Industry spotlight: IT

it-image-croppedBefore All Else, Be Armed.
Technology vacancies in Scotland are at a record high and the gap in the jobs market for these skills has pushed up the price of specialist IT staff such as developers and electrical engineers to 3 times the national UK average.

The market is suffering from a war for talent, where companies are fighting for very scarce specialist talent. When the UK recession hit, not enough companies were in a position to hire graduates 3-4 years ago. This has resulted in a vast underinvestment in Scottish talent. Not enough people were getting hired and so unable to gain the relevant industry experience that employers are now looking for. Today this demand has risen dramatically with UK Tech companies having grown at a rapid pace. The sector is now performing better than it has in decades. In Scotland in particular, this success can be attributed to the vast number of start ups in ‘tech hubs’ Glasgow and Edinburgh, so much so that tech jobs in Edinburgh now rank as the second highest paying salary in the UK, closely followed by Glasgow.

With high growth comes high demand; so how can employers today fulfil their requirements for experienced IT talent, when not enough of it exists?

I believe that instead of taking part in the battle for talent employers must instead focus on putting a stop to the skills gap; do more to offer long term training and development and incentive programmes which will not only build up long term staff retention but help stop the “war” for talent.

For any good candidate, despite what experience they may have, continuous learning and development is what excites them and often their reason for applying and accepting new jobs. What we need to remember here is that specialist IT talent is unique, in that those looking for a new job are often less concerned about the money but more interested in the technologies involved, the environment they will be working in and the opportunity to create something wonderful with their sought after skills.

For these talented individuals what we have found is that it isn’t money that drives them to seek out new challenges, but the opportunity to continue learning and developing their career. The opportunity to widen their experience and the excitement of creating something wonderful with their skills is what really motivates them. Companies who want this talent try to buy it by offering the highest salary however this alone isn’t going to feed their curiosity or keep talent around for long.  They must offer much more and this is where start ups are unrivalled. The opportunity for growth, focussed training and development and the chance to shine can be much greater in the smaller, agile and innovative start ups. It is here that career progression can be achieved, learning opportunities are much greater and individual contributions can really make a difference. If large employers or corporations want to rival this environment they must to do more to replicate the benefits offered by these small companies.

Passive candidates tend to be favoured by employers over hiring someone inexperienced as they come trained and with guaranteed experience. The problem here is it doesn’t allow new talent the opportunity to get jobs and build up their skills or experience. Rather than hiring and developing new talent, employers are ‘increasingly demanding that employees arrive as fully-formed experts in their fields’, and this is exactly what is perpetuating the skills gap.

The problem with pinching talent from one another is that very often it is the company who offers the highest salary tends to win the battle for the talent. Large corporate companies who can offer large salaries and benefits packages to candidates can easily promote theirs as the most beneficial to their career. Not to mention bigger budgets to market their recruitment process and attract candidates.

Shouldn’t it be the employer’s responsibility to put a stop to this, take on new hires, take responsibility for their training and development and do their part to put a stop war for talent? Instead of taking part in the battle for the top talent, train up their own top talent?

I can fully understand the concerns of employers, if employers hire those who – they feel – are below standard what does that mean for productivity? Will their output suffer? It is a competitive market out there and who has time to train up talent?

Yes, taking their most experienced staff away from being productive and spending 3 to 6 months training someone up is hardly ideal. In the short run, it will impact productivity and output. However, businesses need to look beyond this and focus on longer term gains. Look at the bigger picture here and invest in developing talent with the relevant industry skills in order for the market to reach a sustainable equilibrium. For this to happen it is important now more than ever for employers to invest in staff development and focus on staff loyalty; simply advertising higher salaries or better benefits aren’t going to solve an industry-wide problem. In many larger firms we have seen management struggle to reward and encourage their employees. If they have already paid them so much to begin with, a pay rise is not going to seem very significant. They must offer other tangible benefits of working at their company to entice talent and reinforce employee growth and development in the same way start ups can.

Those who may not have the experience can still be a great source of potential talent. In order to tap into that skill, employers must consider the longer term development and growth of that individual. Employers must stop taking part in the war for talent, and instead focus on building the experience of individuals up whilst at the same time building up staff retention and incentive programmes to not only bring in the new talent but also to keep it.


Published for by Enigma People Solutions