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Recruiting challenges of IT service providers

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Illustration representing the challenges in recruiting of IT service providers

Author: Stephanie Sigrist

Category: Business / Recruiting

October 8, 2021

The IT skills shortage means that many Swiss IT service providers are struggling to recruit and retain good IT talent. We have summarised our findings from the Swiss ICT market in this blog post.

In recent years, numerous efforts have been made to address the IT skills shortage, and not only in Switzerland: universities and colleges have developed new courses in computer science and IT, companies offer training opportunities or paid internships for career changers, and many large companies have outsourced business activities in the IT sector to geographically nearby locations. Nevertheless, 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.

In Western countries, international companies such as Google, IBM or Facebook, which invest considerable financial and human resources in employer branding, swallow up a large share of developers and programmers. This exacerbates the problem of IT skills shortages and makes it even more difficult for SMEs and start-ups to recruit and retain qualified IT staff.

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 also 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.

From our point of view, three main challenges can be identified in the entire recruiting process.

Die Herausforderungen beim Rekrutieren von IT-Talenten

  1. 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 (especially in view of the shortage of IT specialists) do not normally 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?
  2. 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.
  3. 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 really great talents, it's often the case that at some point their head hits the ceiling and they can't move on, they can't develop any further - and then they leave.

A successful team needs more than just the right people

The team is the be-all and end-all for the company's success. Sometimes less is more. It's not about just adding people to the team, it has to be the right people. At the end of the day, you can think of it like a football team or an ice hockey team, where you need different types of people. You don't just need leaders, you also need fighters, you need a goalie, the forwards and defenders, the coach and staff in the background. It's similar in the company: it has to be a team that fits together. And it is also important that a successful team does not only need the right people.

"We are here in the canton of Zug. The ice hockey club EVZ became Swiss champion last season. With the OYM, the EVZ has developed a performance centre. From my point of view, this performance centre for athletes is a tool and, when applied to the corporate world, a metaphor for the fact that it is not only the employees who are needed to build a successful team, but also everything that goes with them - the right workplace, tools, processes and the like. If I can do that, then I can manage my challenges much easier and better," says Michael Dudli.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, for example, believes that a top developer generates code that is worth a hundred times more than the code of an average developer. A similar statement comes from Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, who has said that his top engineers are worth ten times more than an average engineer. We too are convinced that it is important to have the right people on board and to assemble the right team.

Employer branding is becoming increasingly important in view of the IT skills shortage

We are convinced that Swiss IT service providers (also due to the IT skills shortage) will have less difficulty recruiting and retaining the right professionals with the following three measures:

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. That is extremely important," explains Xelon CEO Michael Dudli.

Point 3 is especially central for the talents, 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 or of the head of department to make sure that this person finds an environment where this is possible. A talent will leave the company if at some point that is no longer possible. 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 just put in twice as many average system administrators," says Michael Dudli.

In the e-book "Das kleine Cloudeinmaleins für IT-Dienstleister" (The little cloud 101 for IT service providers) there is further content on the topic of IT skills shortage and recruiting. Download now!

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Stephanie Sigrist

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