How businesses can deal with IT skills shortages

Skill Shortage
Skill Shortage

How businesses can deal with IT skills shortages

The technology sector is incredibly dynamic and the demand for IT professionals is at an all-time high. Businesses of all different sizes are seeking skilled IT workers to help them grow and expand, yet over 70% of tech firms are facing skills shortages. In our guide, we’ve outlined some of the issues skills gaps can cause and how businesses can cope accordingly through targeted recruitment, contractors, training and improving their hiring processes.

What is the state of the skills shortage?

A report from Robert Walters highlighted that around 70% of employers expect there to be a shortage and 24% of these businesses anticipate this to have a big impact on their recruitment. Due to a lack of education and training, IT vacancies are often difficult to fill and over half of employers have difficulty in finding the right technical skills for the roles they have available.

The most common reasons for these skills gaps are that there is too much of a demand for higher salaries from developers and this impacts companies through resource constraints. There’s also a significant lack of talent in the market, both in terms of the experience candidates have and the quantity of people gaining the necessary skills. As demand rises and technology evolves, this will only get worse unless more people are encouraged to join the IT sector.

Sector-specific qualifications and training is essential to ensure that employees have the core skills necessary to adapt to the emerging technologies in the industry, but this is lacking in the current job market. In many cases, employers are also finding that applicants may have the certifications but lack the hands-on experience to cope with the challenges of the workplace.

Specialists often can’t keep up with the continual demand for development and IT skills, as the market is moving at such a rapid rate. There’s also an issue for many businesses in that there’s a belief that the recruitment process takes too long where tech roles are concerned, which slows up access and operations for companies.

What does this mean for companies?

There are many disadvantages for companies when it comes to facing IT skills shortages, not least financial losses. Firstly, it makes it more difficult for businesses to scale their efforts and keep up with business demands, which is particularly worrying for smaller businesses trying to make an impact among their competitors.

It also means that businesses are likely to have application developments building up that can’t be dealt with, which hinders efficiency and growth.  A lack of skilled workers makes it harder for businesses to meet the expectations of their customers and clients, resulting in a number of businesses struggling to keep up with demand for their services.

software developer

What are the top skills in demand?

One of the primary skills in demand in the IT sector is cybersecurity, with over half of hiring professionals focusing on this skillset. But CTOs and software development are also required in huge numbers, along with business intelligence experts and data management professionals. Businesses have also been in need of cloud computing professionals in recent years, as well as project management staff. IT professionals in these fields are likely to be the most sought-after over the coming years, especially as the technology landscape evolves.

How can businesses overcome these challenges?

Employers need to pay attention to the specific needs of the industry they operate in and take a multi-levelled approach when it comes to tackling skills shortages, in order to attract the best talent and, more importantly, retain them. There are several options that businesses can take advantage of to alleviate the pressures from the skills shortage.

Train existing employees

One of the simplest options for businesses looking to make up for a shortage of skilled candidates is to train their existing employees in the necessary skills. This can be done in a number of ways, from training in-house via knowledgeable employees transferring their expertise to colleagues who are willing and eager to learn. Or to invest in online training where employees can gain qualifications and knowledge from third parties.

Naturally, the latter requires more of a financial investment from the business, but it can certainly pay off in the long term and ensures staff are trained in the relevant areas specific to your business. One of the benefits of upskilling existing staff is that they are already familiar with the company, its goals and its processes, which can streamline the process and enables companies to benefit sooner from the skills acquired.

Use contractors

Contingent workers such as freelancers and contractors can help businesses fill huge gaps in their operation in a cost-effective way and offers a near-instant resolution to the problem. Working with contractors makes it possible to really target specific skills and requirements within your business and it’s becoming an increasingly popular option for many companies.

The flexibility, availability and experience that contractors provide makes it possible for companies to find the ideal fit for their budget, projects and deadlines. And unlike a lot of areas of the job market, the number of contractors and freelancers is on the rise, which means that you have greater access to the people who meet your company’s needs.

Improve the hiring process

Hiring new talent is an obvious solution when it comes to skills shortages, but organisations need to not only find the right talent but also improve their hiring processes to fulfil this need. Hiring externally can be challenging when it comes to niche skill sets so the recruitment process needs to accommodate this accordingly.

This can be done in several ways, from gauging how much candidates know about the business, open-ended questions to test creativity and critical thinking, and testing their communication skills through questions about their passions and interests. Recruitment is a costly endeavour, so it’s vital that adding a new member to the IT team is the right fit for both parties.

Partner with education facilities

Partnering up with colleges, universities or training facilities provides access to skilled workers who are looking to gain experience, fulfilling the needs of both the business and the worker. What’s more, if they’re a good fit within the business, there’s potential to take them on full-time when their apprenticeship or graduate placement is over. This can be a budget-friendly way for companies to address the skills shortage.

