How do you find talent during a skills shortage?

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It’s common knowledge that there is a shortage of developer talent globally. With estimates that 1 million computer programming jobs will go unfilled by 2020 in the U.S. alone, try as they might, universities and colleges across the world just can’t push out computer science graduates fast enough. This creates a double edge sword for the industry, one that is good for developers, as they are likely to have their pick of jobs, but simultaneously a situation where organisations can’t get the stable resourcing they need to keep up with the pace of digitalisation.

An absence of some of the skills needed to drive technologies forward has led to a near constant strain on certain businesses, and a race between education and technology. A race that currently education isn’t winning, as according to a recent study by Accenture, the digital skills gap could cost the UK £141 billion in GDP growth over the next ten years.

With a recent LinkedIn report finding that four of 2018’s top five emerging jobs were in technical in nature and included: blockchain developer (33X growth), machine learning engineer (12X growth) and machine learning specialist (6X growth), it’s clear that expertise in these areas is quickly becoming priceless on a CV. Yet, many people don’t possess digital literacy skills, making it difficult to fill the roles and to train current employees.

And, if an organisation ends up finding someone suitable, it currently takes around five months and £15,000 (on top of salary) to hire a single developer, and it’s likely that in 18 months, they will have moved on. What’s more, companies with vast amounts of capital such as the Facebooks, Amazons and Googles of the world can offer packages that attract the best talent in the country, making the talent pool even smaller for those who don’t have the same resources.

Outsourcing overhyped?

This constant yo-yoing of recruiting isn’t sustainable. As technology continues to proliferate and advance, the demand for developers is expected to grow tenfold and the industry has to look to how to plug the gaps. Many organisations have turned to outsourcing, but agencies that provide freelancers are also facing the same issues – they can only provide talent if they have access to it. In addition, they often struggle with offering the sort of remuneration packages that top freelance developers have come to expect.

Finding the right fit through outsourcing is also costly and time-consuming. Many outsourcing agencies have barely moved away from a Gumtree-like structure, offering a simplistic list of people for employers to sift through to approve, qualify, pay and maintain a relationship with. Rather than making the process easier, in many cases, it makes it more difficult as there is so much competition for good freelancers’ time.

This format also tends to mean the relationship between businesses and talent isn’t honest. Outsourcing agencies tend to only care about the clients paying the bills, and the talent is often forgotten about. This doesn’t create an environment for developers to thrive, and it certainly doesn’t make the industry attractive enough to young people considering a career as a developer.

It also has to be remembered that freelance developers often become freelance because they want to be able to do what they love with total autonomy. And, as the next generation of workers come into the fray, the demand for that control and the desire to follow their passion and get paid for it is only going to increase. Future developers will choose freedom and flexibility over working for the IBMs of the world, and the industry has to be ready to cope with that.

Spinning-up supply and demand

It’s clear the industry needs something new. A new type of hiring that suits agile organisations who want to keep both their technological and competitive edge. Permanent hires are no longer cost-effective and traditional outsourcing can be an even bigger headache. Businesses today should be able to easily scale their teams up and down with the right tech talent, as and when they need it.

Developers too, deserve to get remunerated on the value they deliver, know the jobs they are put forward for suit their particular talents, and work with team members with complementary skills or working styles to their own. They need to have just as much control as the organisations that hire them.

That’s why a completely new model of provisioning development work is needed, one that easily assesses an organisation’s requirements, intelligently quotes for the work in real-time, then taps into a network of talent that is perfectly suited to the task at hand. It sounds like science-fiction, but thanks to advancements in machine learning and natural language processing, this elastic way of resourcing is already happening.

A global way of thinking

The U.K. may be facing a talent shortage, but via this new way of resourcing, platforms are being established which are opening up tens of thousands of highly skilled developers globally, available to anyone. We live in a world where location no longer matters, technology has enabled people to work from anywhere, and organisations who can embrace that stand to reap the rewards.

Aside from the cost advantages of this new way of resourcing, by tapping into a global talent pool organisations also have the ability to harness time zone differences to get work delivered faster. Also, if rolling out or expanding solutions into different countries and markets, then local talent can also be onboarded, ensuring that any geographical considerations are taken into account. 

Embracing this new geographically distributed, elastic way of both hiring and working stands to benefit U.K. businesses en masse, but especially those within its tech sector. It will also go a long way to ensuring the country can maintain its reputation of being a global powerhouse when it comes to technical innovation, especially in the face of economic instability.

Technology doesn’t stand still, so neither should the way companies recruit talent. An evolution in both mindset and toolset for the IT recruitment industry will help to cut through the ‘doom and gloom’ of the skills gap. And, while it's by no means a ‘cure all’ solution to the technology skills shortage our country is facing, it’s certainly a big stride in the right direction.

Callum Adamson, CEO, Distributed
Image source: Shutterstock/Kirill Wright