It’s a fact: Technology, automation and artificial intelligence are expected to impact more than 40% of today’s positions across all industries.[i]
This sobering reality is already a key concern for both workers and recruiters—particularly in the IT industry, where the fast pace of technological change is creating a whole new set of demands. While a large proportion employees are facing the prospect of having to constantly update their skills to remain relevant, staffing professionals are being forced to find new ways to attract and retain top talent in emerging areas of expertise.
High demand and low supply
Automation, artificial intelligence, big data, analytics and other high-tech solutions are revolutionizing the workplace. These advancements can give businesses a powerful competitive advantage, but only if they are properly implemented. And to do that, companies need competent technical personnel. In other words, recruiting quality IT professionals has become essential to ensuring the future of many businesses.
Given the fast pace of innovation, there simply aren’t enough skilled workers available. Demand is growing much faster than supply. The labour shortfall is particularly acute for senior professionals, whose insights are needed to lead projects and mentor junior staff members. And to compound the situation, many seasoned tech workers have niche areas of expertise, making it that much harder for recruiters to find the perfect match for high-level positions.
As a result of the IT labour shortage, competition is fierce among employers and many businesses resort to aggressive strategies to poach their competitor’s employees. Some of the more ruthless recruitment tactics have included putting up billboards in front of a rival’s office or recruiting directly in a competitor’s parking lot. It’s a no-holds-barred contest to win the best candidates.
These gutsy strategies underscore just how essential tech experts are for businesses. After all, without skilled IT professionals, computer scientists, data analysts and AI specialists, companies run the risk of missing out on the digital shift altogether.
So, the question is: What are the best ways to attract and retain IT workers?
Due to the current IT labour shortage, candidates have the luxury of shopping around for the best job offer available. Salaries are always an important consideration, but smart firms are finding that they can appeal to future employees with benefits that go beyond financial compensation. Not only does this tactic save businesses money, it’s very effective in convincing candidates.
We’ve all heard of the incredible—and sometimes unusual—perks available at leading tech firms like Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Uber. These include onsite gyms, nap rooms, and outdoor offices, as well as the chance to bring your pet to work or take a lengthy leave of absence. In a controversial move, Facebook even decided to offer employees financial assistance for egg-freezing.
While small and mid-sized businesses aren’t expected the keep up with the industry leaders, they do have to beef up their incentives if they want to attract skilled IT workers. Today, businesses often offer flexible schedules, work-from-home opportunities and in-house training. They also provide clear work objectives and regular feedback so that employees feel valued and have a sense of where their career is headed. Free lunches, gym memberships and public transportation passes are also common perks.
Partnering with recruitment firms
Recruiting and retaining skilled computer science professionals is so challenging that many businesses turn to recruitment firms for help. Some choose to work with general staffing agencies while others prefer IT recruitment specialists. Each option offers its own advantages.
Large agencies are a good choice if your business has numerous positions to fill in various departments. They often help rope in recent graduates looking for entry-level positions. To help general recruitment agencies pinpoint the right candidates, businesses should provide them with a clear description of the available positions (outlining the technical skills required) as well as an overview of the corporate culture. With this information, a generalist recruiter should be able to connect you with competent juniors who jive with your team.
Specialized IT recruiting firms are a better choice if you have senior or niche positions to fill. With an in-depth understanding of the field, tech recruiters will introduce you to candidates who meet your current needs and offer skills that could prove valuable down the line. It’s an added service that pays dividends in the long run.
Finally, if your company’s core business isn’t IT, partnering with an IT consulting firm is an excellent investment. IT consultants will take a personalized approach that includes helping you determine what technologies are best for your short- and long-term goals, and then building a technical team to implement the plan. Getting expert advice from seasoned IT professionals can be very reassuring for in-house IT teams and executives in charge of technology budgets and corporate strategies.
 Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship, Automation Across the Nation: Understanding the potential impacts of technological trends across Canada