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The IT Skills Crunch: Time to Get Creative

Finding talent is a challenge in a time of economic uncertainty, but leaders are finding ways to do it.

Anybody who reads the business news is reminded almost daily that the world’s largest technology firms continue to lay off employees in large numbers, but that doesn’t mean the market for good information technology workers is softening.

Far from it—ManpowerGroup research shows the opposite is true. Earlier this year, we surveyed nearly 39,000 employers in 41 countries around the world. The findings were surprising. Even in a sluggish (at best) global economy, consider:

  • 77% of employers across industries say they are still struggling to find the skilled talent they need. This figure is a 17-year high and actually increased 2% vs. 2022.
  • The IT sector is still struggling with talent scarcity; 78% of IT employers reported they were still struggling to find the skilled talent they need.
  • Employers across industries reported IT and data skills were the most difficult to find, with 27% reporting difficulty finding candidates with these skills.  
  • Hiring demand in IT remains strong. The Net Employment Outlook—the net of employers looking to hire vs. those planning layoffs—remained positive at 34% and was the highest of any industry vertical.  

Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs), hiring managers, and IT departments worldwide don’t need to see the numbers; they’re reminded every day that identifying, recruiting, interviewing, and hiring vital tech employees is a massive challenge. 

In our IT World of Work 2023 Outlook, we identify seven key trends driving IT innovation and examine the effect these trends, briefly noted here, will have on the workforce: 

  1. Digital transformation is accelerating in every industry.

  2. Artificial intelligence in its many forms (machine learning, large language libraries, chat, etc.) has exploded in ways the world is just beginning to grasp. AI in 2023 is what the internet was in 1993—with more far-reaching challenges and benefits 

  3. The Internet of Things, already well established, will continue to grow at an exponential pace. 

  4. Software development is being revolutionized by AI/ML and other factors, demanding increased attention to quality assurance talent. 

  1. Enterprises will continue to move to the cloud, impacting businesses of all sizes in all industries. 

  1. Security, security, security—it will become more important, and more difficult to staff, than ever. 

  1. Automation and robotics skills will be vital as businesses seek to accomplish rote tasks via digital machines.  

With businesses needing to find talent in all these areas, it’s no surprise that many now view the entire globe as the marketplace; 55% of our survey respondents say they’re willing to hire outside their borders, with a particular focus on IT and communications.

But this raises a fresh set of challenges. In the remote/hybrid ”gold rush” for talent, we’ve seen a big increase in “fake candidates.” These are people who lack IT skills but create impressive resumes. When it comes time for an interview, they may have a proxy feed them correct answers, or even stand in for them. Then these fake candidate become “real” employees and part of a large team that an end-client pays for. In my view, this is a significant problem that demands a solution.

Reasons for hope
So what are we seeing? I’ve laid out some major challenges, but don’t be daunted!

While the statistics may look formidable, CHROs and hiring managers cannot and should not throw in the towel. Rather, they need to get creative, finding imaginative ways to fill their own talent pipeline. In my meetings with businesses of all sizes, I’ve seen some amazing solutions. Here are some reasons to roll up your sleeves and remain hopeful:

  • Tech layoff jiu-jitsu. In this martial art, skilled competitors exploit their opponent’s body weight and momentum to their own advantage. As behemoth tech companies continue to shed the employees they hoarded back in the glory days of 2019, use the trend in your favor, welcoming these skilled professionals to your staff. Typically, young workers in the technology field set their sights on the Metas, the Googles, the Apples. But as those brand-name firms reduce headcount and freeze hiring, more talent becomes available to businesses that may be in less glamorous industries—but are great employers offering stability, flexible working conditions and interesting IT work.

  • Tear up paper ceilings. In today’s environment, employers are getting more creative about hiring—and are doing more due diligence, often using the very big-data skillsets that are so challenging to find. The days of simply hiring by degrees and credentials are over. In IT, creative hiring often takes the form of looking beyond degrees to skills and traits. I recently spoke with a senior executive whose assistant had upskilled into a cybersecurity position within the company. The employee had no background in security, or even IT, but the savvy employer identified skills (both hard and soft) that could be used to fill a key position.

  • Partnerships work. At ManpowerGroup, we advise clients to use a multipronged, fluid talent strategy: Build (grow your own talent), Buy (hire as necessary), Borrow (cultivate third-party communities of talent), and Bridge (help employees grow into new roles with active, long-term up-skilling and re-skilling programs). In that third category of borrowing, we see many creative partnerships in IT—large enterprises partnering with technology specialists to ensure they have the skills they need. IBM and SAP are one example as they team-up to help with cloud implementations; Verizon and Cisco, too, are partnering. These are not your father’s outsourcing deals, but rather side-by-side working arrangements intended to focus in-demand tech skills where they’re needed most.

The IT skills crunch is very real, and it’s not going away anytime soon. But resourceful CHROs are finding creative solutions that will help their businesses not only access the skills they need, but snare competitive advantage by standing out in their industry.

About the Author

Carolyn Balkin is a Vice President and General Manager at ManpowerGroup, a global leader in workforce solutions and human resources services. She oversees the global sales strategy and operations for the IT industry, helping clients navigate the rapidly changing world of work and talent. She has over 10 years of experience in the staffing and consulting sector, with a focus on delivering innovative and customized solutions for complex business challenges. Prior to joining ManpowerGroup in 2016, Carolyn was a Global Senior Director of Commercial Services at FIS Global, a leading provider of technology solutions for the financial services industry. She led a team of sales professionals across North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific, driving revenue growth and customer satisfaction. She also held various leadership roles at Experis and Manpower, where she managed strategic accounts and developed new business opportunities. Carolyn holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from St. Bonaventure University. She is passionate about empowering people and organizations to achieve their full potential through learning, development, and career advancement. She is also an active member of several industry associations and networks, such as Women in Technology International (WITI) and the Society for Information Management (SIM). Carolyn lives in Buffalo, NY with her husband and two children. She enjoys traveling, reading, and skiing in her spare time.

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