The IT salary and hiring trends for 2020

The IT industry continues to face a talent shortage, but businesses are getting creative to fill the necessary skills gaps for successful digital transformation

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That talent gap puts pressure on IT hiring practices and impacts an organization’s ability to offer competitive salaries in a tight talent market. But emerging trends from the Robert Half 2020 Salary Guide suggest that organizations are adapting and finding ways to fill skills gaps, even if they can’t lure the top tech talent.

Change is constant in IT with new disruptive technologies entering the market each year. But one facet of IT remains the same: that IT organizations continue to struggle to find enough talent to meet demand. Robert Half surveyed IT hiring decision-makers in North America to find trends in IT hiring and to uncover what businesses value when finding new candidates to hire.

In this years’ survey, 67 percent of IT managers said they want to grow their security, cloud computing and business intelligence teams but 89 percent expressed difficulty in successfully recruiting that talent. And the talent gap only widens for newer technologies such as AI, machine learning, extended reality (XR) and blockchain, which are still relatively rare skills to find in the talent pool.

Whether you’re looking for new talent, trying to fill skills gaps in your organization or embarking on new IT initiatives, here are seven trends that will impact IT salaries and hiring this year.

The talent shortage will be felt outside IT

Talk of the tech talent shortage typically focuses on the IT department and the difficulties IT managers and CIOs face when trying to hire qualified IT professionals with the latest tech skills. But technology has moved beyond IT and is now a main priority for nearly every business unit. And each business unit will have different needs and requirements for their daily work. In 2020, expect departments outside IT to start feeling the strain from the tech talent shortage.

One way to combat the skills shortage spread is to invest in training for current employees — a practice referred to as “upskilling”. It’s likely you have qualified candidates already in your organization who can get up to speed on the technical knowledge the organization needs to grow. Of those surveyed, 90 percent said they are working on upskilling, with the most common skills being cloud computing, security, project management, data science, AI and machine learning.

Soft skills are still in style

Soft skills are still in for 2020 as businesses embrace digital transformation to “bring the business closer to its customers,” according to the report. IT leaders will rely on employees with soft skills who can inform leadership about important trends in the industry, communicate important technical concepts to people outside of IT and who can work collaboratively across departments to help propel digital transformation in the organization.

According to the report, the most sought-after soft skills are adaptability and flexibility, business analysis and critical thinking, collaboration, commitment to ongoing learning, customer service mindset, leadership qualities and verbal and written communication skills.

Be prepared to offer competitive salaries

In the 2019 report, 43 percent of technology leaders said they planned to increase the compensation package for in-demand positions. But it doesn’t seem like much has changed for 2020, with IT managers still citing “inadequate compensation” as a main obstacle to hiring tech talent.

Offering competitive salary packages is one of the biggest hurdles to swaying the top talent to join your organization. And if your business is in a highly competitive area, you might not be able to match what other companies are offering. In that case, you’ll need to find ways to sweeten the deal with interesting tech projects, remote work flexibility, bonuses and other incentives.

Clean up your hiring process

After inadequate compensation, IT managers cited a slow hiring process as another major roadblock for hiring talent. In a competitive market, candidates will likely have multiple offers on the table and won’t wait around forever to hear from every company they’ve interviewed with. But it’s also important to avoid rushing the process —you need a strong process in place for vetting candidates as a good match before extending an offer.

Nearly all of the respondents (95%) said that they had made a poor hiring choice at some point in their career. These bad hires were typically due to a rushed process that either failed to verify their interpersonal skills, technical abilities or how well the candidate would fit into the culture. It’s important for companies to evaluate the hiring process to make sure it moves swiftly, but that it also has enough processes in place to ensure candidates are a strong fit. 

Competing on benefits and perks

The fourth and fifth biggest obstacles for IT hiring include competition with other firms and a lack of attractive perks and benefits. While offering a competitive salary is important, if you can’t compete with the top companies in your area for salary, you can sweeten the deal with perks and benefits.

Most companies offer the standard benefits that you’d expect, such as health insurance (81%), paid time off (76%), dental insurance (71%), retirement savings plan (65%) and vision insurance (63%). A lot of organizations report going above and beyond the basics by offering extensive physical, mental and financial wellness services. These include access to fitness facilities or programs (24%), ergonomic equipment (22%), wellness incentives for healthy behavior (18%), healthy food options (14%), stress management resources (14%) and on-site vaccinations or health screenings (9%).

Outside of health and wellness benefits, companies are continually expanding what perks they offer, including flexible work schedules or telecommuting options (50%), paid parental leave (47%), employee discounts (42%), company-subsidized meals or snacks (35%), paid time off to do volunteer work (32%), matching gift programs for employee donations and fundraising (29%).

Incentives may help

Bonuses are another avenue for swaying talent to join your organization. In 2020, 71 percent of companies responded that they plan to offer incentives to staff-level employees. Of those surveyed, 43 percent said they planned to increase the average dollar amount of the incentives they offer and 41 percent plan to increase the frequency at which they’re offered — like from annual to quarterly. And 33 percent of companies surveyed said they planned to add new incentives in the coming year.

Flexible staffing strategies on the rise

Last year, companies responded to the talent shortage by turning to more “project-based consultants and other interim professionals,” according to the 2019 report. That report also suggested companies would embrace more flexible staffing strategies to help IT departments stay agile so they can quickly jump into new IT projects, upgrades, implementations and cloud migrations without disturbing daily operations.

It seems as though this will stay true for 2020, with 95 percent of IT leaders saying they had plans to “bring in project professionals to support their core staff,” according to the report. Using a flexible staffing approach can help companies “assemble and deploy teams that can work on a diverse range of complex digital projects,” allowing the “core staff” to focus on running and maintain the organization’s core technologies.

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