The hiring landscape of IT staff in APAC

Article, Lilia Guan, CIO Tech Asia
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CIOs are facing tighter recruiting processes and demand for staff with remote working experience.

Recruitment of IT workers hasn’t stopped, in an A/NZ survey of IT hiring managers, states research conducted by Hays in June, 40 per cent had ongoing recruitment needs, far outstripping the 21 per cent who had recruitment freezes in place.

As organisation moved rapidly to a remote work environment the hiring process has become more difficult for CIOs looking for skilled people to join their teams.

Robert Beckley regional director of recruiting experts Hays Information Technology in Australia told CIO Tech Asia, during the pandemic there was closer scrutiny of hiring and some organisations found it more difficult to get roles approved.

“CIO’s also experienced the practical issues that all industries faced around interviewing and on-boarding remotely, however as IT organisations and IT departments typically have more maturity and capability around remote work practises, they were able to quickly and successfully adapt to recruit remotely,” he said.

According to Beckley 600 IT managers Hays spoke with in the A/NZ region, 13 per cent said they had hiring needs specifically caused by Covid-19.

In demand

“Skills that were in demand prior to Covid-19 have continued to be sought and, in some cases, amplified,” he said.

For example, cyber security professionals and Cloud engineers were in high demand pre-Covid-19, but the impact of switching to a remote workforce for most companies has led to an increased security risk and increased adoption of cloud solutions, said Beckley.

“Other roles have seen a spike in vacancy activity to meet changing demands,” he said. “As organisations invested in infrastructure to enable a remote workforce, we saw an increased need for Service Desk staff and as they adopted a greater focus on digital engagement with their customers, development jobs were created.”

However, Beckley acknowledged as projects have been postponed and budgets realigned there has been an increase in talent on the market.

“This varies considerably across role type and industry,” he said. “Areas that were experiencing pronounced skills shortages pre-COVID-19 continue to remain in short supply – including cyber security and data science.”

Simon Lance managing director of recruiting experts Hays in China and Hong Kong told CIO Tech Asia in China, while senior positions may not see a lot of movement at this time, mid to junior level tech roles are expected to see a significant increase.

“This includes all types of developers, software engineers, and roles working with AI and data,” he said. “Post the crisis, most companies are going to rely on data to make decisions for their company and strategy.”

According to Lance this makes it far more likely that they will hire or create data-related roles.

“Other tech areas such as AI are also seen as an investment for the future so hiring for these will continue. This is largely the trend across China,” he said. “Java developers and developers in gaming are in particularly high demand in the market at the moment, along with those with experience in 5G, data and AI.”

Required skills

Knowledge in Cloud has become a must across functions, said Lance.

“Whether they are looking for engineers or auditors, employers mention to us that they prefer candidates who have knowledge of cloud and big data,” he said. “In Japan, while IT talent has consistently been in high demand and low supply, the remote working revolution spurred by COVID-19 has led to especially high demand for IT infrastructure-related roles.”

Lance believes server engineers, network engineers, and service desk support are some of the most-wanted junior to mid-level professionals since they are crucial in producing and supporting the solutions needed to enable remote working.

Scott Rigby head of digital transformation at Adobe Asia Pacific told CIO Tech Asia a recent survey of CIOs across India and Australia, showed they are actively and currently hiring within the CIO function, and plan to increase headcount across AI/ML/automation, cybersecurity and privacy, public cloud, infrastructure.

“When it comes to hiring new talent in IT operations, softer skill sets are coming to the forefront along with technical expertise,” he said. “Skills such as teamwork 67 per cent; creativity 64 per cent; project management 59 per cent are all; almost as important a factor as analytical skills 62 per cent; and customer knowledge 56 per cent when hiring talent.

Hiring tips

While there’s no set rules on the best ways to hire staff or retain them, Mike Moore CIO of technology company Virtual Instruments told the Wall Street Journal, “the trick in building an IT team is to find players with the technical prowess to handle any challenge in the game”. He said “as well as the business acumen to recognise when they can best achieve objectives by running straight toward the goal without any fancy tricks along the way.”

Moore’s three hiring tips were:

  1. Hire more expensive candidates to save money down the road.
  2. Hire fewer people to reach big goals.
  3. Don’t forget about critical skills beyond technical expertise.

Ian Pitt CIO of LogMeIn believes there’s no “playbook for hiring and onboarding during a pandemic”. He wrote in a blog the disruption of a global pandemic might have delayed the hiring process while new logistics and processes were put into place.

For technology company LogMeIn was able to quickly set up new employees thanks to a zero-touch onboarding model and other processes.

“Traditionally when you onboard an employee, IT purchases a laptop, waits for it to be shipped, sets it up, then sends it to the user,” he wrote. “Six months ago, we developed and implemented a new method to streamline that process.”

According to Pitt when onboarding a new employee today, or when someone needs a replacement device, the IT department mails it directly to the individual and have them log into a portal to set it up on their own.

“This reduces the friction and allows us to focus more on the actual onboarding experience,” he wrote. “Before the pandemic hit, we’d onboard a group of five to 10 people in the office, which gave them an opportunity to develop connections with other new hires.

We wanted to replicate this remotely, so we introduced videoconferencing into the process. This allows them to still meet face-to-face and helps them get to know their peers and managers. It’s not the same as being in an office, but it brings new hires into the company culture faster than if they had to wait until the pandemic passed.”



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