No Relief in Sight for Tech Recruiting, Retention Pain

Don Tennant
Slide Show

Seven Areas to Research Before a Job Interview

If you’re finding that recruiting top technology talent is your biggest headache right now, you might take some consolation in the fact that you’re hardly alone. According to the results of a recent study, a large percentage of managers are feeling your pain, and there’s no relief in sight.

The study, “2014 Tech Hiring and Retention Survey” conducted by New York executive search firm Harris Allied, found that hiring and retaining tech talent is the No. 1 concern of 42 percent of the managers surveyed. I recently had the opportunity to discuss the findings with Kathy Harris, managing director of Harris Allied, and I opened the conversation by asking her if she found any of the results of the survey to be especially surprising. She said she saw several surprises in the survey data this year:

We were surprised to see guaranteed annual cash bonuses cited in the talent attraction data. We were also surprised by the high number of respondents (60 percent) who reported that they were unaware when one of their team was being pursued by a competitor. Teams generally work closely together and one would think there would be signs if someone were interviewing. The percent of respondents cited using counter offers as a retention tool is also higher than we would expect, and reflects a tightening talent market.

As for significant differences in the findings this year compared to last year, Harris cited one in particular:

Guaranteed bonuses was the No. 3 strategy cited by respondents for attracting talent. Guaranteed cash bonuses are more common for business-facing roles, especially where revenue generation is involved. We see this trend as being reflective of a tight tech labor market. … We’ve seen a shifting landscape with bonus payouts during the past couple of years. Many employees have been disappointed with their annual bonuses, and are skeptical when they receive a bonus estimate as part of their comp package. This has made the topic of annual bonuses an issue for many candidates.

I asked Harris if she had any sense of whether there has been a change in preference among technology pros to go the employee route vs. the independent contractor route, or vice versa. Her response:

Recently, we’ve seen more full-time employees who are open to consulting or contract-to-hire roles. They’re attracted by the flexibility and higher hourly rates. Many have been disappointed by full-time roles in the past, and with their compensation plans. It’s a dynamic market, so there are opportunities for talented people in full-time, contract, and contract-to-hire roles.

The survey found that DBAs are in relatively low demand. I asked Harris what she attributes that to, and she cited automation:

I think the trend towards automation that we’re seeing throughout the industry is creating less demand for DBAs. We have clients currently building database automation products that create efficiencies across large enterprises. I expect this trend will continue with middle market and smaller firms, as well.


I asked Harris to predict how the results of her firm’s 2015 survey will differ from those of the 2014 survey. She said there will be an even stronger focus on recruiting strategies:

I predict even more aggressive recruiting this year, as firms look to their competitors and [different] industries as a source for talent. I also predict we’ll see the trend toward more aggressive compensation packages for top talent, including an increase in guaranteed cash bonuses and more frequent sign-on bonuses. Due to the tight labor market and increased employee attrition, we’re expecting to see a greater number of consulting and contract-to-hire opportunities in 2015, as employers cast wider nets to find top talent.

Finally, Harris offered an important piece of advice for tech pros who are considering making a job change:

Although it’s a dynamic market for tech professionals, it’s important to be mindful before making a job change. Be sure to do research on the company and team, and ask the right questions during interviews. Companies are still reticent to hire candidates with choppy job histories. It’s important that when you change jobs, you make sure that the opportunity is right for your career.

A contributing writer on IT management and career topics with IT Business Edge since 2009, Don Tennant began his technology journalism career in 1990 in Hong Kong, where he served as editor of the Hong Kong edition of Computerworld. After returning to the U.S. in 2000, he became Editor in Chief of the U.S. edition of Computerworld, and later assumed the editorial directorship of Computerworld and InfoWorld. Don was presented with the 2007 Timothy White Award for Editorial Integrity by American Business Media, and he is a recipient of the Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for editorial excellence in news coverage. Follow him on Twitter @dontennant.

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