In IT, we’ve been fixing company problems large and small for decades and meeting the challenges of highly technical demands, whatever they may be. But now we have a major problem of our own. It’s a labor shortage that’s nothing short of a crisis. And it demands the same kind of innovative solutions we’re used to delivering every day in our jobs.
Mass media for some time has been bringing us the story of the IT shortage that looms before us. The headlines all seem to be the same—for good reason. We’re told the problem spans industry and education. From healthcare to manufacturing, IT demands aren’t being met. High schools are pumping out fewer students who want to major in, or are even capable of studying, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects.
The big picture here is that companies ultimately will lose out on profitability and productivity, affecting the entire economy.
Despite the urgency of this problem, it didn’t appear overnight. It’s been coming slowly down the pipeline for decades, and most of us would be forgiven for not exactly predicting this predicament we’re in. Offshoring, for example, which had long been touted as a golden ticket to meeting IT demands, is now in decline, largely due to the decrease in quality that many companies had experienced from relying so heavily on the practice. In the meantime, IT job growth from 2000 to 2010 grew by 86 percent, while IT graduations in the last several years has dropped by 35 percent.
Add to this the evolving IT job description—which often demands workers who are proficient not just in technical skills, but also strong leadership and core industry business knowledge—and it’s easy to see how this IT labor shortage has gradually evolved as well.
But here it is, and it’s a problem we must deal with now. With the global workforce supply expected to be greatly eclipsed by demand in the years to come, all companies will need a workforce strategy that’s multifaceted to meet the challenge.
For many organizations, this will mean they must first understand just how different the workforce looks today. That’s easier said than done. Old ideas and traditions tend to stick when it comes to our employees. After all, for the last several decades, we’ve all been coming to work, sitting at our desks and working the traditional 40-hour week, more or less.
But on a practical level, this big picture isn’t really true anymore, especially for those working in IT. Generational gaps are driving a distinctly different workplace culture. Seventy percent of IT workers prefer to work remotely; that’s more than any other profession. Fifty-five percent are planning to change employers to foster their career growth. IT professionals don’t just want to perform tasks, they want to derive meaning and opportunities from the work they do. And they’re heavily using their social media networks to make career decisions.
On a more strategic level, companies will likely get to the point when they realize they can’t deal with such changing workforce models on their own. How will organizations, for example, still find the best skillsets with such a labor shortage? How will they have the ability to engage free agent talent (contingent labor, consultants, independent contractors, crowd sourcing models) if they’ve never really done so before?
Workforce partners that work with companies to meet these challenges fortunately aren’t in the business of just filling jobs with warm bodies anymore. The best workforce partners are those that have vast pools of global talent within their reach—and know how to strategically engage the talent supply chain when the time is right. They know how to network and integrate free agent talent. And they have connections with several IT providers and secondary IT suppliers that can add to a company’s overall workforce strategy.
With a profoundly different workforce culture that’s driving non-traditional work engagements—and with talent such a scarcity in today’s IT world—companies need to prepare so they don’t get left behind when it comes to acquiring the best IT talent. Failing to do so could severely hamper the execution of IT strategies.
We’re all capable of fixing this problem, but we must act now.