Tips for Surviving the IT Talent Shortage

The first quarter of 2017 reported the largest IT hiring increase in more than five years. This isn’t necessarily good news if you’re a hiring manager, since it may take more effort, more time and more money to fill your IT positions.


The IT talent shortage may even become the new reality, rather than a trend – which means recruiting processes need to become more creative and proactive, and retaining valuable employees will be more challenging. Here are a few considerations if you’re adding staff this year.


  1. Accelerate the Process. Candidates have a short shelf life in the current environment, so hiring decisions need to be quick and decisive. Everyone in your organization needs to be aligned on this, and the number of required interviews and approvals streamlined, so that a senior executive who’s on vacation, for example, doesn’t cause you to lose an attractive candidate. Take a look at your normal hiring process for any possible delays that can be eliminated.


  1. Stop Being a Perfectionist. You’re going to be making selections from a smaller pool of talent, so now is not the time to get picky. Focus on the key skills that are required for success and give up on finding the “perfect” candidate. Along these lines, seek out people with flexible attitudes who are enthusiastic about learning new skills. Aptitude and attitude can be as important as experience – and in the long run, they are even more valuable.


  1. Check your salary structure. Salaries have gone up and many companies have not kept pace with industry norms. If your human resources (HR) department draws a line in the sand over pay, you’re going to lose talented people.


  1. Get cozier with HR. IT recruiting is only as effective as your HR department’s understanding of your needs. Communicate expectations, establish recruiting metrics, discuss timelines and track results just as you would with a third-party recruiter. (Yes, you should be doing this with third-party recruiters, too.)


  1. Plan ahead for IT resources. Important projects may go off schedule due to unexpected delays in hiring (or training) the needed resources. Play it safe by doubling the time you’d usually allow for talent acquisition.


  1. Eliminate discrimination. Now is a good time to make sure that recruiters and managers in your organization aren’t screening out any qualified candidates due to personal biases. For example, millennials are in high demand, but older tech workers say the “hot” job market is passing them by. Don’t leave out experienced employees in their 40s, 50s or 60s who have kept their skills current – they can add valuable wisdom and perspective to your team.


  1. Take advantage of staffing vendors. You may already be working with talented IT contractors who are interested in full-time positions, if only you had incorporated right-to-hire language into your third-party contracts. It may be time to reconsider the “no poaching” stance.


  1. Think like a talent scout. A significant percentage of the talent pool is passive — they’re not looking for new gigs. Tap into your networks (CIO groups, alumni chapters and so on) to locate these hidden gems.


  1. Focus on employee engagement and retention. Programs that build employee (and contractor) morale help defend against companies who want to steal your top talent. Give frequent reviews, help employees with career planning, schedule teambuilding events and encourage employees to offer suggestions about how to improve productivity and the work environment.


  1. Think like a family. In the fast-paced world of IT and business, the human connection can get lost. Too many companies are so siloed that employees in one department never know those in other areas of the company. Technologies that eliminate the need for face-to-face contact increase efficiency but reduce loyalty. Now is the time to build a company culture that reaches out to and includes all employees, including contractors and part-time workers, so that everyone feels like a part of the same team.


Andrew C. Jackson