Good Help is Still Hard to Find – The IT Talent Conundrum

Post authored by: Christopher Shivers — Director of Research at Cook Systems

Good talent in any industry is hard to find and keep; IT talent is even harder. Two qualities are at the center of the dilemma: adaptability and sociability.

Adaptability is the quality of being flexible enough to alter course with changing conditions while continuing to be productive. Sociability is the quality of engaging with others in conversation or activities. To better understand the impact these qualities (or lack thereof) have on IT, one has to understand the background of the tech labor market.

The tech industry often relies on contract workers. This is largely due to project-based work that requires diverse talent, but only for a relatively short amount of time. This may look something like building a new app so customers can track their order. For that, you’ll need a team of specialized talent, but only for the next 6-18 months, or as long as the budget holds out. The next project will likely either require a new rotation of specialists, not start immediately, end up on the cutting room floor — or all of the above.

In addition to the unpredictability of project work, tech is always evolving. New technologies pop up at a staggering rate these days, and new and incoming workers have to stay abreast of the changes. This means having a general understanding of the landscape (outside of one’s own specialty) along with new technologies and certifications.

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With this background in mind, consider the immense necessity for talent that is adaptable and sociable. One worker may jump in and out of three or four different projects in the space of two years. A new project brings a host of new variables and implications, including: new teams with new people (pleasant and not-so-pleasant) with whom you must work well, new leaders who get it and some who do not, new project scopes that are well thought out and others that are not. There are vastly different company cultures that must be navigated and different systems to learn -- some that have the newest upgrades and others that run on some of the oldest code ever.  

IT talent have to meet ever-shifting demands technically and interpersonally. However, adaptability and sociability are not always givens, especially for those just starting out in their careers. We all know that spending hours a day behind a computer screen is not the best way to learn to adapt or be social. 

Because we have screened hundreds of folks to train them or place them in their next gig, we have a pretty good understanding of what makes technically minded people tick.

We know which personality traits tend to be necessary, and perhaps more importantly, which values will enable a person to develop well. This understanding has proven to be a golden ticket of sorts to finding great IT talent. We have come to a time in the IT labor market when it is no longer just the kick-ass coder that wins the day. In fact, being a professional developer now requires much more than coding skills. Developers have to have honed the flexibility to adapt to changing priorities and the ability to engage well with those on their team. This means hiring can no longer rely simply on resumés and a “good feeling” about potential candidates.

A good understanding of the dynamics of each project or team and a strategy for hiring based on personality, values and experience is critical to finding IT talent that will produce great work and contribute to your company’s success.

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