The pace of innovation in the IT world could easily lead to trigger-happy hiring by HR departments.
Cloud is the next big thing? Hire someone with ‘cloud skills’ on their CV. Escalating cyber threats on organisations? Hire a cyber security expert.
But by the time you’ve sifted through hundreds of applications, sat through many interviews of varying quality, negotiated on salary and finally got someone behind a desk, it could be an entirely new set of skills that your business needs.
According to research by Trustmarque and Vanson Bourne, 88 percent of CIOs agreed that the IT skills needed by organisations have changed within the last five years.
There’s no reason to expect that they won’t change again in the next five years either, as technologies such as augmented reality and the internet of things start to make their mark on the workplace.
The concern amongst IT decision-makers is evident; Experis research found IT leaders thinking on average that 29 percent of their teams need to be replaced in order to drive digital transformation and increase productivity.
IT teams were facing expectations to deliver more cloud services, mobile apps and turn data into actionable insight in 61 percent, 53 percent and 51 percent of organisations respectively. 67 percent of IT leaders said they lacked the balance of team expertise required to provide these services.
Harvey Nash and KPMG also recently launched a survey of over 3,300 CIOs and technology leaders across 82 countries, which found 65 percent of CIOs saying that skills shortages were holding them back, an increase from 59 percent last year. 39 percent felt that their organisation was suffering from a skills shortage in data analytics.
Yet, bizarrely, in the Experis survey 71 percent of IT workers themselves felt that their skills and knowledge were not being fully utilised by their respective organisations.
Reasons given included a lack of investment, cited by 46 percent, and of up-to-date training, cited by 34 percent. 34 percent meanwhile felt that day-to-day problem solving was prioritised over innovation projects.
Is there a better way? This strange discrepancy between IT staff and their bosses could hold the key to the problem of changing skill requirements meaning changing people.
"HR needs to ensure that it is fully using the staff that they have," says Martin Ewings, SMB Director at Experis.
Generally, as the Experis survey shows, IT professionals feel they could be doing more, taking on greater challenges and taking a greater role in innovation within the business.
Part of the solution is in ensuring that proper training is in place for existing workers.
An interesting case study for this very process of up skilling could be the appointments of Data Protection Officers (DPOs) when the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is introduced in 2018.
Under Article 35, public authorities and companies which undertake "regular and systematic monitoring of data subjects on a large scale" or where large-scale processing of specific data is undertaken will have to appoint a DPO.
Guy Bunker, SVP of Products at Clearswift, explains how the role will require both IT skills and a legal understanding of GDPR.
"There are two pieces; the legal side of understanding the regulations and the IT side of understanding where the information is, how it’s stored and how you might protect it," he says.
However, the IT skills are more important since Bunker argues that the DPO could work with a legal department to deal with the regulation side. This is because the IT skills will allow the DPO to actually dig into the corporate information and then submit what they have done to the legal department.
Again, Bunker doesn’t suggest that the solution is to go out looking for a DPO as a new hire.
"There’s an opportunity here for people within the IT department who understand their systems to step up to the mark and perhaps take on that role."
Of course, this approach means that all new hires need to be assessed in a different way; in terms of their ability to not only do the role that they are being hired for but in terms of their ability to learn new skills.
Georgina Adams, Tech Recruiter at Sky Betting & Gaming, explains how the company takes a long-term view, looking for people with the right mixture of culture fit and skill set.
She notes that "outlook and approach are the glue that holds our teams together" rather than any specific skill, and that the company explores what skills they have at what level before structuring the projects around that.
Essentially, Adams says it boils down to people "who have that spark of natural curiosity with the diligence to unpick things and work on a problem until it’s resolved."
Talking about the DPO, Bunker cites strong IT skills as a bedrock, but also non-technical skills such as great communication and an ability to be "inquisitive, innovative, in order to put together a solution on a shoe-string, because the days of limitless budgets are gone."
In essence, IT hiring needs to move away from a skills hunt and towards choosing people on their basis to learn new skills. They may even realise that they already have the personnel ready and willing to learn these skills.