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Mark Armstrong


Vice President & Managing Director, EMEA Progress

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Case study: Want to find the right people in a skills shortage? Think outside the box


Haven’t you heard? There’s a digital skills shortage out there – so you better start stockpiling developers and IT engineers quickly.

We are constantly bombarded by claims to the lack of skilled developers and IT engineers, putting a significant strain on our economy. A report from the Department for Business Innovation & Skills in early 2016 bears this out, stating: ‘As demand for digital skills outstrips supply, employers across a wider range of sectors are experiencing digital skill gaps within their workforce, and encountering difficulties in filling advertised vacancies.’

However, with 274,000 developers in the UK, the talent that businesses need is there. What most businesses need to do is look for they can train this talent to meet the specific skills demands facing them. So how can the recruitment process reflect this?

Don’t be general, understand the specifics

It is imperative recruiters understand the differences between developer specialisms, and what each developer will bring to a role.

Each has different skills and specialisms in different languages. If you’re developing for Apple and iOS, you’ll use a programming language called Swift, created specifically by Apple. If you’re developing for Android for the likes of Samsung, HTC et al, you’ll work in Java. Although there are similarities, each platform has its own specifics and affords certain flexibilities in others. The good thing is that tools exist that can make these specific skills transferable for every programming language.

The rights tools to succeed

While software development is based on specialisations, certain tools and frameworks exist that allow proficiency in one programming language to be used wider than it typically could be.

One such framework is NativeScript, allowing developers to write mobile apps in JavaScript for Android and iOS. By providing support for these tools, developers are able to develop across multiple platforms. This gives recruiters access to a much larger talent pool from which to draw, as developers are able to work across multiple, varied projects.

Developers are in high demand. Figure out what motivates them

Although talk of the skills gap has been overblown, the need for the best developers is crucial in today’s business environment. After all, in today’s software dominated world, the systems these developers create are now competitive tools in many industries. As such, developers are increasingly aware of their value to organisations. It’s important to understand what they want from the role if you are to get the right talent.  

In a recent survey conducted by Stack Overflow, over 50,000 developers responded to questions about their work. Aside from salary, almost a third said flexible working hours is important, as well as the same amount saying that building something  significant is an important factor in their job.

Offering good salaries and appealing perks won’t be enough; you need to sell them on your vision too. Involve them in your business and show them the value you think they will bring to your business.

If they’re there, how do I find them?

More than two thirds of developers are actively looking for new job opportunities. The problem is that half find recruiters to be the most annoying thing about the employment process. When it comes to recruiting developers, traditional approaches alone aren’t enough.

With this in mind, it’s clear that using traditional recruitment methods such as LinkedIn or going to a recruiter is not enough: you need to consider other approaches.

A great place to start is developer forums. They are a good environment for your business to learn more about the development process, how the development community works and a good place to build out your talent pipeline.

Software developers are very active on forums, sharing insights, how-to guides for mutual benefit and general musings. By looking over feedback shared by developers, recruiters will be able to gauge how to approach developers, what their pain points are and what kinds of work environments they would flourish in. This will give recruiters an advantage when opening the conversation around joining the business, and help to sell in the vision of your company appropriately.

Think laterally, and you’ll be rewarded

As General Electric’s Chief Executive Officer Jeff Immelt stated recently, every business is now becoming a software business.  It’s therefore now crucial to find the right software developers and IT engineers to help your business gain a competitive edge.

The onus is on recruiters to think outside of the box when looking for talent. By becoming active listeners of the developer community and immersing themselves within it, recruiters can bypass the ‘skills gap’ and identify the right software developers to move the business forward.

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Mark Armstrong

Vice President & Managing Director, EMEA Progress

Read more from Mark Armstrong

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