Don't Fall Victim to the 'War on Technical Talent'


Whether you call it the “War on Technical Talent” or something far less ominous, there is no doubt that there is a major shortage of qualified technical talent here in the U.S.

With this shortage of talent and record demand, it is no wonder companies from enterprise to startups are struggling to find and hire the right technical talent for their organization. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for IT professionals is in the low single digits, thanks in large part to increased IT spending (an estimated $3.7 trillion in 2013 according to information technology research company Gartner). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2016, technical hiring will increase to more than double the growth rate for all other occupations.

Microsoft recently raised the alarm on the subject in a report indicating things are only likely to get worse over the next decade as the divide between the supply of qualified technical talent and the number of job openings requiring their expertise grows wider.

The Business Higher Education Forum also recently highlighted the issue, linking to data showing in 1997 there were roughly 3.8 million 9th graders in the United States, but by 2007, only about 230,000 students were graduating from college with STEM degrees. Clearly, the U.S. education system has work to do to fill this gap in a long-term solution.

The new normal is ‘do more with less,’ so there are fewer specialized functions within any HR organization. Everyone has to know a little bit about everything—but not a lot about anything specific, such as tech functionalities. This ends up being a problem when it comes to technical recruiting.

When HR professionals at digital companies lack technical proficiency, there is a greater risk of bad hires. Hiring the wrong talent puts companies at a severe disadvantage, with employee turnover costing an average of more than $25,000 per employee, not to mention the loss of time and innovation from not having the right players at the table.

So how can companies –regardless of size-- overcome these challenges?

If you’re a larger enterprise brand, such as Google, you can afford to woo top talent with lavish perks – everything from unlimited vacation time and access to sports facilities to on-site amenities and lucrative signing bonuses. Obviously those kinds of perks are much harder for a small business or startup to afford. That doesn’t mean they can’t compete with the “big boys,” though.

Startups and small businesses tend to have very loyal employees; so when it comes to technical recruiting, these often outspoken fans of the brand can often be the best way to find new qualified talent as well. Once identified, many companies from Fortune 100’s to startups are evolving the interviewing process by giving candidates real-time opportunities to showcase both their technical prowess and their cultural fit. This helps bring the process back full circle to ensure the people you do hire make the most sense for your organization’s needs.

In the end though, the smarter you hire and the better you do at keeping that top talent, the easier it will be to attract fresh talent with innovative ideas. Which will allow you not only to minimize casualties, but eventually, come out ahead in this current conflict.