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How COVID-19 Is Impacting IT Recruitment Practices

April 30, 2021 Leadership
David Roe
By David Roe

Recent research from Gartner shows that 55% of CIOs plan to increase their total number of full-time employees in IT across the course of 2021. The new positions will be focused on growth in the areas like automation, cloud and analytics platforms, and support for remote work. The findings are contained in the 2021 Gartner CIO Talent Planning Survey (subscription required), which was conducted between November 2020 and December 2020 among 184 CIOs in North America, EMEA and APAC across differing industries, functions and company sizes. “The critical role IT played across most firms’ response to the pandemic appears to have had a positive impact on IT staffing plans,” said Matthew Charlet, research vice president at Gartner, in a statement.

There are many factors that have led to the increased demand for IT roles across the digital landscape. The exponential jump during COVID opened a plethora of technology demands, from the influx of cloud usage, heightened cybersecurity, increase in digital productivity and collaboration tools, according to Jay Munce, senior business development manager for digital marketing at the Chicago-based Addison Group. It is understandable that the resource strain on CIOs is rising, and the need to build connected resources between IT and marketing is also essential due to digital consumer engagement.

Changes in Recruitment Policies

All of this, he added, is pushing enterprises to change the way they recruit people. We have moved into a candidate-driven market, and companies should use digital advancements to expand their capabilities to find professionals. Solutions such as AI and automation are known for their increase in productivity, customer retention, and efficiencies. They can also provide a faster hiring process, higher candidate engagement, and improve brand representation. With every company fighting for IT and digital marketing roles (like mobile engineering, information security, analytics reporting, product design, etc.), getting your brand out and having the right partner to help find these candidates is critical.

"Many teams rely on advanced tools to ensure the recruiting process is unbiased and transparent, selecting the best candidate based on merit and compatibility with your organization's values, business goals, and culture,” he said.

From a wider perspective, recruitment should always be about people, focusing on finding talent that will complement the current team and bring in new skills to the entire group. Companies need to ensure they are focused on internal resources, connectivity, and productivity from anywhere.“Although we are starting to see more areas open up, we do not see a decline in needs for digital IT or digital marketing roles,” he said. "Digital transformation includes technology, data, process and org change. The strongest candidates will be able to articulate the different components, the importance of each, and where their skills complement others on the team."

Related Article: Digital Hiring May Become the Rule Instead of the Exception

Recruiting for Emerging Technologies

Ola Chowning is a partner at Stamford, Conn.-based ISG, a global technology research and advisory firm. She believes recruitment policies are indeed shifting in organizations, particularly as they seek to hire in emerging technology domains. Organizations are now considering candidates for jobs with higher levels of responsibility, job titles and compensation who have less than the typical years of experience associated with such roles.

Organizations also have looser education requirements, and interviewers often have far less domain knowledge with which to probe applicants on specific technical skills. ”In areas such as cybersecurity, data science and cognitive, we are seeing the allowance of longevity in adjacent domains coupled what is more limited yet recent experience in the emerging technology area,” she said.

“In roles such as Integration Architecture, Cloud Platforms and Cybersecurity, the market competition can be extreme and compensation levels, signing bonuses (in a variety of forms), flexible working environments and lucrative performance incentive structures are being used to entice applicants, particularly for those companies that may not have the digital brand recognition of an Amazon, Google or Microsoft.

Organizations continue to use service providers to fill many of these roles and, while sometimes planned as interim arrangements, these can often play out into longer-term skill strategies. These forms of skill augmentation can have a practical advantage in terms of up-skilling current staff members with experienced practitioners, particularly if that aspect is written into the contract and results are managed.

IT Recruitment Possibilities

In the past few months, about a decade’s worth of change has taken place across all industries with technology driving it all, is a career development professional and the founded of Canada-based ComIT, believes. He said that the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the digital transformation of the workplace at large, and every employer is grappling with the task of updating their staffing and recruiting to support it.

Most of those efforts are directed toward the IT department. The critical role that IT professionals have played throughout our collective COVID-management has not gone unnoticed, and most employers understand the link between a strong IT team and the success of their operation moving forward. As a result, IT positions are growing, hiring is happening faster, and it is time for teams to consider their recruitment policy as they fight to distinguish their offerings and capture the interest of the most talented professionals in the industry.

So, what are IT departments looking for? He points to four developments in the IT department.

1. Variable Education Possibilities

With so many viable educational opportunities and such an incredible rate of industry change, talent comes in all shapes and educational backgrounds. Recruitment teams would be remiss to set their sights on a narrow profile. Traditionally, vetted college programs and level institutions have been the popular option for recruitment campaigns. But as change accelerates, early professionals who have engaged in shorter-term, more focused up-skilling or re-skilling programs, or intra-industry professionals that have been along for the ride so far, might have the upper hand. Recruitment teams should focus their efforts on as wide a talent pool as possible, and should keep a truly open mind regarding the profile of their candidate.

2. Strength in Differences

Along with educational diversity, inclusion in the workplace begins at the recruitment stage, and this is one part of the talent search that teams cannot afford to get wrong. Having a team that varies in its composition, including members of different racial, age and gender identities, sexual orientations, workplace experience, and economic background, has repeatedly proven the best strategy to increase company resilience, improve corporate culture, and maximize team creativity. This is the team that will tackle problems from multiple angles and engineer innovative solutions. In the upcoming normal, problems will abound — we need diverse teams more than we ever have.

3. Reconsider Old Preferences

Recruitment teams should invest a lot of time reconsidering old preferences. Do new hires need to live in the region? Do they need to relocate, or can they perform the job from home? If remote work is doable, does the hire need to be in the same time zone? The same country? What are we going to ask from our potential hires, and what can we offer?

4. Success Is in the Details

Recruitment teams looking for a competitive edge in winning the talent pool should be as specific as they can. Employers should be able to articulate the transformation they have undergone because of COVID-19, and how that is changed their needs moving forward. The right hire is curious — has the company recently pivoted, switched their product, or expanded their offerings? What has their employee support looked like through the pandemic? Where are their sights set for the next 12 months, and how are they approaching future planning with the uncertainty that remains?

“As talent continues to rearrange and redistribute across the post-COVID corporate landscape, having a competitive offering might involve some form of remote work,” he said. “A lot of professionals are benefiting greatly from the increased freedom, increased focus, and increased flexibility of performing some of their work at home. If you are not able to offer potential hires at least some of those at-home benefits, they’re guaranteed to find them elsewhere.”

IT Hiring Changes

However, recent changes are not entirely due to the pandemic. IT hiring trends started to shift several years ago — with a focus on the new cloud skillsets to move data centers from on-prem to cloud, Jason Beres, SVP of developer tools at Cranbury, NJ-based Infragistics, said. This might be considered the phase 1 of digital transformation or laying the groundwork.

IT leaders need to find different skillsets or re-train existing employees to shift their process and operations to look to solutions and tools to solve business problems quickly vs. the old way, which was heavy on application building, application architecture and heavy project management. For example, hiring someone with expertise in workflow automation or robotic process automation will not only deliver value faster, but it will do it with less errors, as the machine is doing the work, not custom code by application developers that potentially took months to build a solution, was delivered late, and is buggy.

“IT backlogs are years behind schedule, they can’t keep up with the pace of digital transformation, so seeking new skillsets to accelerate app delivery is a necessity for survival in the next years as organizations realize their goals, he said.

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