How Can We Tackle Tech Talent Shortage


Many advantages have emerged as a result of the digital revolution. Benefits such as improved accessibility, a reduction in the need to travel extensively and a massive rise in home working have inevitably led to employees being able to make lifestyle-led choices about how and where they work. While there are undoubtedly pros to this transformation, there are some serious drawbacks; one of the most significant of which is the massive shortage of talent to fill tech jobs.

The pandemic-induced shift in the employment markets has combined with a perfect storm of events (upcoming retirement of baby boomers, lower birth rates in developed countries), to create a global problem: there are plenty of tech jobs about, and not enough talent to fill them.

The problem

The shortage isn’t specific to the USA – or to tech. A Korn Kerry survey examining 20 global economies across the finance/business services, technology/media/telecommunications, and manufacturing sectors estimates that, by 2030, the three sectors could see a talent shortage of 85 million people across 20 economies.

For the US, the event is significant enough that it has been given a name. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics program, JOLTS (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey) has been measuring quit rates since 2001. A high of 2.4% was reached early in the program, in February 2001, but this record was not surpassed for the next two decades. This record was broken in March 2021 (2.5%) and smashed in April (2.8%). By November of 2021, the rate had reached 3%, where it remained through December. Coined the Great Resignation, this event has seen unprecedented numbers of people quitting their jobs; in November 2021, according to the US Department of Labor, 4.5 million American workers quit their jobs, with more than twice as many job openings advertised by employers.

To put it simply: it’s not just that there is greater demand for tech talent; it’s that the talent has got choosier.

The problem with tech

More jobs than people to fill them is a problem for any industry, but when those jobs are tech jobs, it poses a real threat to our future development. Far from a world where “computers will be doing our jobs” we are creating a society that, although it is increasingly dependent on technology to enhance our lives and well-being, the technology in question is entirely dependent on the humans driving its development.

The solution

If any industry can solve the tech shortage, surely the traditionally innovative and inspirational tech industry can. So, in a time when hiring – and keeping – talent is increasingly challenging, what can employers do to tackle the problem?

  1. Look to the professionals

An insight into the industry and what makes employees tick is a distinct advantage in a competitive employment environment. A skilled tech recruitment firm like Motion Recruitment could help you to get ahead of other organizations that are trying to attract the same talent as you. Agencies tend to have a larger pool of talent to draw from and they also usually have a good dose of intuition thanks to years of experience in paper sifting, interviewing, and onboarding. Even for larger organizations with in-house recruitment departments, getting help from an agency could give you a broader choice and will save you from having to spend large amounts of time shortlisting. Another reason to lean on specialist recruiters is that they will encourage you to look outside of your traditional demographics and help you to identify the potential in raw and established talent; diamonds in the rough that other less open-minded organizations may well overlook. This brings us neatly to the next way to tackle the problem: instead of relying on the ideal candidate finding you, take staff with potential, and turn them into your ideal candidate

  1. Nurture potential

A contributing factor to the emerging shortage in tech talent could be that employers have got complacent. As part of a rapidly growing industry, previously in tech, raw talent was seen and nurtured, with green technicians learning on the job and rising through the ranks. This saw a natural upwards and sideways migration of senior staff, with a large population of upwardly mobile employees ready to fill their spaces. The mass resignation, coupled with the large-scale retirement of baby boomers, has resulted in a massive gap – and not enough “risers” to fill it. To address this vacuum, maybe the challenge needs to be seen a little differently: it is not just about recruiting talent today, but about nurturing raw talent today so that it will be able to fill those roles in 5, 10, 15 years’ time. For a traditionally future-aware industry, this should be a no-brainer to the tech world: start investing in entry-level staff now so that you have what you (and the rest of the industry) need in the future. Here we have our third key way to address the tech shortage. Instead of panicking and concentrating all your efforts on recruitment, spend a little time looking at retention.

  1. Retain, don’t recruit

In a world where there are more tech jobs than spaces, you can’t afford to lose your most valuable assets. This is even more true when it is talent that you have nurtured and invested in heavily. The only thing easier than finding a solution to a staffing crisis is to do what you can to prevent it from happening in the first place. This is, of course, much more challenging in a day when geography is not usually a critical factor in employment choices. Instead of looking at how you can get new talent in, it may help to understand whether you can prevent existing talent from moving out, whilst investing in moving talent up. If you are considering talking to a tech recruitment specialist, it may be worth seeing if they also offer consulting; this could be an invaluable opportunity for you to develop your existing assets and optimize your operating models, all the while incentivizing your staff to stay, work, and rise through the ranks.

The challenges in tech are ever-changing and the only way to overcome them is to do what leaders in tech have always done: survive, adapt, and thrive. As a business leader, it is your role to understand when it is time to rely on your own resources, or when to capitalize on someone else’s to ensure that you don’t just find the right talent, you find the best.