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What’s Driving the IT Talent Gap? (And What to do About It)

DeveloperTown • Jun 10, 2021

It’s no secret that our nation is facing a skills gap when it comes to trained carpenters, toolmakers, welders, and so on. But there’s also a massive tech talent vacuum leaving thousands of tech jobs unfilled globally.

Even with the national unemployment rate hovering around 7%, the technology unemployment rate was just 3% in December 2020. That means tech talent doesn’t have a hard time finding a job, even when other work sectors are suffering.

So what’s behind this tech talent desert?

For starters, finding candidates with all the right skills is a challenge. As emerging technologies continue to rapidly change and expand, exploding fields like artificial intelligence and automation are becoming more mainstream. IT companies are scrambling to create brand new job categories requiring special capabilities at a rate faster than businesses can fill them. No longer does a single skill set fit the bill. Now businesses need people with niche expertise who aren’t easy to find.

Perhaps the hardest hit tech companies forced to scrounge for qualified workers are those right here at home. Never-ending sunshine, beaches, and flip-flop work culture lure top talent to Silicon Valley. While snow shoveling and cicada infestations aren’t big draws, the Midwest does have some perks the West Coast simply can’t compete with like lower cost-of-living, less traffic, and a decreased crime rates for starters. These may not be the sexiest benefits, but don’t count them out when recruiting.

Also, as remote working has become more commonplace nationwide (thank you, COVID-19), CIOs face additional challenges wooing talent from Silicon Valley. While some tech geniuses are attracted to the California sunshine, not everyone is bewitched by beaches—and now they don’t have to be. Thanks to remote work capabilities, even those who don’t want the hassle of moving and high-cost West Coast expenses can get all the prestige of working for a tech behemoth while living anywhere they want. Talk about having your cake and eating it, too.

If CIOs want to snag talent before they get snatched up, they might want to steal a play from the Oakland A’s. Michael Lewis tells this story well in his book, Moneyball. The A’s were working on a shoestring budget up against baseball giants, and yet they went all the way to the playoffs. How? By using a unique, low-cost solution to identify the best players. Sounds unconventional, right? If Midwest tech companies want to find the right stuff, then CIOs need to lean into alternative strategies that can still compete with the big boys.

Here are some innovative ways to entice top IT talent:

1. Woo them with culture.
Today’s workers want more than just a punch-the-clock job. They want a company culture that promotes from within, respects the individual, and balances work and life commitments. As you recruit, don’t just talk about job tasks—speak to empowerment, growth, and how you value your employees.

    2. Invest in your technology.
    Tech talent gets excited about—you guessed it—technology, and they’re scrutinizing the digital goods at your company when deciding whether or not to accept a job. The money you put into internal tech says a lot to a candidate about you and how much you value staying current. At the very least, be prepared to offer them the same level of tech they’re using at home.

      3. Offer top-notch benefits.
      Perks aren’t just perks anymore. They’re mission critical for snagging and retaining top talent. Gone are the days where solid health insurance and PTO were enough to entice and satisfy new employees.

      Maintaining a work-life balance is a top priority, especially for candidates in their 30s and 40s raising families. Many workers are even willing to sacrifice some salary to get tailored work hours and other benefits that complement their lifestyle.

      Not sure what perks fit best? Ask your current employees and snoop around your competitors. Find out what people are looking for and then make it happen!

        4. Support growth.
        Gone are the days of linear career paths working for the same company. More so than most workers, tech employees tend to leapfrog from job to job and company to company chasing after the next provocative project. Don’t let your savvy tech gurus fly the nest so easily by creating a variety of exciting internal opportunities for them to grow their skills.

          Recruiting top IT expertise may feel like battle (they don’t call it a Talent War for nothing), but it’s important to stay focused. Lean into what makes your company great and don’t be afraid to cast a wide net. You never know what kind of fish you’ll land.