IT Talent Shortages in a Viral Pandemic

We are living through unprecedented times: times that are testing individuals, businesses and essential services. While some sectors have seen their operations temporarily shut down, others are seeing that an organisation’s ability to flex and adapt is making the difference between those thrown into chaos and those that are thriving – all despite the daily challenges we’re facing.

While many organisations have expanded their logistics capabilities to meet changing market conditions, another emphasis has naturally been on an organisation’s digital offering. From independent retailers moving catalogues to new online platforms, to the large supermarkets having to implement an unprecedented type of digital crowd control to ensure fair access to their food delivery services, we’re seeing huge spikes in demand for developers right now. Since the beginning of March, we’ve seen a considerable 20 per cent of our total requirements take shape in the developer space, with 10 per cent specifically for Infrastructure Support roles.

The Growing Demand for Digital

Of course, with so many individuals now working remotely, the digital workspace is now proving its worth now more than ever. Organisations who were early to adopt flexible working practices have a head start, but even they may find their systems under strain. Network architects, analysts and engineers are battling to optimise these systems to keep employees both connected and protected.

These pressures are compounded by the growing influence of gaming, entertainment and digital media services. With many of us now more reliant on our home networks than ever, the pressure to maintain the frictionless streaming experiences we’re accustomed to is increasingly difficult to fulfil. Network infrastructure specialists are naturally highly sought after to lighten the load, as operators vie for the right talent offset the spike in demand for digital skills.

The cyber space is also naturally seeing a surge in requests. The speed of change we’ve seen in the last few weeks – where decentralised working has fast become the norm – has elevated the importance of having an extensive cybersecurity support operation. Increasing volumes of phishing emails have been reported since the outbreak. Incidents of malware on fake websites are on the rise, designed to steal user’s credit card data. These all greatly increase the risks to firms endorsing remote working and are propping up the need for cyber security analysts imminently.

Technical support is another area seeing an uptick, from home broadband and online content providers to digital services and software, increased use is leading to increased support requirements. Those without user friendly self-service help or chatbots are seeing call volumes and chat requests climb ever higher.

Attracting the Right Talent

Attention now turns to how these organisations find, attract and secure the people needed to drive the pace of their transformation. These were talent short areas before the outbreak, but what is happening with that talent now? While some projects have been put on hold, much more likely is that the talent shortage has intensified through sickness and increased demand.

We find ourselves back in familiar territory in many ways in how we handle talent shortages. In a candidate-led market, employers need to work harder to sell their opportunity to potential candidates, recognising the aspects of the project, role or organisation that are most appealing. They also need to strategise the best ways of acquiring the skills to deliver their objectives.

One pool of talent that may be easier to mobilise at this point is contractors. With the IR35 regulations that were due to come into force on the 6th April, a number of contractors deemed in-scope had already left their assignments; the recently announced delay provides a little breathing room for those individuals and the organisations that might utilise their skills.

Another option to quickly evolve their IT services is to turn to project RPO (recruitment process outsourcing) or an employed consultant model, where they engage external specialists to fulfil their staffing needs on a project basis. This delivers the skills required by IT departments to deliver digital solutions at speed, combined with the flexibility to control the right headcounts for the short-term spike.

Whatever approach an organisation pursues, the past month has emphasised both how much we rely on digital services and how an organisation’s digital capabilities can differentiate them in a time of crisis.