Industries still reporting IT skills shortage Communication most in-demand ’soft’ skill - also in greatest shortage Linked-In beats out Facebook for social network recruitment. Despite the current economic downturn, demand for experienced and higher skilled IT professionals remains, according to the latest findings from a national workplace survey.

The survey of senior IT decision makers and hiring managers across a range of New Zealand businesses, by global workforce solutions leader Kelly Services, finds over 71% of respondents report an increase or no change in demand for skilled IT professionals in their industry.

The survey, when compared to the previous Kelly IT survey carried out in July 2008, emphasises that little change has been seen in the sector, with 80% of respondents 18 months ago describing the effects of the IT skills shortage as moderate to severe. “The current economic climate has dramatically changed the labour marketplace,” says Kelly Services director - Professional and Technical, Steve Martin.

“However, the IT industry is continuing to experience growth driven by new opportunities to leverage technology for cost savings in organisations, and businesses recognising the fundamental role that IT has in business development and success,” says Steve Martin. “The industry is also cautiously optimistic, with the majority of those respondents who did report a decrease in demand, expecting demand to increase in six months’ time.”

While the demand is there, the challenge - despite the softening of the current labour market - is finding the candidates with the right skills to fill those roles. “Clients have become very specific about their requirements and any additional staff must be able to make an immediate positive impact to a business,” says Mr Martin.

Survey respondents, who represent senior IT specialists from a range of industries, report that finding the right skills is the greatest barrier to hiring new employees, followed by cost, and certainty of work. But it’s not just technical skills that are undergoing a shortage. Survey respondents identified communication skills as the most important non-technical or ’soft’ skill, with the largest number also indicating it was also the skill with the greatest shortage.

In order, the top five most important non-technical skills for IT professionals, as reported by survey respondents, are communication, problem solving and decision making, self-management, teamwork, and initiative and enterprise. Three of those skills (communication, initiative and enterprise, and self-management) are also identified as being in the greatest shortage, suggesting a significant gap in available skills.

“As the traditional IT role becomes more dynamic, with tasks such as project management placing a greater emphasis on the need for building and establishing relationships, organisations are increasingly looking for IT professionals who can also demonstrate strong non-technical skills, particularly communication skills,” says Steve Martin.

“With IT becoming ever increasingly an intrinsic part of nearly every aspect of a business, IT professionals are required to work within a collaborative team environment, demanding the ability to demonstrate initiative and teamwork. With many projects encompassing teams of people from around the world, the IT industry is becoming a much more interactive industry than ever before.”

The growing importance of ’soft’ skills is one of the reason that more and more organisations are turning to recruitment and HR specialists, with almost 30% of survey respondents employing the services of recruitment agencies to recruit and hire IT professionals.

“Attracting the right IT talent requires experience, networks and a comprehensive approach to matching the right skill set to a role - particularly with the growing importance of non-technical skills,” says Steve Martin. “Many organisations recognise that they don’t have the skills or resources in-house to ensure a positive outcome from their recruitment process, and so look to recruitment organisations like Kelly IT Resources to supply effective HR solutions.”

“While the economic downturn has contributed to a larger pool of available candidates, it has never been more important to make sure you make the right choice. Factoring in the growing importance of people skills in many IT roles means that businesses need to a be more creative in attracting and retaining talent, and more savvy in their recruitment strategies.”

The survey shows that 29% of respondents utilise the Internet and online job portals as a complementary recruitment strategy, with around 25% reporting the use of social networking sites. Of those respondents, the majority favoured the professional networking site Linked In, over Facebook and Twitter.

“Online recruitment strategies using job boards are mainstream now, but it will be interesting to see what role popular social networking sites have in that process moving forward - particularly given the obvious appeal for IT professionals,” says Steve Martin. “These results really reinforce how important it is for recruitment agencies to work closely with organisations to enable a better understanding of the developments in an industry that is at the cutting edge of technology and innovation.”