The Following blog post was published first in RecruitingDaily.
In the dynamics of the labor market today, the overarching theme is undoubtedly the labor shortage. Labor shortages in certain industries are so acute that many employers have shifted their focus to training and paid apprenticeships in lieu of searching for new candidates.
According to statistics from the U.S Department of Labor, there has been a 70 percent increase in paid apprenticeships over the last decade with close to 30,000 active programs in place that offer various training programs including on-the-job learning. These shortages also underline the need for adaptability and learning agility on the part of employees, which means a willingness to learn new skills.
The technology sector is facing its own mounting labor shortages. The shortages in tech have been compounded by the rapid acceleration of digitization and the penetration of tech into retail and commerce — industries that were not known traditionally as being tech-driven. In expressing their frustration over finding the right talent, business leaders specifically classify strategic projects as digital, which require writing new codes and updating the existing ones.
Other key factors that contribute to talent shortages in the tech sector include transferability and adaptability of skills to other employers and business sectors. These dynamics have led to employers chasing the same tech workers across industries.
‘Soft where’ (pun intended) refers to the search by HR and talent acquisition professionals for qualified software engineers and developers. According to a report by Stripe, the financial services and payment processing software company, 61 percent of executives consider the challenge of hiring software developers a potential threat to their businesses. In 2020, there were an estimated 1.4 million software development job openings in the United States with only 400,000 graduates in computer science. Many executives have expressed concern that difficulty in hiring developers is a bigger challenge than accessing capital for growth. This difficult market draws a picture of what challenges talent acquisition specialists face.
Compounding this challenge, according to many employers, is a concern for the efficiency of their current software developers and the potential impact it can have on developing new products. An increasing number of business leaders cite the quality of software codes and the amount of time spent on legacy codes — as opposed to developing new ones — an impediment to the successful launch of new products.
A study of executives in the US by the Chicago-based business and technology firm West Monroe found that 77 percent of senior executives in the United States plan to hire, with 51 percent of them expressing great difficulty in finding people with the right skill set and 16 percent citing heightened competition as the biggest challenge in acquiring new talent. Digital technologies and digital transformation, according to the same report, are bound to get the largest chunk of investment dollars, sharpening the need for software developers.
Compared to other roles, it takes 50 percent longer to hire tech talent, approximately translating into eight weeks longer to find the right candidate, including software engineers. Almost all CIOs will tell you that this shortage is impacting innovation and their ability to compete effectively in the market.
There’s another aspect to this scarcity that is not talent-related but linked to the scarcity of in-demand skills. New developments in technology are prompting new skills in the development of related software, which fuels in-demand skills scarcity. Transformational technologies, such as blockchain, AI and cybersecurity, require new skillsets that not every tech professional has, leading to the creation of many hard-to-fill roles.
Some companies find enough applicants for their software job openings, but they do not see applicants with the specific skills that they are looking for because certain software products require unique skills for the new nature of its technology. In these types of situations, many HR professionals prefer to develop skill mapping tools that can be used to screen candidates.
When screening candidates, often the job title alone is not enough. Take a frontend engineer as an example. There are many different frameworks a frontend engineer may work with: VueJs, React, Angular, vanilla JS, etc. However, this all gets lost in just the job title.
When using skills as the base currency, you are able to search for specific skills that you need in a job, and ensure that the candidates that you are interviewing for are a right fit.
Job titles do a poor job of informing candidates what is needed for the role. Different companies require different things to be done specifically to their business and market objective. There are often a few key skills that have huge variations from job titles. Leveraging skills as a unit of currency, you can identify those “high importance” skills, and ensure that you interview the right candidate.
Talent acquisition teams have also expressed interest in developing a “skills similarity index.” The latter helps HR teams examine which software coding methods meet their structure and coding criteria, especially when the technology is new and requires a closer examination of an applicant’s skill sets.
As technology evolves, so do the needs of customers’ behaviors and expectations. So, businesses need to adopt new technologies and adjust to their clients’ evolving needs. This impacts existing tech products and their functionality, resulting in product reconfigurations. Changes to product configurations in the tech sector can result in changes to the core system. For example, AI firms have struggled to fill at least one vacancy in the past two years because of the lack of appropriate skills among applicants.
The skillsets required for job openings can be indexed, and applicants’ skills can be matched against the skills in the index. It has become increasingly clear that filling out job application forms and blasting out resumes are of little effect, as they do not adequately capture and display a person’s skillset and knowledge.
In a tightening labor market where scarcity is in talent, not jobs, the adoption of technologies that automate skill matching to job descriptions and applicant profiles will be critical in finding and hiring the right talent.