The shortage of IT specialists is hard to ignore. The consequence for SMEs: As soon as the importance of digitalization has finally been appreciated by everyone involved, the lack of IT specialists slams the brakes back on again. If the available resources are barely able to keep up with the administration of the IT network anyway, let alone modernize it, developing digital business models becomes wishful thinking.
Many industrial companies have problems filling vacancies with university graduates – with programmers and IT specialists at the top of their wish list. At the same time, those highly sought-after individuals often hope to join name-worthy technology groups and specialized IT companies – many promising good salaries and prestige, others a steep learning curve.
Nevertheless, there are clever strategies that SMEs can use to increase their attractiveness for IT specialists and bridge or compensate for lean periods caused by staff shortages. We will show them to you.
Unfortunately, the number of vacant positions in IT has been increasing from year to year. Digitalization increases the need for expertise, and demographics play their part too. The baby-boomer generation will be retiring in the coming years, and many of the current IT experts will be leaving the active job market.
Also, the much-vaunted immigration of skilled workers is difficult to get off the ground because adequate legislation is not in place. For example, is it really necessary for IT specialists to have knowledge of German when many companies would welcome English speakers?
The awareness is there. But what do we do? What strategies can SMEs use in this environment to meet their IT needs in order to keep the digital transformation in motion and their IT networks running?
If the IT department is already working at the limit and there is no prospect of additional support, the question is: What can we outsource?
A hybrid model involves in-house experts working with external support. Alternatively, standard services can be purchased in full – with service levels set out in framework agreements.
We can take a closer look at the added value from IT. How is the efficiency and productivity of this precious resource?
It is highly likely that the proportion of administrative activities has increased and some things could be dispensed with. Perhaps there is undiscovered talent within the company: People from a different professional background could be trained to take on simpler tasks in IT and allow the well-paid specialists to demonstrate their skills in more demanding work.
Cloud-based network management
A tool for intelligent network management can take the load off the IT team and supplement or even replace missing IT resources.
For example, the LANCOM Management Cloud is a user-friendly web platform that helps new sites and new devices to be commissioned, configured, and monitored. The integrated automatic and self-learning Wi-Fi optimization solution LANCOM Active Radio Control™ 2.0 means there is no need to hire a Wi-Fi specialist to setup or upgrade the wireless LAN.
But these are just two of the many benefits of cloud-based network administration.
An audit of all IT-related business processes is well worth the effort.
Structures that have grown over decades give SMEs their characteristic stability. In-house IT solutions were (and are) developed for individual processes that have developed over this time. In the meantime, however, excellent standard solutions have become available for many industry-specific and general processes. Often, all you need is a minor adjustment to internal processes and valuable IT resources can be freed up for vital company-specific tasks like developing products and services, or digitalizing the business model.
Soft factors and creative strategies: To attract the attention of the handful of IT specialists who are available or willing to change their jobs, SMEs need to (and can!) get motivated and active.
What can we offer?
Working for an SME often brings a broad, varied range of tasks, and higher levels of responsibility. Candidates appreciate:
- Room for personal development
- Closer contacts, quick decision-making
- Consistency instead of continuous reorganizations driven by management trends
- Less anonymity, a more familiar atmosphere
- Team continuity thanks to colleagues staying on longer
- Stronger sense of purpose through recognizable corporate goals
What must we offer?
In a sellers’ market, IT specialists and sought-after specialists in general, are able to dictate terms. So, it is worth spending time to analyze the recruiting process, from job advertising to hiring or rejection, and to align this with the high expectations of your candidates. Afterwards, you need their feedback for future optimization.
- Smartphone-compatible application process
- Fast, personal communication as equals
- Flexibility in appointment scheduling
- The latest, new devices (laptops, tablets, smartphones ...)
Where do we find them?
Job advertisements, career networks, and personnel consultancies only reach a few of the talented people.
- International applicants and immigration: Be aware of the possibilities and procedures
- Stand up for women in IT: cooperate with funding initiatives
- Continue to employ or re-employ older people; let your business give the long-term unemployed a chance to catch up
- Speak to the inexperienced: Job fairs and other industry events; cooperation with educational institutions; host coding schools, hackathons, and boot camps
- Give unconventional resumes a second look: Joining by qualifying in the company or with the company’s help
How do we want to be?
Many changes happen by themselves. So why not get right on with it?
- Implement a diversity strategy
- Encourage English as a second language in the company
- Make work more flexible, for example by offering a choice of work location and working hours
- Improve specialist knowledge and skills through continuous, informal, and self-determined learning
- Perception and appreciation of the otherwise overlooked IT department and its people: Recognition of achievements through awards, publications, invitations to board presentations, or participation in specialist conferences
- Investment in current software, including training