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Why the global IT skills shortage needs to be addressed

Nick Marsh, Managing Director, Harvey Nash Executive Search APAC | Jan. 15, 2016
he Harvey Nash CIO Survey 2015 shows that, 71 per cent of CIOs based in the APAC region believe a skills shortage is preventing their organisations from keeping up with the pace of change, 12 per cent higher than the global average.

Many industry leaders worry that women in the region are being left behind in the global gender diversity movement. A recent OECD study showed that many of the region's top female talent that are held back by discrimination and cannot find the opportunities they want at home, are simply turning to other countries to advance their careers. And with 71 per cent of APAC CIOs believing a skills shortage is preventing their organisation from keeping up with the pace of change, this is talent the region can ill afford to lose.

I have had discussions with many large companies in Hong Kong bemoaning that it is almost impossible to hire cyber security experts, with experienced talent in this space so in demand they can command seven figure salaries.

Solving the problem

With cyber attacks and breaches, like those seen at Ashley Madison or Talk Talk, gaining mass media coverage and dramatically affecting the reputation of companies, few can risk having a gap in their IT teams and as skilled IT candidates remain in high demand, many companies are opting to look overseas for talent to tackle the problem. However, the solution to increasing the number of skilled technology professionals lies closer to home.

Identifying and nurturing IT talent:

Essentially companies need to take responsibility for incubating their own talent, as with global skills shortages looming, talent will need to be cultivated and trained in-house.

There needs to be active investment in IT training across all levels of business hierarchy and a focus on shoring up the company's capabilities. This starts in the boardroom, with directors assessing if they possess the relevant IT skills to oversee business practices and offer support in the event of a major security breach or IT failure. If these skills are lacking then they need to actively look for someone who can bring this knowledge to the team.

Next, internal corporate initiatives should be introduced to help educate teams on basic IT practices,in addition to supporting those who want to undertake more in-depth training. Internal HR initiatives aimed at increasing awareness about the opportunities in IT within an organisation can also prove effective.

The Human Resources function has a big role to play in the solution. Those with a responsibility for internal recruitment need to take into consideration several factors when building their IT talent pipeline. The Harvey Nash Technology Survey revealed the key motivators for changing jobs among IT professionals were pay (77%), work/life balance (72%) and opportunities to work on innovative projects (69%). The reality is that talent in the IT function aspires to work for start-ups, recognised disruptors and challenger brands, so traditional organisations need to urgently formulate strategies to compete effectively with these digital insurgents.


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