When it comes to hiring the best people with the right skill-sets, it’s hard for businesses to maintain a long-term view. Hires are often made with an eye toward filling an open slot as fast as possible, not whether the candidate will prove invaluable to the organization over the next decade. How can businesses ensure that they’re thinking ahead when they hire?
The majority of tech workforce planning efforts are focused quarter to quarter, with a high dependence on assembly of flash teams, according to a TEKsystems survey of more than 300 tech leaders, including chief information officers, tech vice presidents, tech directors and tech hiring managers.
The report found that companies’ failure to attain qualified tech professionals is due in large part to workforce planning gaps; the result has been bandwidth issues (as reported by 58 percent of those surveyed), missed timelines (55 percent) and productivity issues (51 percent).
“Effective workforce planning requires tying technology projects to longer-term organizational goals,” TEKsystems global analyst relations lead Karsten Scherer told Dice. “Most organizations have always struggled with this.”
He explained that without a programmatic approach—adhering to a particular method or strategy—to workforce planning, companies end up stuck in a loop of fire drills when it comes to aligning people to projects, and it can cost them big time.
In the report, 62 percent of the surveyed tech leaders mentioned budget overruns, missed project deadlines, and the like as side-effects of the failure to look long-term.
Scherer also noted that technology spend has steadily crept outside of core tech over the past decade, with other parts of the business buying, implementing and staffing their own applications.
“It’s hard enough to workforce plan effectively with regards to only part of the organization,” he said. “Now add in several others, as technology projects now span much more broadly across the organization, and your challenge multiplies.”
The highly competitive job market for tech workers may be the biggest facet of the issue here—and hiring managers without an effective formal workforce-planning program are left to cast their net in an ever-shallower pool of technology talent.
“In speaking directly with customers, they indicate one of the biggest challenges is the fractured technology-buying landscape,” Scherer said. “Shadow IT gets mentioned a lot by clients.”
As Scherer explained, businesses considered successful at strategic workforce planning mention transparency and prioritization consistently, and they all have formal programs with senior executive sponsorship.
“They take a blended strategy to their workforce planning, leveraging traditional full-time hiring and supplementing their gaps with contingent labor, and cultivating their own talent with education and development programs,” he added.
Patric Palm, CEO and co-founder of Favro, an online planning and collaboration tool, told Dice the problem is seldom the long-term planning of strategic goals, but rather that day-to-day urgent issues and tasks break up the planning and make work prioritization short-sighted.
He noted that Millennials are a rapidly increasing chunk of the most-desired tech talent. This demographic group expects more autonomy and wants to have a clear overview of how its work fits into the bigger picture.
“IT workforce planning needs to live up to these demands to be able to attract, motivate, and keep the best talent,” he said.
According to data from Dice, the average job vacancy duration for Professional and Business Services jobs (i.e., tech positions) remains notably lower than that of the national average. While sourcing highly skilled candidates remains a priority, actually discovering (and hiring) top tech talent continues to be difficult. It can take quite a long time to fill open positions, especially in tech hubs such as San Francisco where competition is fierce.
“On the one hand, the average age of the workforce in Europe and North America is rising and, on the other hand, the number of professionals with advanced skills is falling, especially in the IT sector,” Elvis Popovici, head of global talent acquisition at Bitdefender, told Dice.
Those trends, he explained, are the reasons for a reduced pool of qualified candidates between 25 and 50 years of age. Popovici also said the company’s focus on innovative products acts as a magnet for valuable job applicants, increasing both the number and quality of candidates.
“Candidates are usually looking to build a career and not only seeking a good package—it is key to communicate externally the projects that might attract valuable people,” he said.
Bitdefender’s headquarters is in Romania, a country with one of the highest number of technology workers per capita in Europe.
“However, when it comes to more targeted job openings, we are facing a real challenge to fill positions,” Popovici said. “Going forward, we expect this hunt for talent to intensify.”
Andrew Strickland, co-founder and managing partner of Teamphoria, a developer of employee engagement software, told Dice that having a pipeline of talent and recruits for various experience levels and competencies is extremely important.
“The one thing we do and always have done is we never stop interviewing,” he said. “Our management and leadership team expect interviews to be a part of their weekly lives, whether we are actively hiring or just looking to fill our pipeline for specific future needs based on sales and project projections.”
Hiring managers and recruiters need to be constantly on the lookout for new talent, keep track of past interviewees and take the long view when it comes to workforce planning.
It’s also important to keep in mind that an organization’s employer brand is a valuable asset in recruiting—with a great one, a company can out-recruit its competition.