A global pandemic, economic contraction, and calls to end racial inequality have altered the IT hiring landscape. Here’s how companies are adjusting when it comes to IT staffing.
A global pandemic, the resulting recession, and nationwide calls to end racial inequality are altering the hiring landscape in ways that could be long lasting, technology leaders say.
A recent jobs report from the World Economic Forum describes a “double disruption” for workers this past year, in which a worldwide lockdown and economic contraction were paired with the transformation of the workplace by an accelerated adoption of technology.
IT pros are seeing their entire hiring cycle handled remotely, including onboarding, at all levels. And job candidates are now asking tough questions about companies’ diversity practices.
Here’s how hiring has shifted of late, including trends on the rise and those on the wane, and what opportunities these fast-moving changes may offer.
A number of tech executives report that protests against racial injustice have had an impact on hiring practices. Rohan Amin, CIO of JPMorgan Chase, says leading organizations are making concerted efforts to address bias and foster diversity and inclusion.
“Recruiting more diverse candidates is a top priority and that includes hiring more candidates with nontraditional technology backgrounds,” Amin says. “There is a clear competitive advantage to having a greater number of employees with diverse skills and perspectives, and I’m glad that this trend is here to stay.”
Peter Baskin, chief product officer for Modern Hire, agrees that firms that do not make changes in their hiring to foster diversity and inclusiveness are likely to be criticized for it.
“To create a more diverse workforce, recruiters must hire diverse employees by reducing and eliminating unconscious bias from the hiring process,” Baskin says. “But that’s easier said than done, considering we’re so prone to unconscious bias that we often don’t realize we’re making decisions based on them.”
Cold: Attracting top talent from abroad
The pandemic and an uncertain political climate that’s made it difficult to obtain immigration visas for business have created multiple challenges for companies seeking foreign national talent to increase innovation and fill vital roles, says Lindsay Dagiantis, vice president of human resources at Envoy Global.
“Even amid COVID-19, there is a talent shortage in STEM fields with job demand still growing, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics,” Dagiantis says. “Foreign talent now may feel a sense of anxiety as it relates to living and working in the United States. Because of this, it’s important for HR teams to offer extra support to these employees, such as extended office hours, transparency between HR and law firms as well as frequent check-ins to see how employees are doing.”
Hot: Remote recruiting
Paul Schneider, partner at Keystone Partners, is seeing demand for data analytics, artificial intelligence roles, engineering, and expertise in software as a service, especially as more companies shift their focus to mobility and the cloud. In other words, many of the same skills highly sought for prior to COVID-19.
But what has changed is the predominance of new virtual means for outreach, he says.
“Virtual job fairs are opening new doors for job seekers, as companies have expanded their recruitment needs to hire across state lines and no longer rely on in-person fairs and hiring in their backyards,” Schneider says.
James Durago, recruiting manager at Google, thinks virtual recruiting is here to stay and will outlast the pandemic.
“I actually think this trend will continue even when companies begin to let their employees work in the office because of the convenience and cost,” Durango says.
Cold: In-person onboarding, traditional metrics
Keystone Partners’ Schneider also sees growth in online onboarding and technology for retention but says a lot of what we used to expect to see, in terms of traditional onboarding, is gone for good.
“In-person onboarding that used to center on an office tour, keycards, and lunch out with the manager or team is obsolete. Now there’s a focus on digital orientation and cybersecurity training. Expect an increase in the need for data-driven insights to measure performance, engagement, and cultural impact on new and current remote employees,” he says.
Hot: Perks that meet pandemic stresses
Durago says he’s seeing more efforts to promote financial stability and home life, during the pandemic, and the perks extend beyond a salary bump.
“Companies are beginning to offer perks like helping pay for student loans, offering leave benefits to help take care of loved ones affected by COVID, and upskilling benefits like educational reimbursements or time-off to take certs,” he says.
Cold: Office perks
In-office perks such as free food, juice bars, beer on tap, and fitness centers, which were previously used to attract top talent, are now irrelevant, says Schneider.
