Things can change overnight in the tech sector, and savvy companies must stay on top of shifting trends or risk becoming irrelevant. Adapting to recruitment challenges enables companies to attract top talent, while businesses that fail to keep a finger on the pulse of the industry's workforce might find themselves scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel.
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The tech sector is currently facing a sizable skills gap, and probably always will. Technologies are developed at such a fast pace that companies require workers to have skills that aren't necessarily being taught yet in colleges. Even more so than other verticals, technology companies need to recruit the best talent because they need workers who are adaptable and capable of learning new skills.
Tech Must Address Its Diversity Problem
One thing that doesn't seem to change in the technology sector is the diversity problem. Twenty-eight percent of respondents to the IT Leaders and the Employment Market survey from tech staffing agency Modis believe gender is the biggest challenge to workplace diversity.
Tech workers have traditionally been predominately male, and even in the face of a shortage of skilled workers, the industry has done little to combat this problem.
"In order to shrink the gender gap within the tech industry, employers can start by taking an honest, hard look at themselves, and then actively seek out opportunities to fill any voids," says Jack Cullen, president of Modis. "While progress is being made, some industry leaders seem to realize there's opportunity for improvement from a macro scale but are not always conscious of the gaps and barriers that exist within their own business."
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In contrast, some companies are eager to add more women to their staffs, but they're failing to actively promote their need for more women workers.
"Employers should proactively speak to their interest in seeing more women in tech, whether it's in a company blog post, on social channels, through internal newsletters, at networking events, or at career fairs," Cullen says.
But just putting the word on the street isn't always enough. Larger companies that can afford to dedicate more resources to diversity initiatives should do so.
"Employers who have the means should invest more heavily in work-based learning programs, including internships, apprenticeships, co-ops, and the like," Cullen says. "This is a great way to build a pipeline of female tech talent and to jump-start their careers. The tech industry requires – and will continue to demand – some of the most talented workers on the planet. It's vital that we rally around the advancement of women within the industry so that we can equip tech teams with the highest skilled workers out there today and in the future."
Forty-one percent of respondents to the Modis survey also view age as a challenge.
"We're seeing many startups favor younger workers who have grown up in the digital age and are more naturally adept with technology," Cullen says. "Meanwhile, older generations are being overlooked, despite their ability to be trained, along with their experience and more developed soft skills. Hiring managers should consider building teams with a mixture of tenured workers paired with young talent. It's a great way to diversify a workforce and to encourage knowledge sharing."
Winning and Keeping Tech Talent
Keeping positions filled is a constant struggle that plagues technology companies. Because of a shortage of skills, employees are at risk of being lured to competitors willing to pay higher wages. Thirty-three percent of companies will offer an employed candidate a 6-9 percent raise to leave their job, and 32 percent will offer as much as 10-15 percent, according to the Modis data. Eighty-eight percent of respondents also say they would hire back someone who had left for another company.
Looking at this data, it's easy to see that companies that fail to offer competitive salaries and benefits won't have any luck hanging onto their top workers.
"Traditional benefits and attractive salaries are imperative to competing in today's tight labor market," Cullen says. "However, companies also must convey a purpose beyond turning a profit in order to retain top performers."
This higher purpose is partly a matter of workplace culture. Cullen says employers should consider the following questions when it comes to meeting employees' needs:
Do you understand your workforce's needs?
Are employees allowed flexible schedules or remote work options?
Do they have the training needed in order to stay on top of industry trends?
"It also plays into an individual's sense of personal worth – how do I fit into the big picture here?" Cullen says. "Am I gaining the skills I need in order to stay competitive in my field? Do I have a clear path for advancement at this company? If employers address these questions before they're asked, top talent will be more likely to feel their needs are met and that they have a bright future at their company."
Many in the industry feel that artificial intelligence (AI) might help to even the playing field between companies and workers, with 46 percent of survey respondents claiming the advancement of AI will have an impact on the future of tech. But with technology advancing so quickly, that may not be the case.
"While many tech leaders anticipate that certain jobs will disappear in the midst of automation, many are also confident that new jobs will always arise to fulfill the need for a human element of tech," Cullen says. "One of the toughest things about recruitment in the face of the fast and furious tech progress we're experiencing is the difficulty of predicting where the jobs of the future will be and, just as important, what the most in-demand skills will be."
Regardless of how AI develops and impacts the tech field, a skills gap is nothing new to this industry.
"Digitization has long been evolving faster than workers can upskill," Cullen says. "Now more than ever, we need to get better at that. As we advance more aggressively into the future, it's important that we develop a global workforce that knows how to keep learning and is paying attention to labor market trends. Moreover, every generation will need to understand how to transfer their skill sets to modern roles, and we should instill this behavior in students at an early age. Flexibility will be the key to success during this time of constant change."