Three strategies to bridge your IT talent gap

  • Posted on April 9, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes
Three strategies to bridge your IT talent gap

This article was originally published on Forbes.

Every HR professional understands the current grim realities of a tight job market, and how difficult it can be to find the right talented professionals. But specific industries — such as technology — are especially challenged by a significant shortage of quality IT professionals, plus there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.

Korn Ferry predicts that in 2020, the technology, media and telecommunications industries will be short more than 1.1 million skilled workers globally. Looking farther down the road, the research firm predicts that this deficit may reach 4.3 million by 2030.

It’s this rigorous employment landscape that makes it essential for HR professionals to use smart tactics and proven strategies to help their companies bridge the IT talent gap effectively and gain an edge on the competition. To help you get started, consider these three strategies to integrate into your recruitment and retention efforts.

Rethink, anticipate, plan for tomorrow
The old workforce paradigm and employee journey were straightforward: Hire the right skilled IT talent for the job at hand, and your employees can ride their academic degrees through retirement. But the technology landscape has morphed and rapidly evolved. Plus, the straight path to retirement is in doubt. To get ahead of the wave — both in terms of hiring IT talent for the future and long-term employee satisfaction — HR teams must anticipate skills and knowledge needs three to five years down the road.

One way to narrow or bridge the IT talent gap is to focus on continuous learning with an eye toward future needs and trends. That means offering your current employees opportunities to learn new skills and experiences that will help your organization meet tomorrow’s technology needs and keep your employees actively engaged and motivated.

Investing in your workforce will help ensure you have the right people at the right time with the right skills. Start to plot out how much talent you already have with capabilities to deliver in your space, versus the workforce you’ll need going forward. Then work back from that to build out a detailed learning plan that will help your organization accelerate growth in the new world. A more effective approach to strategic workforce planning and considering multiple levels rather than just jumping to the “buy” strategy will pay dividends. This should be evaluated and tweaked biannually.

Employ 70/30 hiring
Every IT opening demands an ideal profile that includes the right skills, knowledge and requirements for the role. You’ve probably found that the tight job market makes it harder to fill those roles based on those criteria.

But what if you moved the goal post slightly to allow the flexibility to consider candidates that offer roughly 70% of what you might be looking for? And, instead of settling for a lower bar, what if you invested in those new employees with in-house “bootcamp” training and outside academic learning opportunities that help them make up that 30% of competencies they may lack today? Wouldn’t that unlock a whole new vault of great candidates for you to consider?

Although this may sound like settling for less in the short term, consider the significant long-term advantages. First, by investing in these 70/30 employees, you’re sending a clear, strong signal that you believe in them, which can lead to high motivation, greater productivity and long-term retention. Second, this approach allows your current IT pros to act as mentors and teachers to new, lesser-skilled employees, which can promote a strong workplace culture of team collaboration.

Of course, 70/30 hiring relies on everyone impacted on your team to be on board. But, notwithstanding the potential short-term pain, it’s an approach that may end up yielding some of your best employees just a few years from now. Additionally, the ability to be agile and to learn, unlearn and relearn is going to be an asset and important competency in this fast-paced market.

Retain with support-and-stretch
This third strategy brings us back to retaining your current talent, which every HR professional understands is more desirable than dealing with the substantial costs, time and efforts needed to fill vacated roles. To help strengthen your retention program, consider a two-pronged support-and-stretch approach.

Support your employees by offering them the benefits, tools and opportunities to thrive within their current skill sets and roles. But offer them myriad chances to stretch beyond what they are currently doing or what they know today with internal mobility opportunities and a variety of experiences. Today’s millennial and Gen Z IT professionals are very motivated by new experiences and a chance to make a difference. So, don’t pigeonhole your people into a fixed role for a lifetime. Once supported, allow them to stretch and reach new heights that can ultimately help your company grow.

Finally, it’s important to employ these three strategies within the context of your long-term business strategy, company vision and workforce plan. And it’s critically urgent to do something now and not dismiss alarming statistics of an IT labor shortage as just a lot of noise. Companies that fail to respond to the job market reality today unwittingly dim their prospects, while organizations that methodically and consistently employ these proven strategies will likely shine brightly in the coming years.

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