Every new year brings a unique set of challenges and opportunities for IT workers as existing technologies evolve and new technologies emerge. The first half of 2015 looks promising based on these six predictions from career experts.
Prediction 1: Expect Hiring Explosion in Q1 and Q2
The forecast for the first half of 2015 looks bright for IT workers. Eighty-seven percent of 2,400 CIOs surveyed by Robert Half Technology say they will add more staff, whether to fill vacant roles or new positions.
With that expected hiring boom, its likely salaries will increase for existing workers, or they'll receive a bevy of new benefits, according to Jason Berkowitz, vice president of client services, Seven Step RPO.
"We are seeing a noticeable increase in IT hiring and we expect this to continue. Because of increasing competition, we also are seeing pressure to raise salaries and other benefits," says Berkowitz. "In some cases, competition is so tough that companies are looking outside of their geographic areas and considering relocating candidates from areas where talent is more available."
Prediction 2: Companies Will Leverage Mobile and Social Networks to Recruit Passive Talent
"Social recruiting is yesterday's news -- all serious recruiters are already deeply networked through social channels. If Facebook unveils rumored job search function -- the so-called 'Linked-in killer' -- this could change, but for now even new anonymous job search tools aren't likely to change the landscape in favor of one network or another," says Berkowitz. The new paradigm for 2015 is using social networks and mobile tech to increase connections with passive candidates, which will also serve to drive up salaries.
"Good candidates already get multiple outreach requests per week through LinkedIn, so finding candidates isn't the issue. It's convincing them to make a move. Candidates are understandably taking advantage of this candidate's market by making increasing demands and driving up salaries across the board," Berkowitz says.
Prediction 3: Increased Focus on Employee Engagement and Retention
The upward pressure on salaries and benefits will make it necessary for companies to employ better engagement and retention strategies, at least if they want to hold onto elite talent already in their ranks. "[Rising salaries and benefits] will likely lead to a lot of 'job hopping,' and, as we've seen before, to avoid this, companies are going to start emphasizing retention as well as placing a premium on potential employees who display loyalty and longevity," says.
"Smart employers are definitely increasing their investment in keeping the people they have -- not just through bonuses and perks, but by really focusing on keeping their people engaged. We've seen everything from corporate-sponsored hackathons and other team-building activities to group volunteering activities -- anything to provide more collaboration and meaning to peoples' jobs. Smart employers understand that there is always a higher paying job out there, but people will stick around for jobs that have true meaning for them," says Emily He, CMO at Saba Software.
Prediction 4: Emphasis on Education and Training
Education and training will be a major focus for 2015, says Cristin Sturchio, global head of talent at Cognolink -- especially for millennials. "When you invest in training your people, you're providing them with skills and tools they can not only use today, but also continue to draw upon throughout their career," says Sturchio.
"We're also confident this approach significantly enhances their loyalty to our company. For example, initiatives like Corporate Universities, which are multi-year programs built with learning and development in mind, aren't just for large, Fortune 500 companies. When it comes to developing your people, size doesn't matter; the results do. Employees are engaged as teachers and facilitators, and they are invested in teaching others," says Sturchio.
For the newer generation entering the workforce, engagement isn't just about having a ping-pong table in your office or hosting happy hours after work. "It's about knowing that as the company grows, so will they. It's about creating an environment that encourages active participation and engagement. [It] makes them feel like a valued part of the company from day 1. It's about providing rewarding opportunities like being selected to serve as campus ambassadors to represent the company at their alma maters and teaching training courses that give back to the employee community," says Sturchio.
Prediction 5: Employees Shift Focus from Full-time Work to Contracting/Freelancing
"During the last hot employment market, we saw an increase in IT contracting and we expect that trend to return," says Seven Step RPO's Berkowitz.
"A strong IT professional can do very well contracting -- making a higher hourly rate than they would make as a full-time employee -- and they can move from project to project every few months and take time off in between. It's a very attractive model for some employees. Employers would be smart to consider laying in some contract staff in addition to their full-time employees, especially for very hard-to-find or niche requirements," says Berkowitz.
"The global economy in general is moving to a contract or freelance workforce. It's now a $1 billion worldwide market, and projected to be $5 billion in the next five years," says Xenios Thrasyvoulou, founder and CEO of PeoplePerHour and SuperTasker.
"The flexibility benefits for both employees and employers are hard to beat; the ability to find exactly the talent you need for exactly the job you need them for is one of the drivers, as well as the desire for specialization without having to pay a premium long-term for a full-time employee," says Thrasyvoulou.
Prediction 6: HR Department Turn to Big Data
Big data will play a big role in the employment landscape in 2015, says Saba Software's He, as HR departments try to leverage data and translate it in ways that are meaningful to employees.
"We call it 'Intelligent Talent Management,' taking advantage of all that data around employee behavior, productivity, skills, system usage and workflow to grow workers skillsets and continue engagement and productivity. Using Big Data from employees can be helpful in determining who they should be connecting with on their career path, what skills and education might be valuable to them, what information they need and how better to improve their performance," says He.
"Looking ahead to 2015, we will see the emergence of the Chief Data Officer. This person will advance from the organization's Data Scientist role, and will possess strong left-brain and right-brain competencies. They will excel in the areas of math and science, but will also be extremely curious, collaborative, and communicative, and will work hand-in-hand with other key business leaders such as the Chief Digital Officer and the CIO," says Piyush Pant, vice president of strategic markets, MetricStream.