Tech Talent Trends: What’s HOT & What’s NOT

tech talent

I’m seeing a few shifts this year in IT talent acquisition as technologies grow, new ones emerge and companies work to cut costs by blending full-time employees with project consultants. Some see the world of an hourly consultant as a flexible/easy way to work, one that appeals to entrepreneurs. Others look at it as a snowball effect of the labor market crash in 2008 and the need to generate income.

One thing hasn’t changed this year: recruiting top talent is still difficult for most companies, and demand far outweighs the supply. That’s influencing many aspects of attracting high demand technology candidates, including compensation and retention. Here are a couple of items that are HOT and some that are starting to cool off.

HOT: Workplace flexibility

Even for companies that want their employees onsite 100% of the time, workplace flexibility is on the rise, according to a number of experts and studies that weigh in on what job candidates want. Being able to work from home or a coffee shop, or carving out a day or two as part of a longer vacation is increasing. Technology mobility is constantly innovating, and companies need a combination of in-office workplaces and flexible remote work options. In the tech industry, remote work is essentially an expectation in 2017.

I’ve seen workplace flexibility become a major trend for the tech industry, both in IT and across all job functions. The aim is to achieve greater work-life balance, which can help with retention and stems burnout.

COLD: 100% remote work

While workplace flexibility is on the rise, fully remote work setups aren’t nearly as common. Large organizations like IBM, Yahoo and HP are some of the notable examples of companies that recently eliminated the ability to work remotely full time, unless you received special approval.

Hiring trends for companies have shifted heavily toward building teams of 100% on-site, full-time employees. Companies with large portfolios of tech projects are focused on building out teams to address the varied technical and product needs they have. A key element to a high-performing team is building trust, which comes most naturally from collaborating face-to-face daily.

It’s obvious that office-based work isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. It all depends on the role that you are in, maximizing your productivity and finding what works best for you. There needs to be a balance so that people feel like they have freedom but are also accountable for doing their job. Some companies report increased productivity using collocated teams and some don’t. Organizations need to be less worried about whether employees need to be in the office and more about how you can foster engagement and increase communication regardless of where they are.

HOT: Soft skills

While candidates’ technical chops are assumed, soft skills are the differentiator in identifying the good talent from the bad. Companies are looking to hire people who can communicate clearly, listen carefully, and be a strong team player. It’s great to have certifications and/or a technical degree, but the soft skills are more important. A combination of both is what employers are looking for. We are seeing a trend of companies hiring entry-level resources with a high risk/reward model.

COLD: Perks you don’t want

Because firms are having trouble recruiting and keeping top talent, some throw gimmicky perks to sweeten their job offerings. They try to compete by offering crazy packages to attract the top talent in the market but it’s a double-edged sword in the long term. You will run into all kinds of problems around compensation leveling and over time it leads to discontent on the team. What employees really want is a sense of meaning at work. They want to make an impact and have something tangible to hang their success on.

Hiring managers need to focus on communicating purpose, not just offering perks. Most workers are not in their dream job, so that means the last 5-10 years of throwing ping pong tables and beers in the office at employees hasn’t worked.

HOT: Skill development

In employee surveys, job candidates report that one of the most desirable job benefits is the ability to pursue professional development on company time. Also, access to projects to help keep their skills up-to-date was at the top of their list as a reason to help retain them at their current jobs.

Employees want to feel the company is investing in them now, but they also want to feel the company is investing in their future. Offering continuing education or professional courses are very important as they stay with the employee even if the employee leaves the company.

COLD: Identifying top talent

Across the country, tech firms and other industries that rely on IT talent say they can’t find qualified candidates to quickly fill their needs. When in-demand candidates do enter the labor market, they are often picked up at lightning speed. The talent pool they want to recruit from may already be interviewing with several other companies or considering multiple offers.

There’s an ongoing battle for talent which factors into rising salaries and trouble retaining employees. That’s why salaries are increasing and the talent gap is increasing. A large percentage of businesses are unable to find qualified candidates to deliver their projects.

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