IT leaders needs talent management strategies as skills shortages remain

Senior management in the technology sector are concerned about skills shortages and need to retain, nurture and attract IT talent if they are to meet the challenges of the future.

Some 41% of technology professionals admit they have skills gaps in their organisation that are affecting their company’s performance and growth potential. That is the finding of the Reed Technology 2012 Salary and Market Insight report, a survey of 1,500 senior managers in both technology vendor and end user organisations.

The market
Despite the ongoing economic slowdown, the recruitment market in the UK shows small, incremental growth. In the technology sector, there has been a recovery, with organisations reporting cautious optimism backed up with an acknowledgement that technology will drive this growth. Our survey illustrates that the market has settled down for a gradually stepped recovery.

In the banking sector, while cost saving areas are still being sought, the threat of off-shoring roles from the UK appears to have subsided somewhat, due to the potential for large-scale negative publicity. In the public sector, continued merging of IT departments and infrastructure via shared service arrangements is a definite trend, which may also create additional IT-led projects within integration and change management arenas.

The use of contract staff during the recession has continued along with a flurry of activity to recruit for permanent positions. More specifically, as companies seek ways to support growth, a recruitment spike in the form of business-focused roles including data analysts, BI experts and Management Information analysts across both banking and general commerce is forecast. Businesses will also be looking for ways to interpret and maximise that data, which will create demand for developers with programming skills in areas such as .NET and C#.

Technology developments including virtualisation, social media and mobile communications are driving jobs growth as is Cloud. We predict that SMEs will seize opportunities for cloud computing as they realise the potential to rationalise infrastructure spend and create cost savings. Social networking is throwing up some contrasting trends with more companies looking to exploit sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook as a medium to attract candidates. It is felt that Facebook is the stronger brand proposition tool that gives the business a voice, whereas LinkedIn has the same by-products, but greater professional networking prowess.

Skills and talent
When asked about their staffing concerns, over 43% of senior managers questioned by REED indicated that they were worried about losing talented individuals, and such concerns are reinforced when added to the 41% of senior managers in the IT field who also feel that they currently have skills gaps within their organisation.

To both recognise and then attempt to offset the implications of losing talented employees and filling existing skills gaps, 46% of those questioned in the technology sector stated that they are proactively implementing training and development programmes to ensure skills improvements, individual development and ultimately job and career satisfaction.

Other methods deployed to maintain or grow talent levels include internal promotions (35%), recruitment initiatives (31%) and incentive and benefit strategies (17%). However, a significant number - 34% - also admitted to not currently deploying any methods to maintain or even grow talent levels. For such companies, the lack of an ongoing talent management and skills strategy could well leave them exposed as the outlook for the technology sector continues on its recovery.

Even in challenging times, certain skills shortages in the sector continue, especially for experienced mid level permanent staff with C# .Net, SQL, Java, SAP and Oracle skills. Such is the clamour for the best C# and .Net talent that candidates can "pick and choose" from employers of choice in that arena and the spectre of the counter offer is very real in this market.

In addition, candidates with mobile and tablet application skills such as android developers are very much in demand and as a result often display a propensity to move from role to role. We also expect to see some innovation and movement in this space as companies look at ways of integrating smart phones/devices into their fold as the BYOD debate rages on.

We are also seeing a shift toward Agile management and development methods as pressure mounts to compress projects into smaller chunks with quicker ROI and demonstrable benefits to the business. This has created demand for Agile skills across the board.

People strategies
Some 69% of those employees questioned in the IT sector said they felt ‘secure’ or ‘very secure’ in their roles. This is leading to a more confident workforce which may well seek out alternative offers. As a consequence we are witnessing an increase in counter offers to staff as employers watching the bottom line will prefer to give valuable staff an increase rather than risk the higher subsequent costs of an initially less productive replacement, again prevalent in the .Net and C# space.

As the recovery continues, we anticipate that organisations will ensure the bulk of their hiring will be based on the recruitment of more experienced candidates. Employers need immediate impact from new hires to justify expenditure and we expect to see most activity in middle to upper level IT roles. This strategy will cost businesses slightly more initially, but they will see a quicker and greater return on their investment as a result.

While a decline in demand for entry level graduates may well continue, companies with strong internal promotion and succession planning strategies should also be able to cherry-pick the best graduates and less experienced hires to put on the first rung of the employment ladder.

A future approach?
Employers should focus on attracting and retaining the kind of staff that can actively help to drive their business forward. Although there are concerns about skills gaps, when recruiting they should also consider the mindset of potential employees rather than focusing purely on their skill set. Global research from ‘Put Your Mindset to Work’, a book by Chairman of Reed, James Reed and Dr. Paul G Stoltz, shows that 97% of employers prefer the right mindset over skill set in the people they recruit, promote, keep and value.

Employers should continually monitor employee engagement to best bridge any emerging gap between employer and employee sentiment. Those able to do this will be best placed to retain the outstanding talent within their organisations and even attract those from other businesses, helping them keep a competitive advantage in a complex and challenging industry.

Posted by Andrew Gardner, Divisional Director of recruitment specialist Reed Technology

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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