Talent is arguably the most important driver behind any successful business. But it’s no secret that IT organizations in the U.S. struggle to find an abundance of qualified applicants. According to a recent study by the talent agency, Manpower, the top three American jobs with the hardest time filling job vacancies are skilled trade workers, engineers and IT staff, in that order.
The currently sluggish economic environment exacerbates this problem, as people are looking to maximize team output and complete jobs with the greatest efficiency possible. Employing highly productive people is the key to surviving and thriving in any recession. While American universities are producing great talent, the rate at which students with necessary IT skills are graduating simply cannot keep pace with industry demand and technological change.
For instance, according to a recent article, in 2009 there were over 37,000 students who received bachelor degrees in computer science, but over 89,000 students with degrees in visual and performing arts.
Finding tech talent can often be difficult. So what, then, should today’s IT organization seek?
Whether you’re dealing with banking and financial services, pharma, insurance, healthcare, travel, logistics, media or anything else, grasping or understanding a customer’s core business is necessary for any successful IT applicant.
That, in combination with problem-solving skills, is the ticket to a successful new hire.
Five years ago, people used to look for programming, SOA or enterprise architecture skills. We used to drool over JAVA developers or C++ technology only experts. Today, however, when someone comes to me and says I have JAVA skills, I say "so what."
Today, the requirement is to find people who not only understand a programming language, but also understand the context of the business problem surrounding that language – that understanding of “why am I doing this?” and “what is the business issue that I am addressing?”
The above culture of “contextual thinking” developers contributes to the real success of projects, since talent can then add value to the big picture, instead of solely focusing on one’s own niche technical prowess.
Technology and end-user expectations have evolved over time – six years ago, when we were looking at the Internet, refreshing pages required time and we used to wait, but now, if you can’t refresh instantly, you become irate! What’s more is this is compounded by the rate of convergence (video, voice, pictures, streaming content) and the new normal of staying mobile on popular platforms and devices (Windows, Mac, ioS, Android (News - Alert), RIM, Tablets, etc).
Thus, hiring someone well versed not only in trends but also in the challenges and opportunities surrounding multichannel technologies is of the utmost importance. As a result, it’s imperative that one asks interview questions that go beyond technology and extend into business domains like industry & competitor landscape, macro-economic issues effecting sales and a sense of industry challenges associated with ROI.
Hiring the right talent is a huge step in the right direction, but once you’ve found that talent, safeguarding against attrition is the only way to stay competitive. Hiring managers must realize that IT workers have different needs for different industry segments. The modus operandi for an insurance IT department may be completely different than a media IT department – i.e. a different sense of deadlines, work flow and intensity.
Thus, managers must adapt, understand and listen. Adopting an open, inclusive and communicative company culture – what the legendary Jack Welch called “candor” – wherein employees can speak openly and have a vested stake in the success of the enterprise, is crucial to today’s talent crunch.