“Once important to senior executives, negotiating for a larger (or corner) office or admin support are meaningless when working remotely with a suite of digital tools are the norm,” Schneider says. “There will be new perks that employees will be asking for in their packages such as flexible work schedules, permanent remote work, moving to other states, vacation rollover, childcare, and tutoring for kids.”
Hot: In-home perks
Sankar Lagudu, chief operating officer of RFPIO, says his company, like others, is making an effort to bring the office to the employees.
“We’ve provided home office equipment like desks and chairs so working from home is comfortable and productive,” Lagudu says. “Virtual yoga classes and other wellness programs are also available for employees and their families to stay connected and healthy during this time.”
David Blair, chief technology officer of Andela, takes a similar approach.
“People miss the office and the sense of community and social engagement it provides,” Blair says. “Just like there is a budget for office improvements every year to do things like replace the rugs or upgrade the furniture, we have to offer similar perks for remote workers to get a good chair or a standup desks. We also offer perks for internet and mobile stipends to offset these expenses for the person working from home. People are also interested in part time co-working spaces which is something we are doing more and more of for people in the same cities.”
Cold: Job aggregators
Hiring managers and job hunters alike are finding job aggregation sites less useful than more narrowly focused sites, says Darrell Rosenstein, founder of the Rosenstein Group, a recruiting firm focused on software development.
“The viability of job marketplace sites like Indeed has been waning, and I foresee that trend continuing,” Rosenstein says. “Right now, companies that post job openings on these public forums are getting inundated with resumes, many from underqualified applicants. This is likely to hold true through 2021 at the least, as those who are currently unemployed compete for a limited number of open positions. Some are coping with this by automating their resume review process, but other companies are switching to more targeted marketplaces or other avenues for filling positions.”
Hot: Honed job descriptions
Facing new challenges and quickly changing needs, organizations are now more diligent about being specific in job descriptions, says Envoy Global’s Dagiantis. That the recruiting and interviewing process has gone virtual may also be contributing to this desire for clear communication about job requirements upfront.
“One trend we’re seeing is that HR and recruiting teams are spending more time at the front end of the recruiting process to clearly articulate what skills and behaviors are needed from candidates,” Dagiantis says. “That wasn’t as prominent from hiring teams pre-pandemic. This is due in part to COVID-19 accelerating the need for candidates to have new skill sets,” like problem solving and critical thinking.
Cold: Customer-facing roles
Dashlane’s Leaf-Clark says most organizations are tightening their belts headed into 2021, and one casualty will be customer-facing jobs.
“Those roles are being put on pause, or duties are being spread across existing teams,” he says, “while focus is being put more on seasoned systems admins. That plan your company had to expand offices or beef up desktop support or service desks due to the organization's rapid growth is likely being put on pause as companies either scale down their office presence, or wait and see what the future holds before they commit to additional headcount.”
Hot: Security and leadership roles
Jay Leaf-Clark, head of IT at password manager at Dashlane, says there’s been a predictable spike in hiring for remote security, systems automation, and monitoring.
“These positions have often been pushed off as most organizations assume they can get by, by taking care of more immediate needs,” Leaf-Clark says. “But I'm seeing positions for sysadmins who can rapidly build or wrangle third-party tools — to manage automation like Microsoft Intune, JAMF, or others to monitor compliance and potential security threats — become a top priority as we all look to a future which feels a little uncertain.”
A more surprising trend is a brisk market for C-suite talent, says Tecla Palli-Sandler, chief human resources officer at Capgemini North America. “Executive leadership is being hired at volume right now,” she says.
Katie Graham Shannon, global managing partner of the digital officers and technology officers practices at executive search firm Heidrick and Struggles, says the adoption of virtual hiring at all levels is the biggest surprise she’s seen in hiring this year.
“We’ve seen Fortune 25 companies make end-to-end hiring decisions from retaining the executive search firm to hiring a candidate without ever holding an in-person meeting or interview,” Shannon says.
Author: Paul Heltzel
Paul Heltzel is a writer and editor, formerly of Discovery News, National Geographic, NPR, and PC World magazine. He lives on the Rappahannock River in Virginia with his wife Deborah and their three kids.