COVID Worsened the IT Talent Crisis — and Taught Us How to Solve It

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Talent is always top of mind for business leaders, largely because it’s a constant struggle to find, recruit, and retain it. This isn’t an exaggeration: 69 percent of companies reported talent shortages in the latest of ManpowerGroup’s annual Talent Shortage surveys.

Perhaps the most pressing talent shortage exists in the IT field, where jobs require unique skills that can be especially hard to find in existing talent pools. According to Everest Group, this global IT talent crisis  impacts 69 percent of enterprises.

A few key factors contribute to the IT talent crisis in the job market, the main one being the speed at which technology changes in the business world. With advances in technology come new jobs, and those new jobs require new skills. A great example of this trend is cybersecurity: The knowledge and technology available to cybercriminals has outpaced the abilities and resources of companies to address risks, resulting in a shortage of 2.8 million cybersecurity professionals around the world, according to an (ISC)2 study.

Has COVID Taught Businesses How to Close IT Skills Gaps?

COVID has worsened the IT talent crisis in the job market. The Everest Group report cited above found that 75 percent of enterprises believe there will be a talent shortage for key roles in IT, analytics, and special skills after COVID; 67 percent expect new skills gaps to emerge. This might sound scary, but I believe the ways in which businesses have already responded to COVID should alleviate some of our concerns about the IT talent crisis. Here’s why:

We Digitally Transformed

As I mentioned, one of the biggest challenges contributing to the talent crisis is the speed at which technology changes in the business world. COVID ramped things up even further, accelerating digital transformation in every industry and in every department. According to Microsoft, we experienced two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months. This is proof that businesses can ramp up digitalization efforts quickly to adapt in tumultuous times.

For example, look at how companies handled being forced to adopt virtual collaboration and communication tools. There may have been hiccups in the beginning, but now no one thinks twice about another Zoom meeting. Certainly, there’s a long way to go, but there is an opportunity to build off the digital transformation that has already begun.

We Can Work Anywhere

Businesses have shown they can adapt, and so have workers. Many employees became full-time remote employees overnight, and we’re not only working remotely — we’re also hiring and onboarding remotely. Some companies have already made the shift to remote work a permanent change because it has proven to be so fruitful.

The change has also opened up a whole new talent pool for many organizations. Strictly in-person workplaces were previously limited to the talent located nearby, but companies can now seek out talent around the globe. Our talent pools are bigger than they have ever been.

Talent Strategies Moving Forward

It’s clear the way we source and utilize talent has changed permanently. As we move toward the future of work, we must understand the new dynamics of the talent landscape, and our talent strategies must adjust to match the changing needs of the workforce. Here are three crucial ways our approach to talent should change:

1. Hire From Within

We know new technology brings new set of skills to learn. Too often, companies think they need to look outside to find people with those skills when the talent is already within the organization. Rather than only hiring from outside, companies have an opportunity to focus on training existing teams. Closing the skills gap will require reskilling and upskilling existing workers, which is another way we can expand our talent pools.

2. Leverage the Contingent Workforce

Looking to the contingent workforce will be another key strategy for addressing the IT talent gap. According to Gartner, contingent workers currently account for about one quarter of the global workforce, and that number is likely to grow to 35-40 percent in the next five years. COVID is already leading more companies to rely on independent contractors to augment their current capabilities. The real opportunity here is with IT-related work.

3. Focus on Skills

Lacking a specific college degree is no longer the barrier to entry it once was in the IT field. A sustainable talent strategy requires companies to focus on an individual and their skill set rather than the words on their resume. When we need people to fill IT roles that didn’t exist five years ago, simply looking at previous job titles won’t get us anywhere. It is time to broaden our view of what talent is and what it could be.

Companies can’t rely on traditional methods to drive their talent strategies any longer. COVID and the IT talent crisis require us to adapt. Throughout 2020, we’ve proven to be a capable, adaptable workforce. The talent is here, ready for businesses to step up. By focusing on elevating the talent that is a fit, whether internal or external, companies will be able to find the talent they need.

Summer Crenshaw is CEO of TalentNow.

By Summer Crenshaw