As technology needs rise, industries change and digital disrupts, recruiting top IT talent becomes critical to organizational success. Yet, it is much easier said than done. Organizations face a host of challenges, starting with a supply and demand imbalance for emerging skills, the need to predict the company’s future course, and finally a deep, introspective view of the company itself and its people.
According to the Harvey Nash/KPMG 2017 CIO Survey, big data, analytics, business analysis and enterprise architecture are the most in-demand or fast-growing skills, but six in ten respondents consistently report a technology skills shortage.
Additionally, the number of women in IT leadership remains stagnant. So, how can IT organizations put the right structure in place to ramp up an agile workforce and tackle the IT talent gap?
According to Matt Campbell, Managing Director in KPMG’s Advisory practice, there are several key issues at play: For one, IT organizations need to understand what their future work will consist of in an era of digital labor and automation, and what the business needs will be in order to facilitate that evolution. In addition, it must deeply understand its people and its competencies, as well as its value proposition to potential employees.
The right skills for an agile workforce
Developing an agile workforce is essential, but agility isn’t just about being in the right place at the right time, he explains. Instead, it’s being able to access the right sets of skills, behaviors, and competencies. “An agile workforce can redeploy people to those new areas of work or new ways of working in a very fast and appropriately timed manner,” he says.
Also, digital disruption is all about data — but requires companies to leverage their data to inform business strategy. This is where the demand for scarce skillsets such as big data analytics come in — the Harvey Nash/KPMG 2017 CIO Survey found that 42% of large employers consider this an in-demand skill. That’s because for large, complex organizations, there’s usually a huge amount of data sitting in internal systems. “They need to understand and pull that information out in a way that is meaningful,” says Campbell. Smaller organizations may not have the same level of already-captured data around their business or consumers, he adds, but they want data collection tools that help them drive organizational insights: Over a third of small businesses said business analysis is the most in-demand skill in the Harvey Nash/KPMG 2017 CIO Survey.
The survey also found that 80% of IT organizations have stable or growing budgets. That means to meet today’s data-driven demands, organizations are investing in better understanding the existing skills and competencies that their people already have, Campbell says. In the past, people were recruited into specific jobs, with a set of assumptions of what IT skills they had and didn’t have.
“We’re starting to do more work with clients around how they set up their competency frameworks,” he explains. “What are the areas where they continue to struggle filling roles, and how do they now start to create new opportunities for people in those spaces?”
Creating a better employee experience
From the employer’s point of view, there may be a rich, diverse skillset they do not understand completely. To attract the best IT talent, however, they must consider the employee’s viewpoint as well. That means creating an IT function that provides meaningful opportunities and boosts satisfaction.
“This is an emerging field — employee experience and employer recognition,” says Campbell. “The U.S. market has always relied on a steady pool of people, but about 30% of the workforce is retirement eligible in the next few years.” Organizations, he says, must recognize they have to truly value the talent they have and consider that those people are now in demand, and how they can compete for their attention and their contribution to the organization.
“It’s about taking a step back to think through the overall value proposition for your employees,” he says. If they are thought of as consumers, he points out, what is the buying choice they’re making, how frequently are they making that decision to stay or to potentially go somewhere else?
Developing an inclusive IT organization
Another important stumbling block for IT organizations is how to combat the stubborn unconscious bias that has led, for example, to barely 10% of IT leaders being female, the same number of last year’s survey. This statistic takes into account 35% of organizations that have a formal diversity initiative in place, according to the Harvey Nash/KPMG 2017 CIO Survey. Nevertheless, says Campbell, the solution remains the same — to develop an inclusive IT organization and deal with compliance regulations in this area.
“At KPMG, we work on the basis of inclusion, which is about how do you make sure everyone has the same contribution and how do you create a sense of belonging for people to be able to contribute?” he explains. In companies with inclusive and diverse teams, there is greater innovation, he adds, and there’s usually a higher level of productivity because people aren’t concerned with what other people are doing. “The better organizations are starting to look at how to understand everybody in their organization, and creating a sense of inclusion and belonging,” he says.
That includes actually focusing on unconscious bias in the training programs that so many employees take part. “I recently spoke to a client that is going back to their online recruiting tool and they’re redesigning the screening questions because they’ve identified inherent bias in terms of how different ethnicities respond to those questions,” says Campbell. The issue, he adds, is how companies treat that as a disruptive factor in the organization and think about how they drive inclusion: “Your employee base should be as diverse as your consumer base.”
Facilitating the future IT workforce
Over four in ten IT leaders continue to outsource in order to augment skills not available in-house, the Harvey Nash/KPMG 2017 CIO Survey found. Skills shortages may seem like the new normal, related to the increasingly complex project landscape that many organizations find themselves grappling with. But the bottom line is that IT organizations, especially the vast majority with stable or growing budgets, must continue to tackle the IT talent gap strategically, and start to build and nurture the future workforce. “Most importantly, they need to understand the capability of their people and how to actually respond to the changing needs of an organization,” says Campbell.