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The IT Talent War Has Arrived and What You Can Do About It

On my summer vacation on beautiful Gull Lake in Northern Minnesota, there was one consistent new message: “Help Wanted” on nearly every restaurant, manufacturer, dealership, or countless other businesses. The conversation at the restaurant always started with: “Just to let you know, we are short staffed, so don’t expect good service.”

Thanks…

The service industry labour shortages have been well documented for part-time or seasonal workers: https://www.economist.com/finance-and-economics/2021/07/17/will-cutting-unemployment-benefits-in-america-ease-labour-shortages

But, in the IT industry with relatively high paying and secure jobs during the difficult times of the COVID pandemic there weren’t any imminent signs of any concern. People were mostly staying put. There were surveys and some research that predicted a shift in trends, but it had yet to play out: https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/the-future-of-work-after-covid-19#

In the last few weeks, as vaccines have finally started to rescue the global economy (please get Vaccinated!)  and get people back to work, it appears the predictions may be starting to come true. I’ve noticed at Mindset some difficulties hiring new talent, and many of our uniquely talented UX and Innovation SAP thought leaders are being pursued by competitors. There have also been anecdotal stories of people getting offers 20-30% higher than what was considered industry-leading compensation just a few months ago. 

Why is this happening? There are several theories out there, but I have one observation for consideration: The rapid push to hybrid and remote work for IT has decoupled geographic limitations on the labour pool. The following factors seem to be at play for a given job:

  • Global availability of talent greatly increases available supply (depressing prices in theory).
  • Historical lower-cost geographies like India normalizing pay globally (if everyone is remote, does it matter where they are working from?)
  • An individual resource is now being sought out by global demand / players, market-pricing more efficiently (maybe).
  • Individuals that are able to digitally market themselves are the ones being sought out globally, the rest are being left behind. (If you are not on LinkedIn with a rock solid profile, you will not be found).
  • Many large companies including Global Integrators laid off a lot of staff during the pandemic, and are now short on talent.
  • With the economy rapidly rebounding, IT project sales are skyrocketing and everyone is trying to rapidly hire / rehire to fulfill demand. 

While some parts of that hypothesis seem to be permanent (globalization of IT workforce), the supply and demand of labour should normalize as the rapid growth and backlog stabilizes. 

What can we all do about this?

Employees / Talent:

  • Continue to skill up on hot topics, such as UX, Cloud, AI
  • Make sure you are digitally engaged, marketing yourself, and have updated LinkedIn profiles.
  • Think long-term. A 20% pay bump may sound great to go from Agency A to Agency B, but they will all respond to market conditions in the same way and normalize to their optimal gross margins. What is the company mission, culture, and trajectory, and what role can I have in impacting those things? Also, job hopping can be seen as a negative on resumes in the long run. 
  • Always build relationships of trust and follow through on commitments.

Agencies:

  • Never stop focusing on employee experience. The consulting business is always first about the people and growing together.
  • Visit and revisit market compensation. Just because another agency is paying way over market price doesn’t mean it’s wise to copy them. Losing money and becoming insolvent isn’t going to solve the problem.
  • Build deep and trusting relationships with customers. They are likely aware of the pricing challenges and may be willing to adjust pricing to keep projects on track.

Enterprise Customers:

  • Research and analyze deeply the rapidly changing marketplace. Make all of your managers aware of the data.
  • Be nimble. 
  • Have a multi-layer sourcing strategy with many vendors large and small. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. 
  • Don’t use external vendor management services or any sort of preferred vendor list. The lack of competition only increases prices, decreases quality and slows down the talent acquisition process by putting up barriers to find and hire. (What if someone gave you a preferred restaurant list that said you could only eat at Applebee’s, Olive Garden or Chi-Chi’s… no thanks!? I’ll take Pizzeria Lola or Spoon & Stable!)
  • Instead of outsourcing talent acquisition to sourcing, or an external service provider, have your managers prioritize it. Have them get involved in finding, engaging, and building relationships with people and agencies they trust.
  • Be flexible on pricing, realizing that the market will dictate rates and they may change rapidly. This goes for both internal w2 employees, as well as consultants. 

While things are rapidly changing, there are also many things to be grateful for: incredible demand for work, a rapidly improving global economy, free or cheap accessibility to learning, and the ability to find and attract the best talent from across the globe.

Please share in the comments on Linked in or Twitter  any of your challenges in the talent war and any feedback you have on the thoughts I shared.

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