As America received welcome news from the Bureau of Labor Statistics—the October jobs report showed a gain of 638,000 jobs and a drop in the unemployment rate to 6.9%—a closer look at the tech industry reveals that competition for technical talent is on the rise. CompTIA’s monthly analysis of BLS data notes an estimated 14,200 jobs were added to the tech sector in October, while “IT employment expanded by an estimated 142,000 positions for the month” across all sectors of the economy. As such, the IT unemployment rate now stands at 2.8%, a rate low enough to create fierce competition for tech workers with the most sought-after skills.
Tech employers are acknowledging their hiring challenges, too. According to the Consumer Technology Association, 80% of respondents to the organization’s Future of Work: 2020 Member Survey identify a need for more employees with technical skills. Another 75% say it’s challenging to find candidates with the right mix of technical and soft skills.
Technical aptitude alone is no longer enough.
Indeed’s analysis of IT job postings in May finds that the hottest tech skills haven’t changed much since the onset of the pandemic. Skills related to data processing and analysis, especially Python and SQL, lead the way, along with Java, AWS and Agile.
But both the Indeed postings analysis and the results of the Consumer Technology Association’s annual survey reveal that technical aptitude is no longer the sole criteria for assessing candidate quality. There’s a growing emphasis on soft skills as more and more employers seek IT workers with strong abilities across communication, analysis, critical thinking and problem solving—a shift that will make it even more difficult for recruiters to identify ideal candidates for available opportunities.
Much more work is required to advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
In late 2019, WIRED magazine reported that in the five years since America’s big tech companies first promised to diversify their workforces, little progress has been made when it comes to hiring black and Latinx technical workers into positions as coders, engineers and data scientists. Worse, attrition rates show that black and Latinx employees at Google left the company at higher rates than their white counterparts did. As WIRED notes, research conducted by the Kapor Center into the widespread issue of attrition throughout the industry indicates that too many minority tech workers report feeling they were stereotyped and often overlooked for promotions.
Some gains have been realized in terms of the percentages of female tech hires, including an increase from 15% to 23% in the female tech workforce at Facebook. Unfortunately, these advances are now being threatened by the pandemic, which has caused a huge proportion of women to leave all segments of workforce due to childcare and at-home schooling responsibilities. According to the World Economic Forum, as many as two million women in America “are considering taking a leave of absence or leaving the workforce altogether.”
The hope is that 2020 marks a much-needed turning point as months of protests against racial injustice have forced corporate America to recognize that it’s time for meaningful work around DEI. The Consumer Technology Association’s research reveals that 86% of tech companies “have at least one current or planned diversity and inclusion initiation at their organization.” Another 43% will concentrate on “hiring more employees from underrepresented backgrounds and communities within the next five years.”
Tech recruiting strategies should focus on advancing DEI.
Talent acquisition teams have a unique opportunity to bring diverse IT talent into their organizations by making sure their recruiting strategies are as effective as possible in supporting DEI. Among those showing strong promise:
- Revising IT job requisitions and removing requirements that only serve as barriers to diversity hiring. One approach is to place less emphasis on college degrees as a requirement and more on the skills that job seekers possess, as this allows recruiters to both broaden their talent pipelines and take advantage of sources of IT talent such as bootcamps, which have already proven capable of reaching a more diverse pool of candidates.
- Considering grow-your-own apprenticeships. These efforts are on the rise due to their success in helping workers cultivate both technical and soft skills. Expect to see more initiatives like these given the rise of talent and opportunity marketplaces as a means of ensuring employees develop the skills that support greater mobility across roles and departments.
- Assessing your recruiting technology to mitigate hiring bias. From algorithms that ensure job posting content isn’t biased to the use of AI-driven sourcing and assessment applications that allow for recruiter oversight, numerous tools exist that can help eliminate bias throughout the hiring process. Start with a smaller pilot program so that you can monitor your progress and make any necessary corrections before applying the technologies more broadly.
Competition for tech workers alongside the need to attract, retain and support diverse talent will only increase in the coming months. Investing time now to assess your organization’s ability to connect and engage with a broader range of candidates, as well as leverage the hiring tools that mitigate bias, will help you prepare for whatever 2021 brings your way.
Get more #GR8Thinking on the current tech recruiting landscape—download The State of IT Recruiting in 2021.