Security Staff Acquisition & Development

Technology Talent: How to Address Three Recruiting Challenges in 2017


Most of those who run the world’s corporate IT functions spend a lot of their time thinking about where they can find people with the right skills and experience for the massive changes that are coming with mass digitization of almost every aspect of business life.

In fact nearly half of all IT leaders who attended one of CEB’s big meetings this year said, “developing a strategic workforce plan to build engagement skills and technical expertise” was their top priority.

The Labor Market View

And these priorities are shaping the global IT labor market. Drawing on a CEB database of more than two billion job postings worldwide, three broad trends across the global IT talent market emerge. CEB CIO Leadership Council members can read the full research on their dedicated member website (pdf).

1. Employers face stiff competition for traditional IT skills like coding: In four out of the five markets analyzed (US, UK, China, and Germany) coding skills like Java, JavaScript, SQL, and Linux are the most difficult to source when demand for candidates, candidate supply, and the average number of available candidates is taken into account.

Much of this tightening in the market likely comes from business-unit leaders who are increasingly interested in employees with coding skills.

2. IT project manager is the most difficult role to fill: This is mainly due to a lack of project managers who possess a broad and “entrepreneurial” skill set — strong stakeholder partnership, judgment, risk management, and team leadership skills combined with an understanding of the organization’s priorities and an ability to learn new things.

Additionally, demand for entrepreneurial project managers is not limited to IT and the IT project management team. Business leaders in finance, marketing, and HR functions are also looking for project managers with this profile of skills.

3. The market for developers and software engineers is tight: Across all markets, software development and engineering roles are particularly difficult to fill. Demand for these roles has grown, and the US was the only market to see growth in the supply of available candidates.

This rise in demand for developers and software engineers reflects growing interest in IT staff who can develop holistic business solutions, and waning interest in IT staff who only engage in narrowly-defined (and easily outsourced) tasks.

Corporate IT’s View

All three of these trends track with the broader shifts that IT leaders consistently mention when they describe how digitization is changing the way they think about identifying, hiring, and developing IT employees.

1. Technical expertise is becoming more diffuse: Demand for the full spectrum of technology skills, from light to moderate user skills (e.g., using basic business applications, using advanced analytics skills) to hard technology and engineering skills (e.g., coding, user-experience and interface design, software design) is growing more rapidly among groups outside IT.

As a result, CIOs increasingly compete with their peer executives to hire employees with the skills and experience that traditionally only lived in IT, such as data analysts with SQL skills and UX/UI designers with experience coding in JavaScript.

2. Demand for technical versatility is growing: The demand for “versatile players” or employees who can work more broadly within a business and technical domain, is on the rise. IT leaders aren’t just seeking new-in-kind roles and skills to support digitization (e.g., “DevOps engineering” or “cloud solution architecting”), they are also seeking out new blends of skills, competencies, and experiences for existing roles.

This shift in the skills profile for even the most traditional IT roles, like IT project managers, means that hiring for almost all IT roles is changing.

3. IT groups are “insourcing” critical talent: IT departments are spending less on outsourcing and contractors while expanding IT staff, according to CEB data.

CIOs in CEB’s networks frequently say that, as staff outside IT are increasingly equipped to complete technical tasks, more technical processes and activities are automated, and technology projects become more iterative, they want to hire more IT staff with “high-end” — and difficult to outsource — technical skills (e.g.: architecture skills, software design skills) and business engagement competencies and soft skills, such as influencing and relationship management.

Next Year

To respond to all these trends, IT managers should try to address three recruiting challenges in 2017.

1. Determine whether internal competition for skills is hindering your hiring: Develop a data-based, strategic workforce plan in coordination with peers from across the rest of the organization.

This will ensure that IT and business partners are not needlessly competing over talent or funding redundant hires.

2. Recruit for key competencies, rather than narrowly defined technical skills: Broaden pools of potential candidates by revising role and job descriptions. Emphasize key behaviors and responsibilities—like willingness and ability to learn—and broader technical skills (e.g.: applications development skills, rather than security applications development skills).

3. Incorporate rotations into IT’s talent sourcing strategy: Encourage staff to pursue lateral moves and step into roles where the market is tight. Emphasize how these experiences will help employees develop skills, capabilities, knowledge, and personal attributes that will move them closer to their career goals.

Contributed by CEB, a best practice insight and technology company. Read more CEB blogs here.

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