Enterprise Communications

Human Capital Management: Analyzing the Tech Talent Gap

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  November 21, 2017

There’s a whole lot of talk lately about the tech talent gap. This widening crevasse exists across a wide array of job types and technologies. Cyber security, for example, is facing a particularly dire shortage of trained candidates.

Estimates suggest that there are now one million cyber security jobs worldwide that need filling. Forecasts indicate that will balloon to 1.5 million by 2019. Meanwhile, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the demand for cyber security analysts will grow by 18 percent between 2014 and 2024, making it the fastest growing job role in the U.S. workforce.

“Based on a comprehensive survey of more than 1,900 cyber security professionals, the 2017 cyber security trends report reveals that organizations are struggling with a worsening cyber skill shortage while facing rising threat levels,” says Holger Schulze, founder of the Information Security Community on LinkedIn (News - Alert).

That’s just cyber security; there’s also a growing need in the jobs marketplace for data analysts and scientists, IoT experts, and people in IT, marketing, operations, and sales who have the right skillsets and personality traits to help businesses achieve their digital transformation goals.

This talent gap has developed for a few reasons, including the following:

  • Digital transformation;
  • The fact that colleges and universities are not moving at the speed of industry;
  • Lack of internal development;
  • The fast pace of change;
  • The newness of it all; and
  • The fact that many potential job candidates are on the outside looking in.

Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is touching virtually every business and business vertical. That puts organizations of all stripes in competition for top technical talent. Not only are these businesses now competing with one another for these people, they’re also competing with the tech companies in Silicon Valley and elsewhere in the world. That makes for a whole lot of competition, and it makes individuals with the right stuff particularly expensive.

The Training Gap

Individuals with “the right stuff” are in limited supply because many colleges and universities are not moving at the speed of industry, which means they’re often far behind in the race to equip graduates with the right skills for today’s jobs. At the same time, most businesses fail to develop their own people. That said, we’re clearly not churning out enough folks with the right skillsets and other tools to do the jobs the digital transformation has created and ramped up demand for.

Compounding that is the fact that technology is moving so quickly that people need to continually develop new skillsets. Often, we don’t even know what skillsets are needed because digital transformation efforts, and disciplines like cyber security and the Internet of Things, are so new.

To a large extent, we’ll simply have to fake it ‘til we make it. At the same time, we should try to figure out what skillsets are needed and create or identify training to help others at our organizations gain knowledge from what we learn along the way.

The Vicious Circle

Another contributing factor to the tech talent gap is that a large portion of the population has been left out, or at least discouraged, from pursuing technically-oriented educations and positions. That includes women and minorities.

Women are under represented in tech at all levels. Many sources indicate that the reason for that is a mix of nature (in this case, the nature of the male-dominated workforce and management) and nurture (how women are raised, how they perceive themselves, and how our culture perceives and treats women).

Bay Area technical recruiter Speak With A Geek recently reported that just 18 percent of individuals with computer science degrees are women. It provides this interesting footnote: In a recent study of 1.4 million Github code changes, such suggestions for change by women are more likely to be accepted by men – but that’s only if the fact that these suggestions are made by women who do not reveal they are women.

“When their gender is identifiable, there is a decrease in acceptance rate by 16.1 percent, demonstrating a bias against the perceived ability of women in tech,” SWAG reports.

The organization also notes that getting a good position in tech in the first place can be a challenge. That’s given that some employers may have concerns about women’s ability to be available and continue working in light of family demands such as childcare, maternity leave, and pregnancy.

But even after some women get their degrees and join the tech workforce, they may have to contend with cultures that are less than welcoming. You don’t have to look far to find examples of this kind of thing.

Just consider what’s been happening at Uber, about which former employee Susan Fowler (an engineer) blogged that her supervisor made sexual advances at her. She complained to management, she said, and she was discriminated against as a result.

“On my first official day rotating on the team, my new manager sent me a string of messages over company chat,” blogged Fowler, who is no longer with Uber. “He was in an open relationship, he said, and his girlfriend was having an easy time finding new partners but he wasn't. He was trying to stay out of trouble at work, he said, but he couldn't help getting in trouble, because he was looking for women to have sex with.”

That may help explain why women in tech are 45 percent more likely than men to leave the field within a year, SWAG notes, referring to a 2014 Harvard Business Review study noting this statistic.

On the up side, various organizations in recent years have created scholarship and other programs to encourage and support women and minorities to get into and stay in the tech arena.

It should also be noted that despite the tech talent gap, some companies have been very effective at attracting needed talent. A recent article by CIO for IDG noted that GE is one such company.

The 125-year-old company has been able to lure tech executives from such top-drawer companies as Apple (News - Alert), Google, and Microsoft.  For example, GE’s Chief Digital Officer Steve Martin is a veteran of Microsoft, where he helped the software giant build its Azure cloud business.

Edited by Erik Linask