In the changing tech employment landscape, IT staffers really need business skills
The short-term cost benefit in hiring freelance IT help is obvious, but companies are adopting "people architecture" for more complex reasons.
As IT answers more and more to the business priorities, speed and agility are paramount. CIOs don't want to spend months on job searches. Instead, "the focus of IT leadership has for some time been on skills acquisition rather than hiring full-timers," Foote says. "That's because it has become less clear exactly what an employer's internal IT workforce should look like going forward."
I've talked to Foote over the last few years while reporting on the IT jobs market, and he's consistently repeated a theme: As IT is increasingly seen as an arm of business, rather than a mere service organization, "many of the most in-demand jobs require combinations of knowledge and skill in a business or customer context applied to problems and solutions with a high degree of difficulty."
That's not to say that technical knowledge is not a key attribute in a hire, but it's simply not enough for many companies.
Also adding to the trend of hiring contingent workers is uncertainty about the health of the economy. There's a good deal of volatility and a fear that we may be facing a market correction (that is, a downturn after a heady 2013), which makes employers more reluctant to invest in a new, full-time IT employee, says Bischke.
The positive side of a freelancer shift: An easier path to the full-time jobs later
But that also creates an opportunity for able freelancers to move inside, notes Foote. "Converting contract labor to full-time status remains one of the most popular strategies for filling full-time roles. Speed may be important but not at the sacrifice of caution in bringing aboard the right people who not only have the technical expertise but also fit in with the organizational culture."
There's no need to panic about the jobs picture at this point. But the best days of the jobs boom may be over or at least in a pause, so learning new, business-focused skills is more important than ever.
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