Focus on retention

When your business is struggling to find new talent, it’s not in a position to lose the skilled workers that it has. With this in mind, one of the key ways to overcome skills shortages within your company is to focus on staff retention and ensure that the employees you have are encouraged to stay.

And this doesn’t necessarily mean paying your staff more – there are other benefits you can provide to set your business apart as a great employer. From flexible working opportunities to recognition through increased annual leave allowance or incentives, there are various ways that you can reduce staff turnover and maintain the skilled people on your team.

Understand where to look for candidates

Tech professionals often liaise with recruitment agencies when they want to transition to a new role, and many would consider temporary or contract positions given that contractors are growing in popularity for businesses. But there are often discrepancies between where candidates look for roles and where employers are recruiting.

Many professionals, for example, use online job boards to seek out vacancies while fewer employers usually advertise for tech roles here. Likewise, a large proportion of candidates will look to LinkedIn for positions while far fewer employers post jobs using this channel. Understanding where you’re more likely to find potential hires is incredibly important when it comes to hiring for niche skills, as otherwise you could be missing out on great candidates.

Final thoughts

Closing the IT skills gap is a complicated task that hasn’t been made any easier by the pandemic. But as organisations pursue a digital-first approach, having a skilled workforce is imperative. Whether your company invests in existing staff to upskill them, hires contractors to fill the gap for specific needs within the business, or looks to improve hiring processes and staff retention practices to hold on the staff you have, it’s clear that companies need to reassess their hiring endeavours.

Companies looking to hire contractors to help them on projects and business operations should contact ClearHub – we help businesses gain access to the best talent and the right tech skills.

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    Ultimate guide to recruiting remote staff

    Recruiting Remote Staff
    Recruiting Remote Staff

    Ultimate guide to recruiting remote staff

    Remote working has become increasingly popular for businesses across a host of industries, and it offers numerous benefits not just for employers but also for staff. The rise in collaborative technology has made it easier than ever to work as part of a team from any location in the world.

    In our ultimate guide to remote recruitment, we’ll cover the characteristics and skills that remote employees should have, how to hire remote candidates, and tools that remote teams can benefit from.

    Benefits of hiring remote staff

    For businesses, hiring remote staff can help to cut costs such as equipment or office costs. In fact, the savings can be so vast that some businesses have opted to work entirely remotely, enabling them to cut these costs entirely.

    Hiring remotely also enables companies to expand their talent pool considerably, as you’re not restricted to candidates who live within a set distance of the office. For firms who are seeking candidates for niche roles or requiring a specific skillset, this makes finding the ideal employee much easier.

    In fact, a survey conducted by tech platform Dice found that tech job seekers were primarily looking for two things when searching for a new role – healthcare benefits and the ability to work remotely. And with the demand for tech roles expected to rise by over 20% by 2028, being able to offer remote working to new candidates could make the hiring process easier.

    Studies have shown that remote staff are actually more engaged and productive than in-house employees, with a Global Workplace Analytics study finding that 53% of remote workers are more likely to work overtime compared to just 28% of in-office staff.

    The flexibility that remote working offers to employees can be an advantage, helping to improve morale and enabling them to create a better work-life balance. This in turn can improve employee retention rates and remove the risk of losing staff to relocation.

    remote working developer

    Qualities to look for when hiring remote employees

    As with any hire, there are certain qualities you need to look for when assessing applicants for a remote position.

    Communication skills – Strong communication skills are at the core of any effective team, and it’s one of the top soft skills that employers should be looking for when hiring any employee, but particularly for remote roles. Remote employees need to be responsive and able to maintain regular contact with their colleagues in order to foster effective collaboration.

    Organisation skills – Since remote staff will be working unsupervised, they need to be able to stay on top of their to-do lists and manage projects efficiently. Applicants need to be able to organise their time to ensure everything is completed to deadline and be able to adapt as new tasks come up.

    Technical skills – In addition to any job-related tech skills, remote workers need to be tech savvy in general to be able to adapt to collaborative tools, such as Slack or Google Docs. Part of the recruitment process should be gauging the skill level for the tools used within the team to ensure new hires can get started quickly.

    Reliability – Without seeing them every day and ensuring they’re staying productive, it’s vital that businesses can rely on the people they hire. It’s a difficult characteristic to assess in an interview setting, but it’s important to hire people that you can trust to do what they say they can.

    Self-motivation – Remote employees need to be self-motivated to get through tasks without someone monitoring their progress each day, as well as being proactive to resolve issues as they arise. Are they autonomous and happy to work with minimal supervision?

    Flexibility – Issues come up all the time that are unexpected and can’t be planned for, especially in a tech role, so you need to be able to rely on your staff to adapt accordingly. A remote hire needs to be able to work effectively with people in different teams and potentially different time zones, so flexibility is key.

