IT Hiring: From Hot to Scorching

Even as the job market stalled last month, IT employment had it's best gains in three years. What’s behind the hiring spree?

You know how at Mexican restaurants or buffalo wing joints they offer a range of sauces that start at hot and gradually increase in temperature until you reach nuclear or some other extreme level? That’s sort of like what the job market for IT talent is like now.

In February, the overall job market that's been on such a tear ground to a surprising and hopefully temporary halt. But tucked inside the numbers stood out one glarin exception: the IT sector. It added 253,000 positions, the biggest one-month gain in more than three years. Demand for talent with automation, AI, and cloud-computing skills, among others, drove most of the growth. The market for more traditional IT skills such, as data analysis or software engineering, remained hot as well.

Driving the IT hiring spree is a belief among leaders that they don’t have the right people in place to deliver on their organizations’ digital transformation efforts. Last year, organizations spent more than $1.7 trillion on digital transformation technology. Yet 84% of executives in a recent Korn Ferry survey believe their organizations do not have the skills and capabilities to deliver on its digital ambition.

“A key plank of organizational success is doing things faster, more efficiently, and more effectively, and a big part of that is around information technology, getting the right information to the right people at the right time,” says Tom McMullen, a Korn Ferry senior client partner and leader of the firm’s Total Rewards research and intellectual capital initiatives.

In a market as scorching as IT, recruiting and retaining the best talent is obviously going to take money. Lots of it, and in all forms, including base pay, short- and long-term incentives, full benefits, and more. McMullen says compensation is important because it is one of the few apples-to-apples comparisons talent can make between companies.

But pay alone isn’t going to be enough. One way organizations can differentiate themselves is with access to state-of-the-art tools and technologies, which is a key lure for IT talent, for instance. The same is true of the approach leadership takes to innovation. Top IT talent wants to know that there is support and momentum among the organization and its leaders for change. Or, as McMullen asks, “is the organization’s culture and approach to managing work agile?”

Benjamin Frost, a solution architect with Korn Ferry, says the wider purpose of what organizations are doing is a key differentiating factor for IT talent as well, particularly among the younger talent being weaned on the emerging technologies most corporations are trying to digest. “Money is important, but the overall offer around career development and interesting, challenging work is just as important, if not more so,” says Frost.