Is Asia running out of IT talent?

February 4, 20168:09 am716 views

Nick Marsh, Managing Director, Harvey Nash Executive Search APAC quizzes on the current IT skills shortage witnessed by the region and suggests measures for companies to overcome the challenging situations. Read on…

The recent Harvey Nash CIO Survey 2015 revealed 53 per cent of technology hiring managers reported a skills shortage in 2015 and, more worryingly, 44 per cent expected this skills shortage to get worse in the future.

This situation is particularly relevant in Asia-Pacific, where attracting and retaining highly skilled technical staff has become a number one concern. The survey shows that, 71 percent of CIOs based in the APAC region believe skills shortage is preventing their organisations from keeping up with the pace of change, 12 percent higher than the global average.

With technology playing an increasingly important role in our daily lives, enterprises are not only prioritising at strengthening their investments in IT systems, but also increasing investments into those managing IT.

50 percent of global CIOs report that they are increasingly using outsourcers to supplement skills, they cannot find in-house. This compares to just 25 percent of CIOs who are looking at outsourcers to save them money.

Big Data and analytics were identified as the most sought after global skills in the survey, followed by change management and development. The biggest fall in demand was for skills in technical architecture, enterprise architecture and business analysis.

How to solve the IT shortage problem?

Those with responsibility for recruitment should take into consideration several factors when building their IT talent pipeline. The survey shows, the key motivators for changing jobs among IT professionals were pay (77 percent), work-life balance (72 percent) and opportunities to work on innovative projects (69 percent).

The reality is that talent in the IT function aspires to work for start-ups, recognised disruptors and challenger brands. Hence, traditional organisations in the region need to urgently formulate strategies to compete effectively with these digital insurgents.

See: Talent in Demand with Digital and Analytic Capabilities

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 skills gap in their IT teams.

As a result, many Asian companies are opting to look overseas for talent to tackle this problem. However, the solution to increasing the number of skilled technology professionals lies closer to home.

There needs to be active investment in IT, training across all levels of business hierarchy and a focus on shoring up company’s capabilities. This starts by assessing, whether directors possess the relevant skills to oversee IT practices and offer support in the event of a major security breach or failure.

Next, internal corporate initiatives should be introduced to help educate teams on basic IT practices and support 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.

Finally, in order to tackle this looming threat to economic growth and innovation, IT skills shortages need to be tackled in the classroom. Nurturing home grown Asian talent by encouraging children, of both genders, to be more engaged with technology at an earlier age will help to fundamentally grow the talent pool for IT in a sustainable way.

Joint initiatives by the government and companies, aimed at sponsoring IT education, will have a lasting impact on the talent market for years to come.

Ultimately, unless APAC takes steps to address the gap now, it could later be too late to resolve the problem, thus leaving business open to cyber attacks or falling behind new digital challengers.

By addressing the issue now, Asia can ensure that those on the first rungs of the IT ladder have the skills to cope with a future that will increasingly rely on technology.


Content credits: Nick Marsh is Managing Director of Harvey Nash Executive Search APAC, with over two decades of experience in executive search. He joined Harvey Nash plc in 2002. Nick built and ran the Executive Search business as global MD.

Nick moved to Asia at the start of 2012 to drive the expansion of the firm into the fastest growth markets. He has conducted multiple searches in the APAC region for clients including Fortune 500, FT100 and PE backed firms.

Also read: Top 5 HR Technology Predictions for 2016

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