Remember 1997? : The Labor Drought

According to a cover article in the June 30th, 1997 Computerworld, by Julia King, the “IS labor drought will last past 2003″. The Information Services labor shortage isn’t temporary. Forecasters say it will be a fact of corporate life for the next six to eight years. And it’s going to cost a bundle.” The article goes on to say that “the talent shortage could cost as much as $15 billion per year in higher compensation costs, plus as much as $500 billion per year in lost corporate revenue from uncompleted information systems projects.”

These types of comments can be found in every Computer and Telecommunications trade magazine in print today. The problems are real and to some, frightening, because the talent vacuum has never been this bad, nor has the future loomed so full of time-sensitive problems.

I would love to tell everyone that there is an easy solution to the staffing issues facing the technology sector of business, but there isn’t one that I can picture at this time. Sources have estimated that the demand for new software professionals is growing by more than 500,000 per year while American Universities are producing only between 40,000 and 50,000 Computer Science graduates annually. Current openings in the computer field in the U.S. have been estimated at 190,000, NOT counting, small business, government and non-profit employers’ positions.

So what do we all do? For one, if your organization has technical positions to fill, you must be prepared to fight. You will have to be organized and decisive. You will have to be prepared to launch a multi-threaded strategic approach to hunt down and capture the best talent, and you will have to move like lightning to put it into play. You may have to break some rules, go outside the lines, get out of the box and maybe rethink your pre-set salary guidelines because the rules are changing quicker than they can be documented.

The standard practice of “we will respond to you within 3-4 weeks from the date of receiving your resume” is outmoded. In the technical marketplace today, 1-4 days is more like it. Companies who understand this and train themselves to respond quickly, are more successful than the traditional crowd who still think they are doing the candidate a favor for acknowledging his or her interest. The market is, undeniably, moving very quickly.

One of the only things hiring managers and human resource departments can CONTROL is the speed at which the candidate “processing” machine is running. If your competition is still operating under the myth “if they’re really interested in us they will (obediently and humbly) wait,” your organization could achieve a competitive edge resulting in additional hires, simply by pouring on the coals and beating them to the punch. I don’t mean to oversimplify this point, but sometimes all it takes to win the race is to get off your posterior and realize it is a race.

Organizations with multiple technical openings and mission critical projects are in a precarious position. While there is no off-the-shelf solution, a carefully orchestrated plan based on an understanding of what the marketplace is doing is essential.

Good people have always been hard to find. At Electronic Search, Inc. we actually count on the fact that good people are hard to find because finding them for our clients is how we have earned our reputation for the last 20 years. Now though, in the technical marketplace, the cliché has taken on a whole new meaning.

Steve Eddington