By 2030, there will be a transnational talent deficit of more than 85 million people, according to a study by Korn Ferry. And the technology sector will be one of the industries most affected by this talent shortage. A Harvey Nash Group survey, meanwhile, reveals that 67% of technology leaders say there is a talent shortage in the field.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the demand for information technology (IT) talent is outpacing the number of qualified individuals to fill the many roles across the tech sector, in software development, computer engineering, quality assurance (QA) analysis and testing, and more. This has far-reaching consequences on businesses and consumers alike, with many struggling to stay afloat in a challenging economic climate.
What’s causing the technology talent shortage?
The technology industry was already growing at an unprecedented rate, with everyone and everything going digital. Then, the pandemic struck, causing the need for quality technology to skyrocket as businesses of all types moved their operations online.
With that demand for quality digital services, of course, comes the need for qualified professionals. Now, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) finds that professions in the computer and IT field, including software developers, QA analysts, and testers, are growing at a rate of 22% — much faster than average.
But the availability of talent is failing to match the supply. And the gap is only growing.
This is coupled with factors like the Great Resignation, which saw individuals across industries resigning from full-time roles at their companies at record rates. Quit rates peaked in November 2021, with 4.5 million U.S. workers leaving their jobs, citing low pay and a lack of respect from leaders.
Changing demographics are also playing a role in the IT talent shortage crisis. Many employers find that prospective hires lack the skill sets necessary for new positions requiring a high degree of innovation. This is at least partly because technologies are constantly evolving, and educational systems are struggling to keep up.
How to cope
That’s the problem — but what’s the solution? There are three main ways businesses can cope with the IT talent shortage.
Outsource work to external teams.
Increasingly, businesses outsource their tech work to firms in various locations, such as Latin America. This and other regions are becoming known as “hotspots” for talent and offer significant benefits to businesses in the U.S. and beyond. Some of these benefits are reduced costs, time savings, efficiency, and specialized skill sets. You will also have access to a global talent pool since you will not be limited to individuals or organizations with the knowledge and qualifications you need within your immediate area or even your country.
There are two main models to consider when going with an external provider: outsourcing projects and staff augmentation.
In the first model, the partner provider will complete the project independently, following the client’s requirements and specifications. They will put together their own team, leaving you to focus on your core business issues. Meanwhile, the staff augmentation model means that the provider will bring in professionals to fill in the gaps on your team and work side by side with your team members to complete projects.
If you choose this avenue, do due diligence and research all prospective providers. There are resources like Clutch.co, where you can read reviews and testimonials from clients who have worked with outsourcing companies. You should also interview the provider and take a look at their portfolio to ensure that they have experience completing quality projects in your sector.
Nurture internal pipelines.
One of your most invaluable strengths is your existing team. You may think you are experiencing a talent shortage when in reality, you haven’t leveraged the capabilities of your current IT professionals.
Be aware that this talent may not be immediately apparent. You may need to nurture and support your employees to help them advance and expand their skill sets. But investing in your team will definitely pay off. It is far less expensive to take this measure than to hire and onboard external IT professionals.
You must actively promote professional and career development, instituting such initiatives as educational opportunities and providing ample training. Additionally, benefits and compensation incentivize your employees to grow and stay with your company.
Consider non-traditional hires.
Obed Louissaint, Senior Vice President, Transformation and Culture, IBM, wrote a letter to then-US Secretary of Education nominee Miguel Cardona and Secretary of Labor nominee Marty Walsh. In the letter, he stated that, like many others in their sector, they often had difficulties finding candidates with the relevant skills to work in high-tech positions.
He said they had coined the term ‘new collar jobs’ in 2016 to refer to a surging number of careers that didn’t necessarily require a traditional bachelor’s degree but needed a specific set of in-demand skills. That focus on new-collar jobs had allowed them to open the aperture when it came to training and hiring for some of their most innovative and high-tech roles. IBM had then stripped bachelor’s degree requirements for more than half of their US job openings. They were continuously reevaluating their roles to prioritize skills over specific degrees.
IBM is not alone in this approach — many other tech companies are employing similar practices. The times when a computer science degree was considered critical for a highly-skilled technology worker are long gone.
To satisfy the requirements of your company and address the talent shortage, think beyond the standard requirements. Consider candidates with diverse backgrounds. There are plenty of self-taught individuals and those who have built their skills through coding boot camps, MOOCs, and other resources. They would certainly make valuable additions to your team.
The IT talent shortage is indeed a crisis. Still, by thinking outside the box and creating a strategy that identifies talent in unique places, you can ensure that your organization will overcome this challenge — and continue to build great solutions.