IT Talent at a Crossroads
The uncertain economy has caused many IT professionals to stay put for the past few years, but the job market is about to shift in favor of applicants, according to experts. IT managers need to look to the future when it comes to wooing and retaining top talent.
“Many people are still on the fence about their needs in terms of IT talent for the next six to 12 months, but that is going to change” said Larry Scinto, managing consultant for PA Consulting Group, an IT consulting firm based in Arlington, Va.
By all accounts, the IT job market is still a bit of a mixed bag. There is a glut of applicants for some IT positions that require general tech skills. Yet candidates with experience in emerging areas such as mobile and open-source computing are in high demand. IT professionals with health care and compliance experience are also being heavily recruited.
“The tech staff you need today might not be the tech staff you need tomorrow, so IT managers are being especially vigilant in their hiring practice and making sure they have the bench strength to go forward,” Scinto said.
Start with what you have
The first step is to identify the employees that you want to keep and engage them in the future direction of the company’s IT strategy, said Joel Capperella, vice president of Philadelphia-based Yoh, a provider of IT talent and outsourcing services.
“Candidates are definitely becoming more willing to explore the job market, and it is incumbent on employers to clearly and articulately communicate the skills that will be needed going forward,” he said. “You have to engage the employees that you want to keep by identifying their current skills and getting them. Do some crowdsourcing about how the IT department can handle emerging technologies such as tablet computing and open sourcing and see who chimes in with suggestions.”
As IT managers look at the return on investment when they purchase a software package or a new server, they must also look at the payback when they invest in employees.
“Employees are not just an expense, they are the company,” said Johnny Laurent, vice president and general manager for St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Sage Employer Solutions, a division of Sage North America, a provider of software and business services to small and mid-size companies. “I truly believe in ROEI, return on employee investment. Employees have been feeling that they are just there to get a job done. When we talk to people about why they are looking to leave a particular job, money shows up fourth on the list. They want to feel they have a voice and have a chance for advancement.”
Budgets may be loosening up, enabling some employers to reinstate salaries that were cut during the downturn or even reinstate raises and bonuses. However, Kelly Finn, manager of the information technology division at Winter, Wyman & Co., a Waltham, Mass.-based staffing firm, said benefits beyond dollars can help keep valuable employees.
“Work-life balance and flexibility are big ones that I hear over and over again,” she said. “People's lives change over time and having the ability to both have a career and to manage family responsibilities is invaluable. Is there flexibility for someone to come in early and leave early [or vice versa] to accommodate a longer commute, day care pickup/drop off, coach their kid's soccer team, etc? Would a partial work-from-home situation be possible? Technology today makes it very easy for people to be in touch and manage work responsibilities from virtually anywhere these days. In many cases, I see candidates who are willing to sacrifice compensation to have this kind of flexibility.”