The labor recession is over. During the course of the recession, almost 500,000 IT positions were lost according to publicly collected data and anecdotal information suggests even more. According top a recent poll, American business will add over 200000 new IT jobs in 2005. Your staff will probably be scanning job boards to see their value and blocking access is useless; they'll only do it at home.
So now that companies are hiring again, where are they going to find their staff of educated experienced professionals?
In most labor recessions, the group most affected by staff reductions is that of older, more experienced workers. These individuals have often accepted managerial positions that are less in demand as firms do fewer new projects and are often maintaining existing systems. Yet, initial demand during a recovery is for staff level professionals who are involved with execution, rather than managing. Thus the most affected group is the one least sought after when the recovery comes-unless they have used this time to revitalize their core technical skills and reposition themselves as staff, rather than management.
The other impact of a labor recession is that fewer young people are focusing on technology as their potential profession resulting in fewer people entering the labor force.
So your company has funded projects that need skilled staff. Where can you turn to?
1. Underutilized internal staff. Are there people on your staff who are high performers in their current role who could be trained for lower level staff positions on the project? These people may have an understanding of your business and industry that will provide subtle value on the project. Training them will help to retain them, keeping them from being picked off by other firms (Oh did I mention, that your staff is going to be poached again by other firms with labor shortages, offered salaries that you may fund shocking).
2. Consider hiring people who can be employed through TN visas. TN visas are one year automatically renewable visas that were created under NAFTA. Often, these employees will work for less than US workers. It requires an offer letter crafted in a particular manner and a check for $50.
3. Work with search firms again. You don't have the time to speak with every person who emails a resume to you, especially people who flip resumes to every job posting like burgers at a fast food restaurant. Using search firms or employment agencies to assist with hiring will help with your time management. Interview them like you would a new employee. Once you accept them, provide them with useful screening questions in order to serve you. It is not enough to say, "I want a J2EE developer with two years of experience." Tell them what the person should have done within those two years. Give them a questionnaire to administer pre-referral.
4. Hire people who have H1B visas. You can pay for these people as consultants where you will be charged more or you can pay for them as employees. Hiring someone with an H1B requires their completing a form on their first day of work that allows you to transfer the visa to your firm. Yes, you will help to sponsor them for their green card and that will cost money. They will pay for it with slightly lower wages and hard work. Getting someone who is early in their visa will allow you access to an employee for several years.
In 2005 and beyond, as the labor market picks up steam, you will need to be creative to attract and retain staff from your competitors. Fair wages and benefits will be one element that will help; training will be another. Yet whether you will even be able to find someone when you need them will be most important of all.
Jeff Altman has successfully assisted many corporations identify technology management leaders and staff since 1971. Jeff has his Master's degree from Fordham University and post-graduate training at the Institute of Modern Psychoanalysis (IMP), where he developed an expertise in organizational development that makes him uniquely qualified to evaluate a potential employee for their "fit" into an organization.