The IT Talent Crisis: 2 Ways to Hire and Retain

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Just what does the HR/IT war room look like right now as CIOs and other digital leaders strategize about how to attract and retain their valuable technology talent?

IT organizations are in the midst of a dual problem. The labor market for IT talent, particularly in security and emerging technology, is increasingly tight. Some might even call it a crisis. At the same time, we are in a period that economists have dubbed “The Great Resignation,” as masses of workers are voluntarily leaving their jobs.

But this isn’t just about getting help desk tickets resolved faster. The lack of talent threatens to stall enterprise efforts at digital transformation and other high-priority technology initiatives, according to the 2021 Harvey Nash Group Digital Leadership Report, an annual report by the IT talent firm.

Specifically, this year’s report found that 69% of digital leaders in the US are now unable to keep pace with change because they can’t hire the talent they need. The skills shortage is most acute in cybersecurity at 43% of firms, up by 11% in the last 12 months. Enterprises also cited shortages in DevOps (39%) and big data/analytics (38%).

Non-profit IT industry association CompTIA’s analysis of October’s US Labor Department numbers reached similar conclusions. US technology job postings are at their highest total in 2 years. Employers listed 360,065 job openings for technology positions in October, an increase of nearly 76,000 from the previous month, and the highest monthly total since September 2019.

How can CIOs and other digital leaders attract talent and get existing talent to stay?

Here’s the quick answer — pay them more and give them better opportunities.

A CompTIA survey of 2,000 technology professionals who were either actively job hunting or passively looking/opportunity aware revealed that 58% were leaving for better salary or benefits and 54% were leaving for better career options or long-term opportunities.

This lines up with what IT workers told Harvey Nash about why they left a job — 64% said they wanted more money.

Harvey Nash and CompTIA both also had other recommendations for how enterprise leaders could work through this talent shortage.

For instance, organizations should consider more training and cross training, particularly when it comes to expanding an enterprise’s cybersecurity skills and capabilities. This adds to the skills pool, of course, but there are other benefits, too.

“We are hearing from employees that they want organizations to invest in them,” Jason Pyle, president of Harvey Nash USA tells InformationWeek.

While CompTIA’s research notes that money is the top reason for workers to leave, another factor is the lack of opportunity.

“Our research indicates that a top reason tech workers consider leaving is a lack of career growth opportunities, a telling message to employers not to underestimate the value of investing in staff training and professional development,” said Tim Herbert, executive VP for research and market intelligence at CompTIA, in a press release.

Investing in employee training during a labor crunch can also have downsides if employees take advantage of training and then use those added skills to parlay their way into a new opportunity elsewhere.

But if employees are leaving, they are also going somewhere, too. Pyle recommends that organizations not only look carefully at their compensation package offers but also consider casting a wider net for candidates by looking outside of your usual geography.

“The hybrid work environment works,” he says. “People can work from anywhere. If we are bringing in the right talent we can bring them in from anywhere, as long as they can do the job.”

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