Expert Advice for Medium and Midsize Businesses

  • October 30, 2013

5 Things I Learned About the IT Labor Shortage

by Jim Lein | Sr. Principal Product Marketing Director | Oracle Midsize Programs | @JimLein

5 Things I Learned About the IT Labor Shortage

A gentle autumn breeze is nudging the last golden leaves off the aspen trees. It’s time to wrap up the series that I started back in April, “The Growing IT Labor Shortage: Are You Feeling It?”

Even in a time of relatively high unemployment, labor shortages exist depending on many factors, including location, industry, IT requirements, and company size. According to Manpower Groups 2013 Talent Shortage Survey, 35% of hiring managers globally are having difficulty filling jobs. Their top three challenges in filling jobs are:

1. lack of technical competencies (hard skills)

2. Lack of available applicants

3. Lack of experience

The same report listed Technicians as the most difficult position to fill in the United States

For most companies, Human Capital and Talent Management have never been more strategic and they are striving for ways streamline processes, reduce turnover, and lower costs (see this Oracle whitepaper, “ Simplify Workforce Management and Increase Global Agility”).

Everyone I spoke to—partner, customer, and Oracle experts—agreed that it can be extremely challenging to hire and retain IT talent in today’s labor market. And they generally agreed on the causes:

a. IT is so pervasive that there are myriad moving parts requiring support and expertise,

b. thus, it’s hard for university graduates to step in and contribute immediately without experience and specialization,

c. big IT companies generally aren’t the talent incubators that they were in the freewheeling 90’s due to bottom line pressures that require hiring talent that can hit the ground running, and

d. it’s often too expensive for resource-strapped midsize companies to invest the time and money required to get graduates up to speed.

Here are my top lessons learned from my conversations with the experts.

1. A Better Title Would Have Been, “The Challenges of Finding and Retaining IT Talent That Matches Your Requirements”

There are more applicants than jobs but it’s getting tougher and tougher to find individuals that perfectly fit each and every role. Top performing companies are increasingly looking to hire the “almost ready”, striving to keep their existing talent more engaged, and leveraging their employee’s social and professional networks to quickly narrow down candidate searches (here’s another whitepaper, “A Strategic Approach to Talent Management”).

2. Size Matters—But So Does Location

Midsize companies must strive to build cultures that compete favorably with what large enterprises can offer, especially when they aren’t within commuting distance of IT talent strongholds. They can’t always match the compensation and benefits offered by large enterprises so it's paramount to offer candidates high quality of life and opportunities to build their resumes in alignment with their long term career aspirations.

3. Get By With a Little Help From Your Friends

It doesn’t always make sense to invest time and money in training an employee on a task they will not perform frequently. Or get in a bidding war for talent with skills that are rare and in high demand. Many midsize companies are finding that it makes good economic sense to contract with partners for remote support rather than trying to divvy up each and every role amongst their lean staff. Internal staff can be assigned to roles that will have the highest positive impact on achieving organizational goals.

4. It’s Actually Both “What You Know” AND “Who You Know”

If I was hiring someone today I would absolutely leverage the social and professional networks of my co-workers. Period. Most research shows that hiring in this manner is less expensive and time consuming AND produces better results. There is also some evidence that suggests new hires from employees’ networks have higher job performance and retention rates.

5. I Have New Respect for Recruiters and Hiring Managers

My hats off to them—it’s not easy hiring and retaining top talent with today’s challenges. Check out the infographic, “A New Day: Taking HR from Chaos to Control”, on Oracle’s Human Capital Management solutions home page. You can also explore all of Oracle’s HCM solutions from that page based on your role.

You can read all the posts in this series by clicking on the links in the right sidebar.

Stay tuned…we’ll continue to post thought leadership on HCM and Talent Management topics.

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