IT talent shortage: while major companies are catching up, make sure you’re one step ahead

It’s been looming for some time, but the full scale of the UK’s IT talent shortage is only just making itself known, as the current recruitment cycle gets into full swing.

Industry trends such as big data and cloud computing have arrived at an enterprise level, fuelling the demand for IT skills. While these trends have been on the horizon for some time, most businesses have failed to plan ahead and hire in advance.

As a result, the demand for IT talent has now outgrown the UK’s ability to supply qualified experts. Companies are competing fiercely for the talented few that sit on the job market.

At this month’s CeBIT, I covered this very trend at a panel discussion. One of the other panellists, Christian Gleinmann, perfectly illustrated the challenge companies face.

Gleinmann is the Head of HR at E.ON IT, one of the world’s largest energy companies. In the last year the company has been looking to recruit 170 new staff. Yet, due to a distinct shortage of talent, the company couldn’t find the right people for the job and hence didn’t meet its recruitment target and a large number of these jobs remain vacant.

Employment – go hybrid

As I pointed out on the panel, we need to look to new hiring models to tackle the talent shortage. Companies are missing a trick by sourcing talent solely at a local level. Why not post jobs that can be done remotely or online and open the role up to talent from across the globe? Businesses need to assess their existing employment models and ask themselves: do I need fulltime, on-site staff to fulfil this role or can online freelancers be used instead?

I‘m a strong supporter of the hybrid business model – where companies employ staff on site as well as online. When hiring online talent, it’s not about where they are located. All that matters is the job they can do and how well they do it.

Empower the next generation of bright IT heads

In early 2013, we’re only at the beginning of increasing demand for IT professionals. Outsourcing jobs to online freelancers can support companies in establishing a new type of employment model, yet it doesn’t solve the core issue: the lack of sufficient young talent moving up. A combined effort from companies, industry bodies, academic institutions and Government is required to ensure the current shortage is addressed and that we continue to find and nurture IT talent.

Kjetil Olsen is vice-president (Europe) at Elance. As Vice President of Europe, he has the strategic and operational responsibility for growing Elance's footprint in the European market. Prior to joining Elance, he was a Group Director at StepStone, Europe's largest job board.