Help wanted: How IT teams can alleviate staffing shortages

The ongoing scarcity of IT candidates has recruiters and HR managers desperate to find qualified candidates for job openings.

According to Randstad’s 2016 Workplace Trends survey of IT hiring decision-makers, they are understaffed by 14 percent and take an average of 90 days to fill non-executive positions. Baby Boomers nearing retirement and the ever-changing technology landscape are among the factors that keep the need for quality candidates at high levels.

While recruiters are aggressively searching for talent outside the company, some may be exacerbating the problem by paying too little attention to the workers they already have. Retention is always an important component of any HR strategy, but it becomes even more critical during a talent shortage. In fact, the Randstad survey revealed that one of the top threats to meeting revenue or business performance targets in 2016 is retention of qualified employees.

Companies that limit employee turnover typically have one leg up on competitors who do not.

Mitigate employee wandering

Smart retention strategies start with understanding the needs and wants of IT workers within the context of market dynamics. Millennials are now the largest workforce cohort, and they have expectations and desires that – in some respects – differ from previous generations.

For one thing, they are much more migratory. The concept of the “company man” – a multi-decade corporate lifer – is as outdated as the expression that describes it. Nearly 40 percent of IT workers say they will likely look for a new job within the next year.

Couple that realization with the fact that tech industry unemployment is about half the national average, and you have a perfect storm of factors that has employees more willing than ever to be courted by other companies.

What can employers do to keep IT workers from wandering? Here are a few must-do’s and suggestions:

  • Pay up. Recent employee engagement data from Randstad shows that 63 percent of employees feel they are overdue for a raise. During a talent shortage, the job seeker is in the driver’s seat, so companies must bite the bullet and keep pace with IT salary trends.
  • Be flexible. The phrase “work/life balance” may now be a cliché, but that does not mean it is not important to IT workers, especially Millennials. Work from home, flex-time and other creative working arrangements are easier-than-ever to offer given advanced mobile and cloud-based computing options.
  • Provide a pathway. Companies that provide a clear professional development path, plus the training and project opportunities to get there, are held in high regard by employees and prospects. For example, enabling top workers to become immersed in data analytics further rounds out their skillset, a valuable asset for them and the company.
  • Tell your story. Do not be shy about broadcasting your benefits and corporate culture via internal communications channels. Employees will hear you loud and clear, and will likely pass the good news to their outside network.

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Of course, retention alone will not solve the problem. Many of the efforts detailed above will be equally useful in attracting new workers, but decision-makers and their HR support teams must also employ aggressive, strategic recruitment practices to capture the attention of job candidates – and to hasten the hiring process.

One such short-term strategy is to craft better job descriptions. Be as detailed as possible, so candidates not only know exactly what will be expected of them but can also self-reject if their skills fail to match job requirements. A well-written job description will also provide clues to the attractiveness of your corporate culture and the value of the work being undertaken.

Secondly, more companies should use skills assessments to better identify and screen interested candidates. The Randstad Workplace Trends survey found three in 10 IT hiring decision-makers do not use skills assessments, although 83 percent of those who do use them say they are critical to a successful and speedy hiring process. Validating candidate qualifications early in the process saves precious time for both the company and the prospect.

Also, companies must look beyond current needs and develop a long-term recruitment approach. While it can be challenging to forecast IT needs 18 to 24 months in advance, doing so helps lay the groundwork for a speedier ramp-up when future company growth requires additional tech-savvy resources.

Speed-to-hire, via contingency workers

Finally, almost any IT staffing scenario in 2016 involves the judicious use of contingency staffing. Whether temporary, project-based or part-time, contingent work is increasingly popular with flexibility-seeking IT professionals who want the freedom to dabble in various industries and projects. And for the company, projects are staffed, started and completed sooner, and hiring decision-makers get a realistic look at the qualifications of individuals who they would like to hire permanently.

Companies are often relying on IT staffing and services firms, like Randstad Technologies, to aid in the contingency staffing process, given their access to larger numbers of high-quality job seekers. Plus, they can consult on marketplace trends – in terms of employee expectations and workplace tendencies – that can heighten the ability to compete in a mercurial environment.

Whether focusing on recruitment or retention, HR must be better salespeople. By articulating and promoting the distinct assets of your company from an IT workers’ perspective, you will be less likely to lose out in the rough-and-tumble candidate wars.

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Robert M. Dickey is Group President, Technology and Engineering, for Randstad US, one of the largest staffing organizations in the country. In that role, he oversees Randstad Technologies, and Randstad Engineering, and also manages the national and regional sales efforts in Randstad’s 65+ United States business units.