Here's How Your Company Can Slam Shut Its Skills Gap

September 19, 2018

By Justin Biel, trends editor at Grow Wire

In short:

  • Tech companies are suffering from a shortage of skilled workers, according to a recent worldwide survey of CIOs.

  • Your company can approach the IT skills gap--or any skills gap--in two ways: creative labor sourcing or a revamped recruitment and retention process.

  • The latter is more critical, according to recruiting expert Jim Jonassen(opens in new tab): Elevate the importance of recruitment, prep for hiring needs ahead of time, and build retention programs. 

The skills gap in tech(opens in new tab) is affecting companies’ abilities to stay competitive, at least according to the majority of CIOs. 

The Harvey Nash / KPMG CIO Survey(opens in new tab) is the largest annual survey of IT leadership worldwide. This year, 65 percent of CIOs interviewed reported a lack of skilled talent holding their strategies back.

The survey also found that companies are continuing to invest more in cloud technology(opens in new tab), mobile(opens in new tab) and artificial intelligence(opens in new tab). However, these technologies only lead to better company performance when skilled employees are on-hand to implement them. And although CIOs continue to hire more employees, the survey reveals the highest perceived skills shortage since 2008. 

Some industry experts argue the IT skills gap isn’t legitimate(opens in new tab), that it’s merely a narrative analysts and politicians use to support irrelevant arguments. Whether the gap is legitimate or not, though, it’s likely your company has faced a lack of skilled talent--and the means to find it--at some point. Here’s how to handle your next one.

Source creatively.  

Companies are trying multiple methods to address the IT skills gap. Most often, they hire external workers like contractors and consultants. According to the CIO Survey, 51 percent of IT leaders use external workers “to some extent,” and 34 percent use them “to a great extent.”

Automation is another tactic: Nearly half (49 percent) of respondents expressed interest in process automation as a way to decrease headcount needs.

And of course, outsourcing remains a valuable labor source. While this was formerly just a money-saving move, companies are starting to see outsourcing and flexible labor “as skills enhancers rather than cost savers,” according to the survey. 

Some businesses also cross-train non-tech workers into tech roles, institute apprenticeship programs or purchase other companies with tech talent to fill their skills gaps.  

Or better yet, double down on recruitment and retention.

Creative labor sourcing is one way to address any skills gap. However, a robust recruitment and retention plan is even more effective, according to Jim Jonassen, an executive recruiter and talent acquisition expert who runs L.A. recruiting firm JJA Venture Search(opens in new tab).

In tech, there is a dramatic shortage of skills(opens in new tab),” Jonassen said on a recent episode of “The Grow Wire Podcast(opens in new tab).” “The biggest single problem is attraction and retention.”

To solve it, he offers four tips. Hear them in full on “The Grow Wire Podcast” below, and read on for a summary.

1. Treat recruitment as a main business function.

Just like finance, sales or business development, recruitment must be a primary business function if you desire long-term success, Jonassen said. (To hear his explanation, play the video above starting at 21:10.) He recommends recruiting talent as if you were recruiting for a pro sports team(opens in new tab): Covet and pursue C-suite employees as if they were star basketball players instead of treating them like a commodity. 

2. Prepare for hiring ahead of time.

Develop an inbound lead protocol to evaluate potential hires. Keep this pipeline open and humming so you can fill roles right when they become available instead of stalling progress while you await lengthy new hire recruitment processes.

"When it comes time to grow, it's already too late," Jonassen said (18:25).

3. Search for “candidates,” not “applicants.”

“Applicants” are folks who reach out regarding job opportunities. “Candidates,” meanwhile, are in demand because of their unique skills. Forget about fielding “applicants,” and proactively search for “candidates” instead, Jonassen advises (19:21).

4. Find a way to retain talent.

Having all-star candidates is the first step in closing the skills gap, but you have to make them want to stay. Compensation, stock options and company perks are only half the battle. To truly increase retention, Jonassen says execs must engage employees in the business’s overall mission (26:46). 

“It about transparency and openness,” he said. “You want to make sure everyone is engaged in the company story(opens in new tab), in addition to ongoing strategic and tactical initiatives.”  

  Like what you hear? Follow Grow Wire on Twitter(opens in new tab) for podcast episode updates.

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