The Perfect Storm
A number of trends are brewing in the technology marketplace. The convergence of these trends is proving to be the perfect storm-a shortage of technology talent for which companies are not prepared and for which there are no simple solutions. Discerning executives will understand that careful assessment of technology resource acquisition is vital for the success of their organizations.
So what is the combination of elements producing such a shortage? Certainly the retirement of the baby boomers and lack of science, engineering and computer science college graduates was anticipated. Yet, some elements were unforeseen. Immigration issues are complicated these days and the H1B debate within Congress continues to delay any potential long-term solution to the talent shortage. Off shoring has not proved to be the "silver bullet" many had hoped it would be as cost structures abroad trend upwards and companies realize it may be too risky to send critical projects overseas.
This convergence of trends is already adversely impacting technology organizations today. Where the quantity and quality of resources is insufficient, technology departments are at risk of suffering morale and retention problems. Inadequately staffed initiatives in project related environments slow application and new product development, ultimately affecting speed to market and competitiveness. And the severity of the technology resource shortage will only increase.
Gone are the days when highly qualified candidates courted hiring managers. Today, solid candidates are highly sought. Consider the Java developer who was contacted by 41 different companies in one month this past spring and received multiple offers. Such situations can severely tax hiring managers who, after spending days reviewing dozens of resumes, interviewing people and selecting a candidate, are told the candidate has already accepted another offer. So the cycle must begin again. Re-issuing resource requests, reviewing more resumes, conducting more interviews, and still there is a distinct possibility that the next offer tendered could be rejected. Weeks or even months may pass before the position is filled.
So what is the real cost of technology talent acquisition? Salaries, bonuses and recruiting fees are the predictable, hard costs. What about the intangible costs? The time spent by hiring managers increases dramatically in a competitive market. The cost of morale and retention challenges must be factored into the equation. Ultimately, speed to market and the company's ability to compete must be considered. As time slips away and positions remain unfulled, the intangibles costs rise dramatically.
How can an organization avoid such expensive outcomes? Speed in tendering offers is a prerequisite, but it does not ensure you will be successful. There is still more to consider, such as the overall competitiveness of your offering, the effectiveness of your hiring managers and how well you utilize staffing vendors. If you haven't examined these elements of your hiring strategy recently, the technology resource shortage already may be costing your organization more than you think.
To shore up your organization's technology department against the talent shortage, you must update your hiring practices to reflect the highly competitive hiring market. Here are some basic elements of your overall hiring strategy to think about:
1. Streamline processes. If it takes your organization more than 48 hours after the interview process to tender an offer you risk missing out on quality candidates.
2. Examine your candidate selection criteria. Are your hiring standards unrealistic? Are you looking for unlikely skill combinations in one candidate? Or, are you trying to find someone with the exact skill set and extensive experience needed for your project? Could you be training solid candidates rather than waiting for the perfect fit? Hire smart, talented people with an aptitude for acquiring new skills, as these tend to be the highest performers in any organization.
3. Position your company competitively. Salaries are important, but it's not just about the money. Do you offer professional growth opportunities such as mentoring and training programs? Do you offer a good work environment? Be sure all you have to offer a candidate is well communicated.
4. Evaluate the effectiveness of your hiring manager. Too often technology employees are given the responsibility to hire based on their technical expertise. While technical expertise may qualify a hiring manager to evaluate the candidate's technical skills, it does not ensure interview acumen. Hiring managers must have the ability to sell the company and to evaluate important attributes in the candidate, beyond their technical skills, that will be critical to success.
5. Examine vendor usage. Conventional industry wisdom suggests that four to six vendors will produce a high caliber candidate in a short period of time. But this system simply requires hiring managers to invest more time and money in managing multiple vendors with little benefit to the hiring process. Our data shows fulfillment ratios improve dramatically when an organization simply works more closely with a smaller number of quality vendors. Consider the quality of your vendors rather than the quantity and be sure your vendor partners understand both the technology stacks involved and the underlying business context that drives technology projects.
Today's market conditions are creating exceptional circumstances. The technology talent shortage will not be short lived, as schools will not produce enough graduates in the foreseeable future to help. The government will continue to debate the issue, but whether or not they can determine a course of action that will benefit the industry is not clear and relying on the government to solve the problem would be a foolish strategy. Organizations must proceed with the view that the technology talent shortage is just the reality of the world we live in. It won't go away.
There is no one solution for such a complex problem. Processes and procedures alone won't ensure a company's success in acquiring technology talent. Success or failure, in the face of the growing talent shortage, will depend upon whether or not an organization truly owns the problem. Vigilance is key. Constant monitoring of competitive hiring strategies, from hiring managers to competitive offers, will help organizations solve the problem of talent acquisition one position at a time.
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