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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