IT has become ingrained in every part of business strategy, so it's not surprising that demand for tech talent is at an all-time high, forcing organizations to be creative when competing for talent. We're already through the month of January and employers are looking down the barrel of a competitive 2016. To help tech hiring managers and CIOs plan for a tumultuous year, several industry experts offer their advice.
"IT has always been at the heart of product offerings and growth, but today IT is impacting all types of industries in significant ways. New products and solutions will continue to demand strong IT talent. Diverse skills are required, and many IT job skills are relatively new," says Gregory Simpson, senior vice president and CTO at Synchrony Financial.
Unemployment in the tech industry has been well below the national average of 5 percent, hovering at around 3 percent, which has caused trouble for many employers looking to increase, replace and retain their most precious commodity, their IT talent. Skills gaps exist in areas like big data and analytics, security, developers familiar with legacy tech and more.
Making matters worse for employers is the reality that in a job market swelling with opportunities, workers feel more safe to explore other options. "Tech professionals are in high demand, particularly in roles requiring software and Web development skills," says Kathy Harris, managing director of Harris Allied, "This demand is giving tech employees a strong upper hand in terms of compensation expectations."
In an effort to stay on track and reduce the effects of the skills gaps in various areas within tech, like security and analytics, employers will continue to look for freelance workers. "IT will continue to be a jobseekers market and skilled talent will still have plentiful options in most areas in the industry," says John Reed, senior executive director at Robert Half Technology.
More organizations are cozying up to the idea of using a bimodal approach to IT, where a group or department focuses mainly on innovation or product design, according to David Foote, founder and chief analyst with Foote Partners, "Often these digital ecosystems did not exist prior at many companies so these groups often have a distinctly entrepreneurial startup sort of mentality. This is perfect for attracting the knowledge and skills of younger workers who can bring native understanding of user experience/user interface knowledge. Smart companies will use these new development groups to incent and attract younger workers," he says.
With the market experiencing low unemployment rates, IT workers will have more opportunities. Companies will have to improve how they represent themselves to potential employees and that means getting better at social media as well as demonstrating why it's great to work in their organization and projecting outward what their corporate culture is all about. "As a part of their recruitment strategy, employers must know how to sell themselves to employers, making sure that they highlight why they are an attractive workplace and how they will appeal to potential employees," says Reed.
Ed Nathanson, founder of Red Pill Talent, LLC., agrees noting, "People have more than just options today, they have information. Employment branding is absolutely key to companies looking to attract talent. There are studies that show that employer brand (what it is like to work at the company) is more likely to drive job consideration than what the company actually does. If you look at the companies that are talent magnets, they all are making a concerted effort to show and market what it is like to work at the company."
"An effective training program is a pillar of effective talent management," says Rohinee Mohindroo, former CIO and CTO for the Targeting Technology Advisory.
Companies waste resources continually searching for new talent, according to experts, when they should be looking within their organization to find and train talent. Companies that do this correctly will have a competitive advantage in the job market. "With the demand for tech skills at an all-time high, companies will need to invest more in training and development of their existing employee base rather than continually seeking out external hires for in demand skills. Companies will start to see the benefits of investing in their people and their skills development and realize that the costs are far less than continuing to hunt for external talent in the highly completive market with the accompanying high market salaries," says Nathanson. As the need for specific professionals continues to outpace the number of available tech professionals, organizations will have to increase their internal training programs in order to build talent internally.
Employee turnover is costly and time-consuming. Corporations had a little leeway in the down economy but 2016 will be a different story, according to experts. Retention will be top of mind for CIOs and tech leaders as the talent wars continue. In fact, finding talent in 2016 won't be as difficult as retaining your IT workforce, according to Mohindroo, "I am less concerned about sourcing the talent and more concerned about retaining it. Retention will need to be a strategic investment area for organizations [in 2016]."
"Companies are starting to learn that retention is a huge issue. There will always be the allure of greener pastures, but I do believe companies are starting to put a greater emphasis on doing what they can to keep their valued employees," says Nathanson.
To attract and retain talent, employers need to put an emphasis on building a culture that helps workers thrive. Do this right and your own workers will spread the word. "Transparency and honesty is key -- as is enabling your current employees to be part of this process. People expect the company to say great things about working there, but when your actual employees say it, it carries far more credibility and impact," says Nathanson.
This trend will continue as organizations look for ways to stand apart from other workplaces. "Flexible options have almost become a standard benefit in many workplaces and for technology professionals. This trend is partly driven by the requests of technology professionals, but also as a differentiator from employers who wanted to offer unique benefits as part of a recruitment strategy. Employees who have these options feel they can manage their careers and personal lives effectively. A sense of freedom and autonomy is beneficial for both the employees and employers, therefore is an effective recruitment tool as well as a work-life benefit," says Reed.
Generation Z is slowly infiltrating the workforce, millennials are moving into leadership positions boomers are still hanging in there. This can make things complicated when trying to hire and retain workers who could conceivably need and want very different things from employers. "As teams continue to shift and grow, managing a multigenerational workplace must be top of mind for team leaders. Each generation from Boomers to Gen Z has a different ideal professional situation, and employers will need to customize benefits and offers to keep employees happy," says Reed.
We asked each of the experts interviewed what they thought would be the most in-demand skills for 2016. Here is what they had to say.