CIOs: 7 Ways to Deal with Talent Scarcity

The IT skills shortage is a major issue for CIOs. Companies are competing for top talent, and there aren’t enough highly skilled employees to go around. The problem is only going to get worse. A recent Gartner report revealed there would be 1.4 million openings for computer specialists by 2020, but only enough qualified graduates to fill about 30 percent of the jobs. This is a problem keeping CIOs up at night.

Since the IT talent shortage isn’t going away anytime soon, CIOs need to find strategies to deal with it. With the right strategies, CIOs can compete for talented workers and get the skills they need on their teams.

To deal with talent scarcity, use these seven strategies.

1. Train Your Current Employees

You already have several talented employees on your team. They may not have the exact skills you need for future projects, but they may be able to learn them. After all, they’re intelligent IT professionals. Training your current employees may be easier than finding new employees who have the exact mix of skills you need.

For example, if you’re having trouble finding a Java developer, you could teach one of your current developers about Java. If you can’t find a big data expert, you might have an analytical employee who’s interested in learning about it.

Online training can be used to teach employees new skills. Universities and consulting companies also offer training programs, so there are plenty of options. Carefully vet training programs first to ensure they’re offered by reputable organizations and will teach your employees the right skills.

You could also choose to offer in-person training for your employees. Internal or external trainers can teach your employees the skills you need them to have. Employees could also learn new skills by attending local industry conferences.

2. Pay Attention to Retention

When you’re struggling to find skilled employees for your team, the last thing you need is high turnover. When employees quit, talent scarcity problems get worse. You need to replace the employees who left while trying to grow your team at the same time. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to retention.

In this competitive labour market, compensation plays a big role in retention. Ensure your team’s salaries, benefits, and perks are competitive in the marketplace. Offering competitive compensation helps prevent your employees from leaving to work for your competitors.

Of course, money isn’t everything. Employees also need to feel appreciated at work. Appreciation can take the form of rewards systems, good feedback, and opportunities for advancement. Taking steps to make your employees feel appreciated and valued can help you keep them on your team. This could be as simple as congratulating your employees when they do a good job or occasionally providing bonuses.

3. Ask Employees to Refer Candidates

Your current IT employees have connections in the industry. They’ve met other IT professionals at school, at past workplaces, and at industry events. Some of those professionals may have the hard-to-find skills you’re looking for, but you might not be able to find them on your own. To reach these candidates, set up an employee referral program.

Let your current employees know you’re planning to hire new IT employees, and share the job descriptions for the roles you want to fill. Ask them if they know anyone who could be a good fit for the job. Your employees can then refer possible candidates to you. If you end up hiring someone based on a referral, reward the employee who made the referral. This could take the form of a cash bonus or another type of positive recognition.

4. Attract Top Talent with Your Company Culture

When talent is scarce, highly skilled candidates can afford to be picky. They can get job offers from multiple companies and then decide which one they want to accept. Salary and benefits are a consideration, but top candidates also think about company culture. Company culture means the personality of the company and the environment employees work in.

If your company culture is attractive, top candidates may choose to accept your job offers instead of working for your competitors. A healthy work-life balance, a strong sense of teamwork, and a meaningful company mission are some features of attractive company cultures. You can advertise attractive parts of your company culture in your job postings.

5. Use Data Analytics to Improve the Hiring Process

Companies have large quantities of data about job applicants. These days, candidates often apply electronically, and their resumes are stored indefinitely in applicant tracking systems. This data isn’t very useful if all you’re doing is storing it. Since you already have so much data, it’s time to start using it. Data analytics can improve your hiring process and help you hire the skilled employees you need.

To get started, dig into your data and look for patterns. For example, you could look for where your best applicants are finding you. If most of your top candidates came from referrals, not job boards, then it makes sense to focus more of your attention on referrals. You could also look at the educational backgrounds of your best applicants. If many top applicants went to the same schools, it could make sense for you to visit those schools for a job fair.

6. Plan for Your Future Talent Needs

In IT, it can be hard to plan for your future talent needs. Your staffing requirements change from one quarter to the next depending on the projects you need to complete. While you may not know exactly what skills you’ll need in the future, or when you’ll need them, you can still prepare.

Even when you’re not actively hiring, you should always be building your talent pipeline. Throughout the year, collect referrals from employees and work your own network to find candidates. Keep these candidates on file, even if you don’t have open positions for them yet.

When it’s time for you to hire, you’ll have many possible candidates to reach out to. Those candidates may be interested in joining your team, even if they’re already working somewhere else. Your company’s interesting projects, competitive salaries, or attractive culture could help convince candidates to leave their jobs to work for you.

7. Get Help from a Recruitment Agency

CIOs don’t need to manage their talent needs alone. They can turn to recruitment agencies for help. Some recruitment agencies specialize in placing candidates in technical roles, like IT. Recruiters at these agencies have the networks and skills required to locate candidates with hard-to-find IT skills. Since you’re busy, it makes sense to outsource your hiring needs.

Recruitment agencies can even find candidates who are already employed somewhere else. The best candidates may already be working for other companies in your industry but can be persuaded to leave for the right opportunity.

Talent scarcity is a big problem in IT, but it doesn’t need to keep CIOs up at night. By adopting some or all of these seven strategies, you can acquire the IT skills you need. With the right people on your team, you’ll be able to finish your projects and stay competitive.

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Mike Leacy

Mike Leacy

Michael Leacy is Vice President of IT and Engineering Staffing Services at Ian Martin.He is also President and Board member of the National Association of Canadian Consulting Businesses (NACCB).His experience is enabling organizations to deliver technical/functional expertise for IT and engineering projects. He lives near the lake and can lay out with the best of them in centre field to make the catch.
Mike Leacy