The View from the Other Side: IT and Staffing Leaders Connect

For the first time ever, TechServe Alliance joined forces with the Society for Information Management (SIM) to present the joint IT & Engineering Talent Forum. So what happens when you bring together two distinct groups both battling an unprecedented talent shortage of IT professionals? Besides some good natured banter about stereotypical behaviors among CIOs and staffing reps, the audience witnessed a human-centered meeting of the minds on industry challenges.

Organization CEOs Mark Roberts and Mark Taylor appropriately walked up to the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” to discuss current business challenges with a dynamic panel of IT and staffing leaders. First, a little context. The numbers do not lie. Unemployment in IT is at historically low levels – more than half that of overall rates (2.2% vs. 5.1% in Q3).

Strategies from the Front Lines

As Mark Roberts explained, a supply squeeze on available talent suggests there is little likelihood the domestic pipeline will significantly expand in the foreseeable future. So what are hiring managers and recruiters to do? To explore the conundrum further, Mark and Mark turned to a panel split between tech and staffing leaders to get their first hand insights and advice. Here are some key takeaways from the conversation:

Shortage Impacts Trickle Down

The talent shortage doesn’t only impact technology leaders who rely on staffing firms, it creates a ripple effect reaching their own end clients. CIO of Austin-based Q2 Lou Senko explained, “We’re not losing deals because of the talent shortage, but it puts pressure on our ability to meet customer demands. It’s a huge job to insulate the customer, but that could come at the expense of our people who are working really hard.”

Burnout is A Real Concern

Dealing with uncertainty and change takes a toll on employees and consultants, particularly when we are expected to be “on”—and online—all the time. Sarah Martin, President, Dale Workforce Solutions, shared an anecdote about a colleague who experienced anxiety from being out of the office half a day. “People are used to an immediate response, and I had to reassure them we could absolutely get along fine if they needed to be out.”

Efficiency for the Win

The pandemic exposed inefficiencies across multiple key functions in the hiring lifecycle, from interviewing to background checks, onboarding to retention. The panelists agreed that getting new team members up to speed and engaged in the remote environment has been a huge challenge. Manny Vidal, EVP of Strategy & Development, SSi People, advised that companies who are more efficient at “reducing hurdles” for candidates will come out ahead. “When a cyber security candidate has 10 offers in two days, the one who can get them started fastest at their desired rate will win.”

Culture Counts Now More than Ever

Now that candidate pools can and do come from anywhere, maintaining a cohesive culture can be especially tricky. Caren Shiozaki, CIO of TMST, Inc., emphasized the importance of building a family culture, extending to contractor relationships as well. She noted the importance of creating opportunities to connect for both retention and talent attraction purposes. “Employees will be asking ‘How safe are you keeping us? Do you really care or just need bodies to do a job?’” Working for and with people you like will always matter in your organization’s ability to deal with change and disruption.

Partnering for Mutual Success.

Again and again, panelists came back to the importance of empathizing with the other person on the side of the hiring-staffing equation. They didn’t shy away from tough issues, such as concern that Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives fall on the priority list in the face of tight deadlines and budget pressures.

As Sarah Dale said, “By the time you have a need to go to a recruiter, you’re often already in an emergency situation.” But even as expectations remain high and goalposts change, there was a clear understanding that SIM and TechServe Alliance members are in this together. And that opportunities for meaningful partnership and collaboration abound. Thanks to our panelists for kicking off the TechServe Alliance Executive Summit with a spirit of togetherness—it was the perfect start to a great week.