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Strategies for Dealing with the IT Talent Shortage

Jan 14, 2019 12:15:00 PM

by Charles Bystock

If you’ve tried to hire for an IT position recently, you may have found the task a little more difficult than expected for a sector driving billions of dollars of the economy. The IT talent shortage is nothing new, and the problem won’t be resolved any time soon. Therefore, now is a good time to assess your strategy for attracting and keeping young talent while still leaving growth opportunities for older employees.

Where the IT talent shortage stands

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 1.5 million people were employed in an IT occupation in 2017. This doesn’t include outsourced or offshore positions, so the actual pool of potential IT talent is likely higher. Still, particularly high-profile sectors struggle to fill positions despite plenty of openings and competitive wages — the median wage in this sector is around $89,000 annually.

The rise of automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning in cybersecurity, infrastructure management, and even basic infrastructure organization has increased the demand for people who can develop applications in these complex environments. However, there are fewer than 25,000 “genuine experts” working in artificial intelligence worldwide.

Quantum computing, the new arms race for major tech companies and governments alike, is suffering a major shortage on top of declining enrollment in graduate programs. The extremely experimental nature of quantum computing often requires a master’s degree or a Ph.D. in physics. By some estimates, quantum computing has fewer than 1,000 leading researchers and a huge reliance on graduate students. This is forcing companies into the onerous process on international hires in the midst of decreased visa availability.

These niche, cutting-edge fields pale in comparison to the cybersecurity talent shortage. Estimates vary, but experts predict the field will have between 1.5 million and 3.5 million unfilled positions by 2020-2021. That’s a huge number of positions available, especially when you consider the quickly approaching retirement years of more seasoned experts.

Fight the shortage by increasing your employee retention

Enticing your best employees to stay with your business isn’t just about a pay raise — although that may help. Offering a challenging environment that recognizes and encourages employees’ personal goals is one way to increase their loyalty to your business as well as their value as employees.

Cross training for people who are interested in shifting careers to areas of need can also help pull from a more accessible pool of talent. Not only do you know that these employees are a good cultural fit for your enterprise, but your investment in their future also demonstrates care and interest in employee success. Employees win by getting a new skillset and the ability to transition to a new position, and you win by filling a difficult position while opening one that might be easier to replace.

If you have older employees, enticing them to stay into their retirement years could be as simple as setting expectations of their role in the company to train new IT experts — ensuring that no knowledge is lost — and mentor recent hires. Knowledge-sharing programs are another way to encourage your team’s older members to engage with a younger generation and inspire new ideas from older points of view. Adding flexible hours, flexible vacation, and sabbaticals is another way to entice older (and younger) employees to stay.

Working externally to handle the talent shortage

Operating with leaner teams might not seem like an ideal solution for the shortage, but it may be your best option for now — especially if you’re struggling to fill key positions. Automating processes with artificial intelligence or working with outside vendors to manage your infrastructure, general IT services, and security can help lessen the burden while you search for the perfect fit for your team.

Speaking of perfect fit, sometimes “nice-to-haves” in your job description are just that: nice to have. Instead of looking for specific skills or certifications, look for people who demonstrate the willingness and the talent to learn and step out of their comfort zone. This goes back to keeping current employees: Invest in and encourage their education in IT fields. Offer lower-stress mentoring positions to seasoned professionals who are stepping away from the workforce. Try to avoiding burning bridges with outgoing or retiring employees.

Whether you change your employee perks, rely more on automation or outsourced staff, or both, tackling the IT talent shortage can still be difficult. Taking a hard look at your processes and your sourcing strategy may be the key to lightening the load on your current IT team without compromising your capabilities.

Finding good IT talent can be tough in an ideal market. But with today’s IT talent shortage, filling key positions is harder than ever. Contact the Windsor Group for advice on searching for qualified IT professionals.

 

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