As part of a series of blogs in celebration of our recent 10th birthday, SustainAbility Tech Director, Ben Athey, shares his experiences on how the IT recruitment industry has changed over the last decade.
If I had to pinpoint the single biggest transformation in the industry, it would be the prominence of IT within businesses. Where IT groups were once stuck in the basement and almost entirely divorced from the rest of the company, they are now front and centre as IT becomes increasingly vital to the strategy and thinking of an organisation.
This has resulted in major shifts within IT and the IT group culture, both of which feed into our work as recruiters. Here are some of the key changes I have seen in the last decade.
The Rise of Soft Skills
In the past, technical strength was king, and recruitment was largely about finding the best person technically for the role. With IT now enjoying a higher profile within the business, softer skills such as customer service, communication skills and the ability to interface with the business have come to the forefront. Fitting into the company’s culture also takes a higher importance. Ten years ago, companies wanted candidates that met 100% of the role’s technical requirements whilst settling for less of a match around soft skills and team fit. That has flipped in recent years, and companies are now willing to compromise on technical ability for the right soft skills and a perfect cultural fit.
Interestingly, a big facet of this trend has been driven by the role of agile. Agile involves much more engagement between the business and IT, which has empowered business groups to better shape development outcomes and in turn has empowered development teams to own the outcomes of their work. This has been a positive for all concerned, with the resulting ability to engage and communicate becoming a fundamental piece of the puzzle.
A Shifting Market
Although the market has had its ups and downs over the years, at present the Sydney job market is flying. According to the ABS, unemployment in the greater Sydney region sits at 3.76% – that’s close to an all-time low. Finding IT staff is as hard as it has ever been, and that’s proving to be a limiting factor for businesses that are trying to get projects delivered, increase their footprint or grow their market share.
Hiring quality people is the key to business success in any market, and at a time when it’s so hard to lay your hands on good people, a knowledgeable recruiter is worth their weight in gold. So many companies pull themselves away from their core business to try DIY recruitment. Yet in such a hectic business environment and tight market, taking the search for “the one” into your own hands can be a difficult assignment. A lot of the time, you’ll just end up frustrated with the challenges of sourcing the right person. And if/when one does eventuate, there’s every chance they’re not looking to commit to your organisation.
Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, businesses should engage a quality recruiter, and let them handle this part of the process. It’s an investment that will pay you back ten times over.
Meanwhile, the availability of quality technology has turned the market on its head over the past 10 years. Between supply chains that can have a new laptop on your desk the same day as you order it, the rise of Amazon Web Services and unprecedented levels of global connectivity, your business can move from cool idea to a global business blisteringly quickly. Companies can also rise incredibly fast – consider for a second that AWS only launched in 2006 and Docker did their first release in 2013.
Specialist Candidates and Changing Expectations
Another significant change has been the perspective on candidate versatility. Companies quite routinely used to come to recruiters looking for a Project Manager who could also double as a Business Analyst or a System Engineer and handle Networking if required. Today, however, the increasingly demanding nature of IT means businesses want to recruit specialists and candidates who largely prefer to concentrate on a particular area.
The expectations of candidates have also changed, with many taking a more holistic view of potential roles rather than going for the highest bidder. They’re attracted to companies that are on the technical cutting edge, provide scope to learn and grow, have a good workplace culture and do interesting work that has a positive impact on the world. Given how accessible remote working has become due to technologies such as mobile phones, broadband, video calls, virtual desktops and document sharing systems, top candidates now expect to have the flexibility around hours and the ability to work regularly from home. There’s a multitude of reasons behind this desire to work remotely – a primary one being the 70-75 minutes a day the average Sydney resident spends commuting, as well as juggling child care and school drop offs/pickups. Consequently, businesses now need to offer meaningful workplace flexibility to attract quality talent.
In addition, candidates are somewhat jaded by big companies, often frustrated by the amount of process and outsourcing some of those businesses have adopted. Today, good candidates often prefer mid-tier organisations to the heavy-hitters they favoured a decade ago: companies large enough to run enterprise technologies and command marketplace respect, though small enough not to be hamstrung by processes.
Whilst there has certainly been plenty of changes, the IT recruitment landscape continues to be an exciting and rewarding industry to be a part of. I wonder if I’ll still be grizzling about the changes in in 2028. If so, I’ll comfortably wear the old man hat! What are your thoughts on the changes that have impacted the recruitment industry over the last ten years? I’d love to hear your thoughts.