by Sarah K. White

7 IT hiring trends for 2021

Apr 23, 2021
CareersIT JobsIT Leadership

COVID-19 sparked immediate change in the technology industry — and businesses have overhauled how they recruit, hire, and retain IT talent as a result.

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Credit: Mehmet Hilmi Barcin / Getty

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nearly every industry, fundamentally altering the way most organizations conduct daily business — and that includes how they recruit, hire, and retain IT talent.

Robert Half Technology surveyed more than 2,800 senior managers in the US to gauge the hiring and salary trends for 2021, as companies continue to contend with the pandemic, the resulting rise of remote work, and the need to fill key technical roles at a distance. From Robert Half’s report, it appears that many COVID quick fixes are likely to stick around after the pandemic subsides, with 74% of more than 1,000 workers surveyed in the US saying they “want to work remotely more frequently following the pandemic” — a desire that IT organizations are likely to have to keep in mind as the competition for top talent rages on.

Here’s a look at seven key IT hiring trends for the year ahead, according to Robert Half Technology.

Increased competition for certain roles

While the IT talent shortage rages on, COVID-19 has shifted the demand for certain roles, with an increased need for developers, as well as help desk and cybersecurity professionals. Companies need developers to create new applications and software services and to expand their reach in emerging technologies such as augmented, virtual, and mixed reality. Along with that comes a need for DevOps engineers to “help companies provision and manage IT infrastructure and microservices architecture,” according to the report.

And with remote work becoming the norm in the wake of the pandemic, companies are in greater need of skilled help desk and system administrators to support the shift to going fully remote. With more employees working from home and accessing systems remotely, there’s also an increased need for troubleshooting, support, and cybersecurity.

Interviews and onboarding go remote

Companies rushed to go remote in response to the pandemic — and were just as quick to move hiring and onboarding processes online as well.

Thanks to videoconferencing services, remote interviews are proving to be an adequate substitute for the in-person experience. Remote onboarding, however, has presented its own set of issues, as most companies rely on in-person onboarding, even for remote workers. Companies accustomed to flying in new employees for onboarding to immerse them in the company culture are having to get creative with remote onboarding, to make sure employees feel like they’re a part of the company and make a smooth transition into their new role.

Remote jobs on the rise

Remote jobs and the flexibility to work from home have long been a perk of the tech industry, but COVID-19 has organizations rethinking their strategies around remote work even further. As a result of the pandemic, 42% of companies now say they advertise fully remote jobs, as opposed to hybrid or flexible jobs. This has also helped open up the talent pool, enabling companies to ignore geographical limitations when seeking new candidates. Talent can be found across the country, or in some cases, around the globe.

But there’s also a downside to this trend: Hiring managers and recruiters are finding themselves swamped with candidates to sift through. As job listings open up to include remote work, it has also increased the number of resumes that candidates are submitting. “Job postings that might have drawn the attention of a handful of interested professionals a year ago have begun yielding a higher volume of applicants,” according to the report.

Shortening the hiring process

COVID-19 has also pushed companies to accelerate their hiring processes to bring in top talent in more efficiently, with 44% of senior managers surveyed by Robert Half saying they have shortened the hiring process as a direct result of COVID-19.

By increasing the pace of the hiring process, companies can not only get talent in the door faster, but also decrease the odds that candidates get swooped up by the competition. Key to this has been the shift to remote interviews, which means recruiters and hiring managers are having an easier time scheduling interviews, because candidates don’t have to travel or work around a complicated schedule.

A focus on retention and alleviating burnout

More than 80% of managers in the US are concerned about their ability to retain valuable employees. The top reasons for talent drain, according to Robert Half, are suffering morale (47%), heavier workloads and increased burnout (47%), salary cuts and lack of raises (39%), and dissatisfaction with management (29%). It’s been a rough year for employees and leadership alike — Covid-19 came with a lot of unpredictable changes, and the ripple effects can be felt through every industry and business.

In the year ahead, leadership will need to focus on ensuring employees feel supported. Robert Half surveyed more than 1,000 workers in the US who report having “career reconsiderations” due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and 60% said they “want to work at an organization that values its staff during unpredictable times.” It’s more important than ever to make it clear to your employees that you value their work, especially through a global pandemic.

Soft skills still in demand

Even prior to the pandemic, soft skills were trending, and that hasn’t changed since. Skills such as “adaptability to change” and communication are now more important than ever, especially as the landscape of work changes, according to Robert Half’s report.

The soft skills most sought? Attention to detail, business acumen, change management, collaboration, communication, critical thinking, customer service, leadership, problem solving, and project management. These skills can go a long way in helping you land a new job, as technical skills are easier to teach on the fly.

The silver linings of change

While there are more than enough negatives about the pandemic, companies did find a few silver linings to the changes that were influenced by COVID-19. Of those surveyed, 38% said they found it led to “more frequent communication from leadership,” 37% said it improved collaboration, and 32% said it allowed for more innovation. In addition, 31% said that the changes prompted by COVID-19 “allowed for greater transparency into business priorities” and 30% said it allowed for more efficient processes. While the pandemic has undoubtedly altered the way we do business, it’s also helped businesses embrace change, find flexibility, and modernize hiring strategies.