Recruiting, hiring and retaining – the technology skills shortage
You’re recruiting a role yourself or you’re working with your in-house team to do it. Or perhaps you are using a recruitment firm (or three or ten). However you’ve decided to find your next hire you’ve been left scratching your head, wondering why you have an inbox full of junk and an empty interview schedule. It seems no-one wants your job and no-one wants to work at your firm.
I think most people interested in recruiting and talent acquisition are familiar with McKinsey’s 1997 study called ‘The War For Talent’. Regardless of what you think of the finer details of their work e.g. what exactly do they mean by ‘Talent’, it was a pretty neat piece of horizon scanning. It describes the recruitment landscape we’re now living in. Some will have you believe there is no war for talent, but my experience suggests there is fierce competition to hire the best, so calling it a ‘war’ is as good a description as any.
If you have an understanding of why your inbox isn’t falling over with obvious, top-drawer candidates for your software developer job, your Oracle FusionHCM technical consultant or your specialist UX/UI opportunity, you can take measures to make your jobs and your business more attractive.
Here are my thoughts on some of the main root causes of the techie talent shortage.
1. many of the best brains in tech in the 1960s, 70s and 80s were hobbyists. They were a personality type that were good at Maths and Physics at school. They built home radios. They probably built their first computer. I did – a Sinclair ZX81 with a 16K RAM pack (16K of memory!). But later, anything geeky became a cause for derision. Kids bought games consoles rather than write their own games in BASIC or Assembly language. Gaming became cool and mainstream but you couldn’t (easily) write code for a PlayStation or Xbox.
2. the education of a generation was left in the hands of politicians and not subject matter experts or business leaders. When business said it needed an IT-savvy workforce, Tony Blair and his New Labour experiment educated a generation in how to do pretty PowerPoint and MS Office. You want to know why you sit through so many PowerPoint presentations at work? Blame Tony Blair for Death By PowerPoint. Universities taught undergraduates about Turing, Gödel, punch card readers, Boolean algebra and how to do a third year project to get a 2:1. Employers have had to take new graduates and give them the skills relevant to business and research.
3. outsourcing. And so we reap what we have sown. Has the great outsourcing craze of the 1990s and beyond failed? No, probably not entirely. But we exported so many technology jobs that a lot of the best know-how at the technical layer now resides in India and other low-cost countries. In 1998, you wanted MBAs on £12,000 a year salaries working on your projects and you got them. And now they’re over here on £750 per day, working on your projects in 2016. How’s your budget looking? Too many contractors, not enough permanent staff on the payroll?
4. gender diversity. For too long, technology has predominantly been regarded as a boys’ club. There are very successful women in tech, but overall women are woefully under-represented in the technology workforce. There are great initiatives: Women In Technology and ScotlandIS are doing good work in this area, but a large proportion of 50% of the workforce haven’t and won’t consider a technology career.
So, we see a stream of talent dry-up, jobs exported, half the workforce ignored or alienated and the wrong kind of skills being taught. No wonder there is a shortage of people who could do your job.
The good news is that there are some people out there who can do your job and may actually want to do it. However, you need to find them, attract them and retain them. Remember that it isn’t always about the money or the perks or the pension plan. Ask the guys (and girls) who took a risk and went to work for an early stage Skyscanner, Fanduel, Facebook, Google or Uber. It’s often about the people, interesting work, using new technologies and methodologies, the environment itself and some kind of appetising future that doesn’t necessarily smack of ‘corporate slave ship’.
A good recruiter (in-house or agency) can help you build a great value proposition that will attract the best talent. If you don’t use recruiters, you can probably do this yourself with an investment of time and effort. You’ll need to look at your hiring process in an honest, objective and unflinching way. If you don’t sell your firm and your opportunity, give up. Amazon used to be bleeding edge, they’re not any more. The disruptive players in the FinTech market of 5 years ago are regarded as mature businesses – who wants to talk payments systems when you could be working on Blockchain technology?
Whether you’re a mature bank or a pre-IPO start-up, you have to be prepared to be humble and give reasons why your business is a good place to spend 50 hours a week (even better if they only have to be there three days a week!!) and why the job is challenging and rewarding. The old, adversarial style of combative interviewing will yield you nothing or give you the wrong kind of people; which is actually more costly and worse in the long run.
Do you have a recruitment portal? Bin it. Seriously. I haven’t seen a good one yet. They can suck the soul out of applying for a job. Most candidates are savvy enough to know your ATS and portal are a black hole for CVs. Find another way. Speak to me. Speak to someone else. But get rid of it. I wrote this about the horror and waste of Recruitment Portals: ‘Demanding the Impossible?’
From the dawn of time, when there was a go-to guy for fire and a know-how guy for wheels and rollers, there’s always been a war for talent. It isn’t going to go away anytime soon. You can find the right people for those hard-to-fill jobs, but you need to understand the talent landscape you’re hunting in. People probably do want to work for your firm, but you just haven’t told them in a language they’ll hear and understand why they should want to join you.
I am always pleased to speak with hiring managers, in-house specialists and HR professionals about their hiring challenges and possible solutions. You can reach me on 07743 978179 or email Kenny@northstarresourcing.com or connect with a message via LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/kennymcallister/