5 Strategies to Overcome the IT Labor Shortage
By Monika Mueller
We don’t need to tell you how challenging the tech talent gap has become, or how severe the labor shortage. It’s significant, with no sign of letting up. According to a recent survey, 61% of HR professionals said finding qualified developers will be the biggest recruitment challenge of 2021. Meanwhile, IT budgets are strained and demand is higher than ever.
Two years ago, there were 700,000 unfilled tech jobs in the U.S. With the acceleration of digital adoption, caused in part by the pandemic, demand has only grown. Over the next decade, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the labor market will add 316,000 software developer jobs — a 22% growth rate, averaging 31,000 new jobs every year. With high demand and low availability, what can a company do to attract — and retain — skilled IT professionals?
Not every business has the resources to woo top employees with sky-high salaries that beat out the competition. Fortunately, attracting IT professionals requires more than just money. The pandemic forced companies to be more flexible and stretch beyond their comfort zone. This type of approach will be necessary to respond to the pervasive IT labor shortage.
Here are five proven strategies that companies of any size can adopt to overcome the IT labor shortage. These tactics will help you not only attract strong candidates, but retain them for the long term.
1. Place a Higher Value on Aptitude and Attitude
CIOs are used to having a laundry list of required skill sets that a candidate must have in order to be considered for an open role. And while credentials and certifications are certainly important, in the current landscape, recognizing an aptitude for learning has become more important than ever. An individual’s willingness to learn and eagerness to grow their skills is arguably as important as their current skill set.
Many companies are beginning to take a more holistic view of the standard degree requirement. A willingness to broaden education requirements can expose an organization to a deeper pool of candidates. To do this, it’s important to consider what degree or certifications are truly required on a role-by-role basis.
There are, without a doubt, situations and roles where a university degree in computer science or information management is not only desired, but a must. However, there may be other roles where a community college degree or associate’s degree along with the appropriate certifications will suffice. Consider, for example, DevOps. Ask yourself, could a resource with a DevOps certification be successful in your environment?
2. Create Expert-Led Pods
Now that you’ve welcomed smart, motivated learners into your IT mix, how do you help them level up their skills? One of the most efficient ways to help employees build their skills is by pairing them with an experienced mentor who can teach them what they know. The easiest way to do this is to group employees together in various pods that are led by experts who will share their knowledge with the others.
Again, it’s about recognizing individuals with aptitude. Beyond helping your team obtain the skills that are needed now, this foresight will fill your organization with people who can learn new skills three to five years from now when your IT needs have evolved. Encouraging peer knowledge sharing and providing continued education also goes a long way toward building a strong company culture.
3. Double Down on Company Culture
When it comes to what IT professionals are looking for in a workplace, a strong company culture is right up there with salary, opportunities for advancement, and training and development. This is especially important for those highly sought after Millennials. As BenchmarkONE reports, “Millennials seek a company culture that values collaboration, innovation, and an investment in professional development and the employee experience.”
One way to build the sense of community and purpose that Millennials want is through your company’s performance management process. Rather than sticking to a rigid corporate structure with a single annual review, consider a more frequent monthly check-in with an internal “coach” that can provide regular feedback, help course-correct, and build skill sets when needed in near real-time.
During regular check-ins, ask questions like: How are things going on a project? How is everything with you personally? Are you struggling with a skill set? Is there any education we can provide? This makes employees feel truly connected, heard and appreciated — and as a result, much more engaged.
4. Embrace Remote Workers
Working remotely isn’t just preferred by many IT professionals, in the wake of Covid-19, it’s often expected. Fortunately, the benefits of remote work run the gamut, from increased productivity to happier employees that are much more likely to stay put. And the effectiveness of a remote workforce is no longer in question, thanks to the ample proof provided by the pandemic.
Embracing remote workers allows you to tap into the entire world as your global recruiting source. Including candidates in different states, countries and time zones opens you up to a much wider pool of IT talent — not to mention different areas of expertise, which can be invaluable. Broadening your scope is especially beneficial if you’re located in a smaller market with limited access to talent, and perhaps limited interest in moving to your area.
Concerned that hiring in different time zones will limit collaboration? Consider how much of a time overlap is truly necessary for effective collaboration, and be willing to loosen your requirements. Tools like Teams and Slack (which are preferred by Millennials) have made collaboration easier than ever. Across the globe, we’ve seen that people are more willing — and often prefer — to work flexible hours. This can help you achieve a window of collaboration that you’re comfortable with, while providing employees a level of flexibility they want.
5. Build With an Outsourcing Partner
Some outsourcing firms can end up costing you more in the long run, thanks to sub-par developers, sloppy code, and a lack of control over the work. But outsourcing properly, by directly vetting the talent and learning their strengths, will yield a much higher chance of success.
It’s crucial that you do your homework and choose a true outsourcing partner rather than a one-off vendor. The difference? A vendor has a commodity mindset, and will push lowest-cost resources and hire off the street, which means they can’t guarantee the quality of the work. A partner, on the other hand, will invest with you, forecast with you, and train employees specifically for you. Not only will a true partner continuously support your IT needs, their team will bring ideas and best practices to the table.
You want a partner who will learn your business inside and out and sit down with you to anticipate your future IT needs — then build a bench accordingly. This allows you to ramp up quickly and scale easily without adding additional burden on your team as you add talent. Your partner should provide client-specific training and education on everything from systems and vernacular to architecture so the team can hit the ground running.
Look for an outsourcing firm that has the ability to work autonomously, and can also adapt to your existing workflow in order to collaborate seamlessly with your internal team. Accessing this type of on-demand talent can help you find the precise skills and level of expertise that you require for projects or longer commitments.
Lessons Learned From the IT Shortage
Attracting top talent in a tight labor market may require you to think in new ways, and reassess some of your long-standing requirements. Ultimately, embracing these strategies can help your company build an IT team with depth and sustainability, no matter the circumstances. Many of these tactics boil down to an investment in your workforce, which isn’t always a matter of dollars and cents. From employment that supports a more balanced life to a self-chartered career path with ample opportunities to grow and advance, today’s IT workforce is looking for a lot more than a paycheck.