Bespoke Negotiation In The Talent Economy

November 1st, 2018


By Rishon Blumberg, 10x Management & 10x Ascend Co-Founder

We’ve always known that many employees don’t negotiate their job offers.  But once we started to dig into the numbers a little, what we uncovered was far worse than what we anticipated.

Protecting talent is in our DNA and we’ve been protecting talent now for more than 25 years.  Though our definition of talent has expanded, our goals in supporting them have not.  Since day one, we’ve always looked out for the business interests of our clients, first in the music and entertainment world, and for the last seven years in tech freelance world.  Now, via our new company 10x Ascend (10x Ascend), we are expanding our focus to include helping senior tech talent when they negotiate their W2 compensation packages.

During the course of representing some of the country’s best freelance technologists via our company 10x Management, we began negotiating our client’s W2 offers when a company we placed them on a contract engagement with wanted to hire them full time.  From these experiences, a few things became very clear to us. The first is that most companies approach talent acquisition in a cookie cutter fashion.  The second is that most individuals don’t bother to negotiate at all, and when they do, they don’t really understand how to approach the process.

Recent studies show that 61% of employees don’t negotiate their employment offers.  The stats are far worse for women and people of color, and especially for women of color.

It wasn’t apparent to us initially that there might be a business here, but as the years passed and we helped more and more clients negotiate their deals, we started to see how we could provide real value to  technologists, and perhaps also influence how companies hire within the tech space. In the short period of time since formalizing 10xAOD, we’ve helped our clients get as much as 110% of their prior compensation, and perhaps even more importantly, helped them to better understand how the many aspects of their jobs can intersect and complement their life goals.

What we discovered is that by applying some simple rules and procedures when approaching a negotiation, we are able to truly impact the comp packages for our clients, without creating unnecessary friction with their future employer.  This is the real key to this process. If a negotiation leaves both parties battered and bitter, it achieves nothing. Our approach looks to minimize stress during the process, and leave both parties feeling they’ve gotten enough…and let’s face it, enough is what this world needs more of. Of course, the strategies we deploy for our clients aim to maximize what they want (being careful not to overstep) but are backed up by clear explanation and delivered with respect.  This helps the employer to better understand the candidate’s true value and why what is being requested is justified given the candidate, the market, the location, and various other factors.

We began to see that our approach to negotiation was having a meaningful impact on both our client’s overall compensation packages and also how their future employer viewed them.  

So, what is our approach?  It starts with our client (the candidate) weighing a list of 24 different employment desires (salary, equity, PTO, etc, etc) that help provide us with a negotiation roadmap [if you’d like to see how this works in action, you can play with our free Lifestyle Calculator HERE.  This process helps reveal two different, and complementary things: 1. Our client, often for the first time, gets a holistic understanding of what’s most important to them in order to achieve their desired lifestyle and, 2. We obtain a clear understanding of what is most important to them so we can help convey these priorities effectively to their prospective employer.  You see, it turns out that the more an employer knows about what’s important to their employee, the better the relationship between employer and employee can be at the outset of a hiring. I know that sounds obvious, but sadly in the marketplace today, it’s not practiced often enough.

The fact is that the supply of tech talent in this country is quite limited, far more limited than the demand. Any time you have a major supply/demand imbalance, it puts a lot of pressure on the demand side.  How do companies find the right talent, how do they secure the right talent, and then, how do they retain the right talent.  Everyone is trying to fish in the same pond, and there are only so many fish to go around.  What’s the solution? You need a better lure. Companies can’t afford to treat this valuable resource with a one-size-fits-all hiring strategy.  

That’s why it’s so vital for employers to find out from candidates what’s most important to them so they can hopefully construct an offer that is more sophisticated and nuanced than their competitor’s offer.  For example, perhaps one person values the flexibility of working remotely more than they care about the amount of equity they receive. If an employer doesn’t know this, or know to ask about this, that employer’s offer will look worse than a competitive offer that allows for more work flexibility.  As the stakes get higher, the strategy for talent procurement needs to evolve.

The demand for tech talent is not going to wane.  With every passing day, more and more of our world is powered by technology, and this is only going to increase over time.  The fact is, that even with the limited improvements in the way we structure education, there are only so many people in the world capable of truly making a difference in the conception, and execution of tech development.  

It is therefore, shortsighted for companies not to employ a much more individual-centric, negotiation practice in order to attract and retain the best talent.  Part of that approach requires that companies ensure their prospective hire has access to good bespoke negotiation advice, and that said candidate actually conveys what’s most important to them during the negotiation process.  Though counterintuitive because this will result in more favorable terms for the candidate, it will likely create a better and more productive work environment and help retain that employee longer.

If you like this article, you might enjoy reading Is “AGENT” A Bad Word?