• Julie Balzer

Unspoken Barriers to Retaining Talent in Silicon Valley

Updated: Jul 7, 2019

Recruiting and retaining top talent in Silicon Valley is harder than it has been in 30 years. At a time when more people are leaving the region than entering, despite a net increase in innovation jobs, the talent acquisition professionals I work with tell me they’re close to doling out free cars because the customary perks have become so ubiquitous. And, as if competing with other Valley firms for headcount wasn’t hard enough, the national and global talent pool is beating a path to other innovation hubs like Seattle and Austin.

So, let’s diverge from the five-star perks for a moment, and start listening, closely, not just to what candidates want, but to uncover and address the unspoken barriers that add friction to the hiring and retention of top global talent.

Take it from Marnie, a healthcare professional with a masters degree from Sydney, whose husband was recruited to the Valley by a household name tech company last Fall. Like so many other so-called trailing spouses, she was willing to suspend her career and move (with a toddler) far from the built-in support system that young families depend on. As far as the hiring company was concerned, the relocation process was complete. They had paid for the move and were providing her husband all the dreamy office perks. What more could a family need in order to feel settled? As it turns out, so much more.

When I met Marnie, they had just transitioned from temporary housing (“living out of a suitcase for 30 days” in her words) to their rental home in Menlo Park. She diverted her son with some toys and a biscuit, then sighed deeply, relieved to be on the brink of real connection with someone after the chaos of moving half way around the world. I asked, “What was the tipping point to your decision, as a couple, to move here?” It had boiled down to a compensation package so rich, they couldn’t refuse. However, she immediately launched her concerns about staying long term. She still had months of mind-numbing paperwork to obtain a work visa, the emotional burden of finding childcare for their son, on top of her own job search. I asked why the company wasn’t doing more to help their family get connected to the necessary resources. She said “We were referred to lots of individual ‘experts’ for childcare, health, tax, etc., but never anyone who was able to give us a holistic approach to our family's needs.” Over the holidays, she decided to take her son home to Sydney early, to spend an extra two weeks with family before her husband could take work off and join them. You can imagine what was going through her head during that 16-hour flight home.

This is the intangible gap we need to bridge, and why Valley Welcome is committed to improving the experience of families who relocate to our region, and to the success of the companies who hire them.

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