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4 ways your company is contributing to the IT skills gap

Sharon Florentine | Nov. 13, 2014
If you're an IT or HR manager, you already know there's a major disconnect between the skills, knowledge and experience your organization needs and the availability of those skills in the current talent pool.

If you're an IT or HR manager, you already know there's a major disconnect between the skills, knowledge and experience your organization needs and the availability of those skills in the current talent pool.

In fact, a recent survey of 37,000 global employers performed by staffing firm Manpower reported that 36 percent say they're having trouble filling available positions. Of those respondents, 35 percent cite a lack of hard skills or "technical competencies" as the reason, while 25 percent cite a lack of experience and 19 percent say a lack of soft skills makes it difficult to fill available roles.

Is There Really a Skills Gap?

Peter Cappelli, professor of management at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, has researched the skills gap question and says that it's not so much of a gap, but more of a skills-mismatch issue, and one that can be addressed if employers take a hard look at their recruiting, hiring and retention practices to make sure they're not part of the problem.

He expressed these ideas earlier this year in a column for the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR). According to Capelli, virtually all the evidence used to support the skills gap idea comes from employers, either via anecdotes, proprietary surveys from consulting firms or industry associations.

In other words, these don't provide enough hard, objective data to accurately pinpoint where the problem areas actually lie. "The surveys report that employers have difficulty hiring but do not give a definition as to what 'difficulty' means nor ask why. My review of all these reports finds that many of them actually report contradictory evidence; a surprisingly large percentage of employers say that the difficulty they have stems from not paying enough, not providing training and not being able to anticipate their skill needs," says Cappelli.

If you are in search of tech talent and you find yourself doing these four things, you may be your own worst enemy.

Trying to Find the Perfect Match

"Say you want to go out for dinner. If you are looking for a three-star Mediterranean restaurant that serves excellent baklava and also has an area for al fresco dining, well, your options are going to be much more limited than if you said, 'I want an upscale restaurant with great food,'" says Tom Leung, CEO and gounder of anonymous career matchmaking service Poachable.

That metaphor is also relevant when looking for talent in IT and engineering. Widening your search parameters can help you find the diamond in the rough.

"IT has a very deep taxonomy, but it can create a false sense of scarcity. Do you want to widen your net to find great candidates with skills that will translate? Or do you spend months, thousands of dollars and lose productivity trying to find that 'Cinderella' candidate for whom the glass slipper fits perfectly?" Leung says. In many cases, hiring companies fail to see the costs of waiting, and won't consider excellent candidates who they could mold to fit the position.

 

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