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The War For Technology Talent

26/11/2013 by


The war for technology talent

The days of IT being seen as a ‘minor’ department in the company are gone. Companies are now looking to technology in order to drive and move the business forward rather than simply just supporting it.

As with all business functions Information Technology is a sum of its parts. Some of those parts may be data centres and servers but the most important element is the people. Namely the talent you have at your disposal.

As the role of IT becomes more important to the business it is resulting in ever more complicated, strategic demand. There is pressure on the CIO to deliver exceptional talent, alongside the strategy while maintaining board level presence.

What percentage of your workforce is either average or under-performing? In a report by Penny Tamkin entitled ‘The Contribution of Skills to Business Performance’ it is quoted at 25%. If you could replace or up skill that 25%, as well as up skill the remaining people, how much more efficiently do you think your workforce would perform?

What would the impact on your department’s performance be if you had the best people at your disposal? Surely the results would be:

  • projects delivered on time
  • projects delivered on budget
  • projects delivered to a higher standard
  • innovation
  • happy customers
  • improvement to the organisation’s bottom line

In the 15 years I have been helping companies source the employees they require I have seen a change in two main areas:

The technology stack and roles

Back in the 90s it was simpler. The job titles were Developer, BA, PM, IT Manager, Support and not much more. Now there are a multitude of disciplines across a wide range of levels some even outside of IT embedded in the business.

The characteristics and softer skills

Long gone are the days of a propeller-head Cobol programmer sitting in the basement. The IT talent of today needs to be savvy and personable as well technically proficient, interacting with the customer and managing the propeller-heads off-shore.

This then means there is a competition for talent. The growth of IT has created a surge in demand for people and while it hasn’t been a constant rise over the years, it is an upward trend that shows no sign of slowing down.

There are many other changes such as global mobility, functional / domain knowledge, people management skills etc. But what steps are you taking to ensure you are getting the best people through the door? Nowadays companies can use a range of methods to attract talent such as direct advertising, referrals, in-house recruiters and of course, agencies.

Over the last few years the industry has seen the fees companies are prepared to pay to head-hunters get lower and lower. Budget is crucial to everything, but inevitably this will jeopardise the quality of the talent that you can have access to as it will limit the choice of recruitment agencies you can work with.

Recruitment is a competitive industry due to the low barriers to entry, and one might think that anyone with a phone and a LinkedIn account can be a recruiter. After all how many phone calls do you receive from ‘a specialist recruiter’? But recruitment is no different to so many things in life – there are exceptional ones, very bad ones and lots in-between.

I have had the pleasure of working with some truly world class companies over the years that take talent acquisition very seriously and want a strong partnership with their recruiter. They are prepared to pay a fair price in return for an excellent service. They are prepared to invest time in the partnership, giving us access to the decision makers and wider organisation so we can deliver the best talent to the client and further our relationship.

I have however encountered many companies that see recruitment as a cost that needs to be suppressed and a service should be commoditised. HR usually want to control and limit the access the recruiter gets, which typically results in stifling the ability to do the good job they want to and restricting the flow of important information that can benefit all parties.

As the war for talent rages on, CIOs and HR departments both need to take a serious look at all the talent acquisition strategy and channels. If you invest the time in the right recruitment partner the returns can have a huge impact on the talent you can attract and, crucially, the bottom line.

Andy Larholt



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