How IT service providers can counter the ICT skills shortage

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Illustration ICT skills shortage

Author: Stephanie Sigrist

Category: Business / Recruiting

October 29, 2021

The shortage of skilled workers in the ICT sector is causing problems for IT service providers. A clear vision and mission, employer branding and a contemporary working environment with room for growth play an important role in recruiting. Here are three tips on how SMEs can hire and retain the right IT talent.

Most HR specialists, recruitment companies and market observers agree that the so-called "talent gap" in the ICT sector is unlikely to be bridged any time soon. This poses recruiting problems for many IT service providers.

From our point of view, three main challenges can be identified in the whole recruitment process:

  • Find: How do I get hold of the talent in the first place? It is often the case that the really good people are not actively looking, but are regularly approached by companies. The best IT talents don't usually have to go to job platforms to look for jobs. That's why the number one challenge for us is: How do I get in touch with potential candidates in the first place?
  • Onboarding: Once we have found a candidate, how can I convince them of me as a manager, of the company or of our vision? That is the next important step.
  • Hold: Now that we have the person we want on board, the following question arises: how can I keep them? Often with the good people, they want to come in and not just deliver. They want to have opportunities and see that they can develop. With the great talents, it is often the case that at some point their head hits the ceiling and they can't progress any further. They can no longer develop in this way - and then they leave.

According to a report by the Swiss ICT and Internet industry lobby (SWICO), all segments of the ICT industry in Switzerland say they have difficulty recruiting specialists. When we at Xelon talk to IT service providers, the topic of recruiting comes up again and again. "Most of our clients have vacancies that they haven't been able to fill for what feels like an eternity. I think it's pretty much the same for everyone. There are not many IT service providers and system integrators in Switzerland who are not currently looking for anyone," says Xelon CEO Michael Dudli.

3 points that IT service providers should bear in mind when recruiting

From our experience, these three things are recommended to recruit and retain the right IT professionals:

Point 1 - and this is very often neglected - is the whole vision, mission, value. Classically, people say that every company must have this. In practice, however, it is often neglected. Vision, mission and value are important in the following sense: When I recruit and bring a person on board, I have to be able to show him where the company is going. What will the company be doing in one, two, three, maybe even five or ten years? If a person who wants to develop is not shown and understands the vision and mission of a company, then he or she will not go to that company. Because a company that does not develop is not an environment for someone who wants to grow.

Point 2 - and this is also often neglected - is something like: "Do good and talk about it." We see how the system integrators do marketing and employer branding and could identify three categories: a) companies that do nothing as far as marketing is concerned, b) companies that do some blog posts and pictures in between and c) companies that work with videos and engaging content and come across as really very cool. "Employer branding is becoming more and more important in the highly competitive market for IT professionals. Because I, as a candidate, go to LinkedIn and to the company's website to get information - and of course I then want to see something," explains Xelon CEO Michael Dudli.

Point 3 is an environment that supports employees in their growth. This aspect is particularly important when recruiting and retaining talent, the so-called "A-players". They don't come to a company to stand still, but to grow. "At the end of the day, it is also the job of me as CEO or of you as CEO, of the department head or the team leader, to make sure that this person finds an environment where this is also possible. A talent will leave the company if that is no longer possible at some point. Of course, these A-players generate a corresponding amount of effort, you have to take care of them and provide the right environment. But if you do that and invest that time, you really manage to put together a team that performs much better than if, for example, you simply deployed twice as many average system administrators," says Michael Dudli.

In recent years, digital natives have changed the labour market

In the ICT sector, digital natives currently make up the majority of applicants and a significant proportion of employees already on the labour market. According to the Gabler Wirtschaftslexikon, the term digital native refers to a person "who has grown up with information technologies and the internet since childhood and is unfamiliar with a world without digital media". Generation Y, which includes everyone born between about 1980 and 2000, is the first generation of digital natives. "What probably distinguishes all those born after 1980 is their affinity for PCs, mobile phones and social media. The members of Generation Y are the first digital natives and have already fundamentally turned the labour market upside down with desires such as home office and flexible working hours as well as with their self-evident use of social media. Rigid working hours are unattractive to them," writes the international management consulting firm Mercer in a blog post. In this age group, the desire for self-determined work is great. "Gen Y wants to think for themselves, act independently, be mobile and work flexible hours," concludes the recruitment specialist HR Monkeys.

What digital natives expect from an employer

Representatives of Generation Y often question hierarchies and thought patterns. They expect superiors with good leadership qualities and continuous feedback on their work. An open and transparent communication culture plays an important role in recruiting and managing the first generation of digital natives. A productive working atmosphere as well as a corporate culture that matches their own personality are also central to making Generation Y feel comfortable at their workplace. Digital natives prefer employers who promote community and teamwork.

If the IT environment is in good hands, tech talent can focus on the core business

Investments in customised IT infrastructure, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and other technologies that allow repetitive tasks to be done more efficiently benefit digital natives. They find it easier to delegate work to technology than their older colleagues. This allows them to focus on strategic activities and the core business. So working with the right cloud provider takes a lot of pressure off IT teams. This saves time and enables a stronger focus on business-relevant work - which is not only an advantage when recruiting new IT professionals, but is also important for retaining IT talent.

We have summarised further insights on the topic of recruiting in the e-book "Das kleine Cloudeinmaleins für IT-Dienstleister". Download it now for free!


Stephanie Sigrist

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