The Covid-19 global health crisis catapulted one group of professionals into great demand – the IT workers who could digitize processes for big and small companies, says recruitment specialist Michael Page. Remote working was the need of the hour even for those businesses that were not used to a work-from-home culture.
Businesses had to urgently upgrade their technology infrastructure to navigate the sudden need for remote working to keep work afloat. In South Africa and Sub-Sahara Africa, ICT, financial services and FinTech companies, especially, needed top-quality IT talent (and quickly) to navigate the transformation brought on by the pandemic.
As companies now lean into the inevitability of investing in technology infrastructure and talent for business growth, the importance of cross-functional skills in IT to take on hybrid roles will become increasingly important.
Robyn Stainbank, senior consultant – technology for Michael Page, Africa, shares an example. “DevOps is a hybrid role that combines software development, operations and quality assurance. Similar IT roles that can combine IT with other crucial skills for the business are in demand.”
Other skills that have grown in importance for IT talent are information security, data privacy, SAP, Java, Python, cloud computing, data analysis and artificial intelligence skills. “Apart from these technical skills, combined project management capabilities are in demand,” said Stainbank.
Strategies to attract top IT talent
The importance of the IT team in the health of a business cannot be underestimated, she said. The technological and digital industry is at the forefront of constant change, creating a demand for talent that is not just right-skilled but also can adapt to innovative and forward-thinking environments. Tech industry leaders can source the best talent by using four strategies.
Firstly, it helps to identify the IT skills needed, which will be unique for every business. “These skills may not necessarily be defined accurately by a job role or title itself. So, elaborate on the skills. The additional challenge is the lack of talent in STEM skills across the African continent,” said Stainbank.
Secondly, there will be higher chances of hiring right if the company engages the wider team in the process. Involving key team members ensures that the recruitment process does not rely on the judgment of one or two senior members but also on the team that can gauge how a new recruit will fit into the job role.
Thirdly, an IT team is useless if the company hasn’t upgraded its technology. What will people do without the tools to do their job? Also, the best IT workers move to companies with the best infrastructure.
“MNCs in ICT and FinTech, and some companies like Takealot.com and Jumia in the retail sector look at technology as an enabler of their business, and it is such companies that will remain desirable employers to top IT talent,” said Stainbank.
Fourthly, a strong training and development plan to enable IT talent to keep up with the constant changes in the industry and to contribute to their dynamic skillsets is a requirement today, not an option. This is also a cost-effective talent retention strategy.
Assessing a candidate’s competence
Companies can learn a great deal about a candidate’s skills and aptitude even before he/she is invited to an interview, said Stainbank. Preliminary online coding tests reveal a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses, which can be verified with his/her CV. These online or offline tests can be made fun through gamification, the hiring expert said.
Hackathons are another way to test a candidate’s ability to work under pressure, and while being observed.
Technical skills are important but so is communication, said Stainbank. “IT candidates don’t work in isolation. Moving up the managerial ladder would mean that they also need leadership skills and soft skills to manage consultant-client relationships.
“Soft skills play varying important roles for IT candidates based on their level and function. Employees should be communicative, organized, bring a problem-solving mindset and be open to constructive criticism. Senior levels of managers should be able to implement ideas, take swift decisions, be good at change management and risk management,” said Stainbank.
Technology often crosses international borders through meaningful knowledge sharing. A great asset in this era of globalisation and international cooperation is a diversity mindset that is inclusive of different worldviews and managing multi-cultural teams.
What it takes to hire right
IT is a competitive, candidate-led market. Companies must have a finger on the pulse of the salaries being offered so that they can create the right remuneration strategy.
“Companies must be updated of the remuneration trends as new roles are constantly being created with technology advances. Michael Page can partner with companies here to offer detailed salary benchmarks for specialist IT roles,” said Stainbank.
But offering a competitive salary is not enough to attract the best IT talent – the quality of engagement, work environment and long-term incentives are equally important.
Michael Page recently published its latest salary guide, showing what skilled professionals can expect to earn in the new year.
Read: In-demand jobs in South Africa – the skills companies are looking for right now