Category: Featured

Over-specialization adding to skills shortage
Finding, attracting, hiring, and retaining top talent in technology continues to be a challenge as we enter the new year.  The resultant trends post pandemic that have enabled the necessity of a wide-spread workforce have become a Pandora’s Boz that will likely stay open forever.

Recruiting top professionals in technology is one area that has long been in flux. According to Ryan Kellner, Head of Data Science for Hudson Gate Partners, adjusting to talent needs in the sector should be nothing new.  He believes that, like in each year, there are some very specific trends that have come to light as well as some challenges that continue to be seen.  Mr Keller said, in reading the tea leaves of the technology world, that one thing is certain, and the recruitment industry must pay heed, and that is: many people are never returning to the office full time again.

“Growing up in Indianapolis in the 80s and 90s, all the tech firms were downtown, and everyone lived in the suburbs and made the commute back and forth every day,” said Mr Kellner. “Then some companies got wise and said, ‘We can get better talent by building our headquarters in the suburbs because we will get the talent that doesn’t want the long commute!’ They were right. All the good developers flocked to solid companies that were a five- to 10-minute drive from where they lived. They could get their kids out to the bus, participate in after-school programs, and everyone’s work/life balance got a bit easier.”

This same thinking is where we are at now post-COVID, he said. “The factor that seemingly dictates my response rate to recruiting calls and emails the most these days is not the company, it’s not the salary, it’s not the perks. It is whether the job is fully remote or not,” he said.

What you’re up against 

According to Mr Kellner, the job market is so hot these days for good people in tech that candidates seem to be looking for reasons not to continue with the interview process. “I was recently working with a strong developer with an MS in computer science and five years in financial software development who was interviewing with some of my clients,” he said. “I asked him where else he was actively interviewing and he listed every FANG company, Tesla, Robinhood, etc. If you want to hire some good developers in 2022, this is what you’re up against.”

To hire top talent, employers need a plan on how they are going to make that person pick their company over the current batch of trendy tech companies. “If you aren’t selling why your company is great in the first interview, it’s not happening,” said Mr Kellner.

Once again, this highlights the importance of the employer brand and is a trend to watch in 2022.

Double-edged sword for recruiting

Mr Kellner reported another noticeable trend of the last two years and that is those with traditional software engineering backgrounds increasingly wanting to specialize into fields like data science, machine learning, AI, blockchain etc. Keller believes that this variety of specialization options is a double-edged sword for recruiting because while it’s creating a great number of hyper-specialized individuals, it’s also draining the core demographic of pure software developers.

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As we come out of the pandemic, the economy has bounced back faster and stronger than anyone imagined and the number of jobs available are at record levels.

In general, it is always wise to treat dramatic headlines or simple phrases with a large pinch of salt. My rule of thumb is this: does the person promoting the headline have an interest in it being true? If so, approach with caution.

Likewise, any survey that takes ‘intent’ and translates it into ‘certainty’ should also be handled with care. For example, a statement that ‘60% ofcandidates intend to change jobs in the next six months’ does not mean that is what’s going to happen. For the last 10 years I have fully intended to lose 10kg and do a triathlon and yet both are but still unachieved!

Which brings me to the ‘great resignation’. Despite the ubiquity of the phrase, it’s been surprisingly hard to find compelling evidence to support that it’s actually happening.

Let’s look at the evidence in favour. As we come out of the pandemic, the economy has bounced back faster and stronger than anyone imagined and the number of jobs available are at record levels. It is also a fair assumption that there is an element of catch up from candidates who have wanted to change jobs since last year but were nervous about doing so. Another factor is that September is historically an active month for jobs changes.

It is also increasingly understood that employers who refuse to consider more flexible working patterns or who appeared indifferent to the challenges of their employees during the pandemic may suffer some sort of backlash. But the ‘great resignation?’ I’m not so sure.

Let’s consider the other side of the argument. Many industries are still very challenged with employees terrified, not just about changing jobs in their sector, but about losing the one they have. There are still around one million workers about to come off furlough which will have some impact on re-dressing the imbalance in the labour market.

And if we are to talk about the ‘great resignation’, we must also look to its equal and opposite force ‘the great retention.’ The vast majority of HR and TA people can not only read, but they can count and think and figure out that something needs to be done. Whether that’s increasing salaries (around20% should do it) creating more flexible working patterns even for employees who are still required to be on site for 100% of their jobs, looking at innovative learning and development initiatives and so on and so on, they know they need to respond, and they are.

So yes, we do have a truly unique labour market right now, and no, the mismatch between supply and demand won’t last forever. In the meantime there will be a higher degree of market movement than usual but ‘the great resignation?’ I don’t think so.

Whilst the pandemic has changed many things, it hasn’t changed the fact that the best employers attract and retain the best talent but that doesn’t make much of a headline.

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