    Responsiveness to feedback – There may be occasions when an employee’s work isn’t quite up to the standard the company expects or a project hasn’t gone to plan. In these circumstances, you may need to be able to provide feedback or constructive criticism, so it’s important that the person you hire is able to take that feedback on board and react appropriately.

    How to prepare for remote recruitment

    While hiring remote staff doesn’t require a complete departure from your standard onboarding process, there are some considerations to make before you start recruiting to help minimise pitfalls in the recruitment journey.

    Work with contractors

    If you’re new to the world of remote hiring, it can be a daunting prospect for your business. But hiring remote contractors can be a great way of seeing if working with remote employees is a good fit for your company and processes, as well as giving you valuable experience when it comes to hiring someone on a permanent basis.

    Determine the remote position you’re hiring for

    The first step to hiring a remote employee is to work out the type of role you’re hiring for – will they work remotely 100% of the time? Do you need them to work full-time or part-time? Do you need the employee to be able to work from different offices on occasion? These questions will help you establish what the role will look like to help you create a policy for remote working.

    Are there specific time zones you need to hire in?

    Time zones are important for effective collaboration in the business, in terms of video calls and meetings, as well as real-time conversations on projects. While there are tools that you can use to allow for asynchronous collaboration, it can be beneficial to be able to hop on a call with an employee if you need to, so weigh up how important this is for the role and the team.

    Pick the tech stack

    It’s crucial that each member of the team can work productively, no matter where they’re situated, so they need to be proficient in the tools your business uses day to day. From video conferencing and chat applications to project management and file management tools, and specific tools for the role, make sure the tech stack is chosen before you start interviewing candidates.

    Where to look for remote candidates

    Over the past 5 years, LinkedIn have reported a 78% increase in job postings highlighting work flexibility, with a large spike in the last 3 years. Companies who can provide this benefit are at an advantage over those who don’t.

    But knowing where to look for remote candidates can be difficult, especially if you’re recruiting for tech roles such as DevOps positions where recruitment can be challenging. In addition to your own company site and blog, there are other ways to recruit remotely and find new candidates for open positions.

    Employee referrals

    One of the most effective ways to hire remote employees is to look to your existing staff for referrals. In fact, research suggests that referrals are one of the best ways to hire new staff, reducing your recruitment time and helping to save the business money on agency fees and advertising costs.

    Social media

    A large proportion of businesses now use some form of social media to recruit new candidates and advertise for positions, and a quarter of all job seekers use social media to find new roles. The likes of LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter can be a great way of advertising remote job postings and sharing new vacancies.

    Remote job boards

    It can also be beneficial to look beyond the usual networks such as LinkedIn and find specialist platforms where niche positions are concerned, such as GitHub or Hacker News. In addition to including remote working within the job description, there are also sites you can look to when seeking prospective employees.

    Questions to ask when interviewing candidates for a remote role

    The interview process for hiring remote candidates differs slightly than for in-person applicants, in part because there are specific skills and qualities that remote staff need to have in order to work successfully. With this in mind, it makes sense to tailor the screening process accordingly. There are some questions you should ask when interviewing potential remote staff:

    What skills are important for remote workers?

    A practical remote worker will know that the answer to this question is more than simply being organised. An applicant should be able to highlight a more specific skillset such as taking a proactive approach to tasks and projects, strong problem-solving skills and excellent communication.

    Does the concept of remote working raise any concerns?

    This question allows you to gauge their feelings around working remotely, particularly if this is the first time they will be working away from the main office. There are always going to be challenges with remote working, so if the candidate doesn’t acknowledge these and simply glosses over the question, that could be a cause for concern.

    How do they stay productive?

    It’s important that the applicant won’t find being at home too distracting, so it can be useful to listen to the ways that they plan to stay productive and organised when they’re at home, and how they will overcome any distractions.

    Ways they avoid miscommunication

    Communication is one of the most important skills to have as a remote worker, as they won’t be able to read body language or tone of voice like they would in-person. Likewise, being part of a distributed team means there’s the potential to miss conversations or key pieces of information. It can be helpful to understand how the applicant will overcome this problem and how they will address it if it happens.

    When do they work best?

    One of the key benefits to working remotely is being able to determine your own schedule. Not everyone works efficiently during the standard 9-5 working hours, so it can be useful to know when the applicant works best and how they would manage deadlines and projects with this in mind.

    Contact us

    Remote recruitment is on the rise and more businesses are seeing the advantages that it can provide, in terms of adaptability, access to skilled individuals and the money it can save. If you need help sourcing skilled remote staff for tech positions, ClearHub can help. Get in touch with us today to learn more.

    Get in touch

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