Some IT Numbers

The Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Index and Skills Report, released last month, reports that of the 1,400 CIOs from companies across the United States with 100 or more employees surveyed 82 percent expect to maintain current information technology staff levels in the second quarter of 2008, 14 percent expect to add to staffing levels, and 2 percent foresee reductions. Similar numbers are easily found; that there is to be growth in the IT sector is likely to seem obvious. Not so obvious is the difficulty IT departments may have in fueling that growth.

Deloitte’s Competing for Talent, also released last month, notes that the majority of respondents of the 150 technology and telecommunications companies surveyed expect work force growth in the coming years: two thirds expect growth of six percent in the next 12 months. Only 6 percent expect a workforce decline. These respondents, at least 67 percent of them, believe that the required talent is “readily available in the marketplace.” It would seem then that there should be little concern about meeting staffing needs. However, attracting, developing and retaining talent was identified by 71 percent of respondents as the “most critical people/talent issue” facing their company. A paradox is apparent.

According to Deloitte, the reason for the paradox is, “the majority of technology and telecommunications companies continue to rely on financial incentives and other traditional approaches for luring and retaining talent. These outmoded techniques might work for awhile, but they don’t address the long-term problem.” The reason being that what workers want is to work, “on their terms.” Deloitte is careful to note that the workers referred to include “Gen Yer’s,” “Gen Xer’s'” as well as retirees re-entering the workforce.

While many companies are moving in the right direction, “most still have a long way to go to meet the needs of today’s workers.” And figuring out the right thing to do is vital for companies’ success. “According to the survey, respondents that fail to address their talent management challenges over the next three years will feel the pain where it really hurts: in limited growth, increased time to market, reduced innovation, damage to customer relationships, and more.”

IT staffing challenges are not exclusive to North America; the Harvey Nash and PA Consulting Group reports data from the UK. According to the results of the 2007/08 Strategic Insights Survey, “In the next 12 months, more than half of all the technology leaders surveyed in this report will have moved jobs. With 23 percent already in their jobs for less than 12 months and a further 34 percent planning to move within the next 12 months, we could be about to witness one of the most dramatic migrations of technology leaders in recent times.” This report runs a somewhat positive spin on this, stating that, “the good news is that the most talented and ambitious individuals are unsettled and looking for the next exciting challenge.” However, as in North America, companies are being forced to determine ways to keep employees or face the costs. The task might be somewhat easier for North American companies.

Unlike their North American counterparts, who merely want to work on their terms, seventy-eight percent of respondents in the UK stated that they felt at least ‘fulfilled’ in their current position. Furthermore, of the thirty percent of respondents claiming to be ‘very fulfilled’, 35 percent are still planning on leaving their position in the next 24 months. Harvey Nash states that this, “reaffirms that technology leaders see the process of moving jobs regularly simply as a way to advance their career.” This type of regular migration could be more difficult to stem.

Interesting to read concurrently with the Nash and Half reports is the Computing Research Association’s (CRA) March bulletin. The bulletin summarizes some data from the forthcoming Taulbee Survey, “the principal source of information on the enrollment, production, and employment of Ph.D.s in computer science and computer engineering and in providing salary and demographic data for faculty in CS & CE in North America.” Data from this report indicates to an extent what might be happening to the future size of the IT applicant pool; will there be even more talent available to fuel the needed growth in IT.

Though information on graduate degrees will not be released until May, undergraduate data has been released early: results are inconclusive. Between fall 2000 and 2005 ‘the percentage of incoming undergraduates among all degree-granting institutions who indicated they would major in CS declined by 70 percent.’ The number also fell among Ph.D.-granting departments surveyed by CRA. “After seven years of declines, the number of new CS majors in fall 2007 was half of what it was in fall 2000.” There could be indications that the numbers are at least stabilizing, growth in 2006 was flat but increased slightly in 2007.

IT departments should be hoping the number of applicants grows. A larger number means no shortage of supply and, as workers fight through the crowd, favors employers in determining terms of employment. However, with numbers currently stable at best and graduation years away, IT departments still face the immediate challenge of meeting the needs of their workers. And the terms and methods used to meet that challenge could easily become the standard for the next generation of workers regardless of its size.

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