The problem is crystal clear. But the solution is not as obvious.
In today’s digitally driven world, skilled IT professionals are in short supply. It’s tougher than ever for employers to build the tech teams they need for successful innovation. But just how tough is it?
Tech Hiring By The Numbers
According to research by Microsoft, the IT labor shortage is alarming. A 2012 survey on the state of U.S. technical talent estimates that the number of new jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree in computer science grows each year by 122,300 openings.
In a tough economic climate, that kind of healthy job growth seems like good news. But here’s the rest of the story: The average number of computer science graduates each year is only 59,731. That’s less than half of new job demand.
The survey also uncovered discrepancies between what employers think engineers find attractive in a job, and what engineers actually want. For example:
• 89% of software engineers said they applied for 2 jobs or less in the 5 years prior to the survey. This relatively low turnover rate helps explain why it’s so difficult to find and engage experienced software engineers. (Although, in 2014, the picture is no longer as stable. According to a recent Dice.com survey, more than 40% of companies say they’ve lost tech staff in the past 6 months, compared to 30% a year ago.)
• 64% of recruiters believe that the opportunity to work with interesting technology is the primary reason software engineers are motivated to consider a new job. But engineers disagree. In fact, less than 10% of those surveyed say cutting-edge technology is a key reason to accept a new position.
• Top reasons engineers respond to recruiter outreach:
45% — Position is relevant to their background;
13% — Interest in the company;
10% — Competitive compensation.
(These priorities also seem to be shifting in 2014. According to Dice.com research, 75% of tech workers who changed jobs recently were motivated primarily by higher compensation.)
To learn more about what motivates technology professionals, consider this snapshot from a Dice survey conducted in 2011:
Motives Matter For Acquisition and Retention
Knowing what matters to technical professionals is vital to the recruitment process. But it’s just as important for successful workforce retention.
Building Tech Teams That Last
Step 1: Find Talent
• Determine the skills you need
• Spend time on social media to see who shares advice and insights. Build relationships
• Review email lists and attend tech meetups to locate and connect with attractive candidates
• Maintain a dedicated ‘tech blog,” separate from your company’s primary blog
Step 2: Hire Talent
• Can they do the job?
• Are they the right fit for the company?
Step 3: Keep Talent
• Commit to a trial period, so both parties have a chance to determine the fit
• Make sure people take vacation periodically — preferably away from a computer
Chris Lea’s retention “must haves” are echoed by other tech recruiting experts in 5 Smart Ways to Retain Top Tech Talent:
• The more closely your job requirements match the employee’s skills, goals and values, the more likely employees will want to stay. Hire for fit, and retention will follow.
• Start strong. Retention efforts should begin during onboarding.
• Avoid burnout. Evaluate project workflows and organizational structure. Set clear expectations about duties and develop equitable workloads. Actively encourage work-life balance.
• Regularly assess employee engagement and motivation. Gather insight to guide development paths and workforce strategies.
• Commit to sustainability at a corporate level. The connection between innovation, community and the environment is very important to many technology professionals.
What Works For You?
As the hiring landscape grows increasingly competitive, creative acquisition and retention strategies can give your organization an advantage.
Is your company struggling to hire new tech talent? Are you losing IT employees you want to retain? Have you tried new approaches? What works for you? Share your comments below.
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