culture fit