HR Strategies for Finding--and Keeping--IT Talent

Posted 02-27-2013

HR Strategies for Finding--and Keeping--IT Talent

By Paul Hyman

Nearly one in four IT employers says it’s harder to find the right talent today compared to a year ago, especially in the areas of mobile app development and programming, data network, and data center. They expect it will become even more difficult as the economy recovers.

That’s according to a December, 2012 ManpowerGroup research report. And, says ManpowerGroup’s 2012 Talent Shortage Survey, IT is one of the top 10 job areas that employers are having difficulty filling in both the U.S. and globally.

So what’s a CIO to do?

According to four HR professionals who were willing to reveal some of their tricks of the trade for locating–and retaining–the best IT help, the employment scene has changed radically in just the past few years. Finding talented IT people, they say, no longer involves merely posting “help wanted” ads on your company’s website, Monster.com or Dice, and then sitting back and waiting for the resumes to flood in.

Today, savvy IT recruiters use social networking websites, like Entelo, Gild and TalentBin, in addition to LinkedIn, where IT professionals gather to share and learn from their colleagues, even to have their IT skills ranked by peers.

“Having access to those social search and engagement tools gives recruiters a special edge,” says Phil Hendrickson, manager of global talent sourcing strategy at Starbucks Coffee Co. “That’s where you’re able to gain social insights into talented professionals across their social graph, to understand what IT talent is doing, developing and sharing.”

Hendrickson explains the reason IT talent has gone into “stealth mode” is that, in the current “war for talent,” there is an abundance of companies seeking the same top skills.

“If you were to show up every day at work and get 10 calls from recruiters, you’d be flattered, but it might also get tiring,” Hendrickson says. “The talent is getting reached out to so often it’s almost as if they’re trying to disappear from sight. To find and engage in a meaningful way, you need to meet them where they are.”

At AT&T, Scott Smith, senior VP, human resources operations, explains the competition for talent is not only the result of the increasing need for technology experts, but also a decrease in the availability of U.S. workers with the required skills.

He calls the skills gap “alarming, especially since STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] jobs are projected to be growing by 17 percent compared to fewer than 10 percent for other professions. Over 2.8 million STEM job openings are predicted and many will go unfilled as candidates lack necessary technical skills, training or post-secondary degrees.”

Smith reports that, to find suitable talent, AT&T uses branding, advertising, professional organizations, events and sponsorships, and campus outreach, with a focus on the digital universe–both online and mobile. And the company will soon roll out a streamlined mobile version of its successful employee referral process.

He estimates that only about 30 percent of the IT population uses job boards, while 70 percent use search engines and social media to do their job search.

Smith says the AT&T Talent Network, which allows for relationship-based advertising, has become a top 10 source of applications and hires for the company. “Job seekers can opt in for additional information, and we provide regular updates about our company culture, community activities, innovation, and jobs,” he explains.

HR Strategies for Finding--and Keeping--IT Talent

Meanwhile, AT&T online experts use SEO  to ensure that jobs are displayed to target candidates on the first page of search results and that AT&T job ads relevant to keyword searches appear in the sponsored ads section using SEM.

At Experis, a division of ManpowerGroup, Michael Barker, too, is discovering that IT people are expecting his people to find them, to perhaps pull their profile off LinkedIn or their Facebook page. As a result, some of his best recruiters are using social media to hunt them down.

“The recruiters are setting themselves up with a tweet, getting followers among the IT talent and creating their own communities. That’s really new,” says Barker, who is senior VP and general manager of Experis North America.

Starbucks’ Hendrickson has two additional tips:

·         Veterans are a great source of IT talent for Starbucks, which partners with such veteran-serving nonprofit groups like Hire America’s Heroes. “Large numbers of transitioning veterans are entering the marketplace with cutting-edge skills that companies are looking for, and they are eager to be hired,” he says, “and aren’t as frequently in stealth mode like many already working in corporate jobs.”

·         An internal Candidate Relationship Management (CRM) platform is an excellent way to build a pipeline of talent for the future. Create and use a CRM to manage and maintain contact with prospects.

But given the competition for the best people, how are recruiters determining salary levels?

Trisha Zulic advises using salary surveys to ensure good salary practices--and then to be firm. Zulic is regional HR director at Efficient Edge, which is based in San Diego, and a special expert on the technology panel at the Society for Human Resource Management.

“If you don’t, in your eagerness to attract great talent, you’ll find yourself always competing with other companies willing to pay a dollar more,” Zulic says. “Then you raise it, they raise it, and the next thing you know, you’ve inflated yourself out of a good employee.”

She recommends having a good compensation package in place that’s compatible with the culture and bottom line of your organization. And, she insists, remember there are many ways to lure good people in addition to attractive salaries, many of which are frequently overlooked by employers.

They include:

·         Health and welfare benefits

·         Tuition reimbursement

·         Learning and development programs

·         Being able to telecommute

·         Awarding a few days off after finishing a project (and the days off don’t count toward vacation time)

·         Being flexible about work hours; many IT people work best in the evening

·         Supplying fun extras, like snacks and meals, video games, a gym and game rooms.

Compensation is the carrot, say HR experts, but the other benefits are deal sealers. And don’t forget the biggest components of all–what the prospective employee will actually be responsible for doing, the interaction they’ll have with their boss, and the opportunities for an engaged employee experience at the company.

HR Strategies for Finding--and Keeping--IT Talent

Just as important, if not more important, than attracting great talent is keeping it.

“What retains people more than anything else,” says Experis’ Barker, “is whether the work is challenging and stimulating, and whether it is building the talent’s resume. You can pay well, but if the company isn’t progressive, if it’s not doing the latest cool projects, your people will be easily lured elsewhere, regardless how good the salary is.”

And don’t forget: 

·         Meaningful, useful, helpful reviews

·         Company culture and community match

·         Leaders that care, serve and are forthright

·         Fair compensation including total rewards, not just salary

·         Opportunity to make a difference at work and in the community through work.

“Most of all, treating people with respect is universally appreciated,” says Starbucks’ Hendrickson. “That’s the most important thing you can do after you’ve convinced somebody to join your company.”


About the Author

Paul Hyman is a freelance technology writer and editor. He was an editor-in-chief at CMP Publications (now United Business Media) and currently reports for such publications as Communications of the ACM, IHS’ Electronics360, and CRM Magazine. See an archive of some of his stories.