RHT's Mid-Year Hiring Outlook: Bright Spots Do Exist

By Dave Willmer

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Even if your firm is not actively recruiting, it’s important to keep abreast of current hiring trends. Unforeseen circumstances such as employee turnover can cause you to launch an immediate search for new talent. In addition, some companies are finding that now is an ideal time to make select hires to enhance the skill levels of their teams. Many highly experienced individuals who were employed only a short time ago have recently entered the job market and may not be available later, when economic conditions improve.

What follows are some key IT employment trends you should be aware of:

Hiring Activity Remains Moderate - The Q3 2009 Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Index and Skills Report  found that moderate hiring activity is still taking place. CIOs across the U.S. plan a net 2% hiring increase—the same as the previous quarter.

Eight percent expect to add IT staff, while just 6% anticipate personnel reductions. The majority of respondents, 85%, plan to maintain current staffing levels. When hiring full-time staff, nearly nine out of ten CIOs surveyed plan to recruit IT professionals at the staff level (up to five years of experience).

Those who are expanding their IT departments attribute the demand largely to an increased need for customer/end-user support and rising workloads. Organizations that have experienced layoffs or hiring freezes are finding that they can no longer hold off on filling critical roles, particularly those that can help them gain a competitive edge through quality service or by maximizing technology.

If you have asked your team to assume more responsibilities in the downturn, watch for signs of burnout, such as tardiness with projects, increased absences and a growing number of mistakes. These may indicate it’s time to add staff again or bring in project IT professionals until you are ready to make full-time additions.

Bright Spots Exist - Networking is the dominant area for growth, according to CIOs polled. Network administration (LAN, WAN) was cited as the technical skill set most in demand. Networking was ranked as the job area with the greatest expansion. Your networking staff may have positive prospects in the employment market, so make sure you track their satisfaction levels and take action to retain their talents.

Support roles are also being filled. Desktop support was the second most sought after skill set. Help desk and technical support also came in second as an in-demand job function.

Multi-talented Candidates are in Demand - Companies that are hiring are looking for multi-talented candidates. Individuals who possess diverse technology skills and can participate in a variety of projects are valued. Faced with limited resources, firms need IT professionals who can fill multiple roles within a group. When evaluating candidates, look for experience in several different specialties and cross-train current staff so they can assume other positions when needed.

Many firms are recognizing the benefits of having a flexible workforce. One out of five technology executives plan to add a mix of full-time and contract or project professionals in the third quarter. In doing the same, you can adjust your staff levels quickly to keep up with changing market conditions. At the same time, you can keep fixed labor costs down and minimize the risk of layoffs of core personnel.

Certain Industries Expect Increased Hiring - The IT Hiring Index and Skills Report found that transportation, communications, and utilities will see the strongest hiring activity in the third quarter, with a net 11% projected increase in IT staff. CIOs in this sector said an increased need for customer/end-user support is the reason for heightened demand for IT professionals. The professional services industry and the finance, insurance and real estate sector also forecast employment growth above the national average, with CIOs citing rising workloads as a primary factor for the need for more IT personnel.

Additionally, greater demand for IT staff is expected in the healthcare sector. The government-supported move to electronic medical records is creating a need for professionals who can manage and implement the conversion process.

U.S. Regions Where CIOs Forecast Growth in IT Staff - Three regions are equally optimistic about hiring in the third quarter, with a net 4% increase each. CIOs in the South Atlantic (Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia) states attribute hiring plans to a growing need for customer/end-user support.

In the East South Central (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee) region, many technology executives are hiring to keep up with increasing workloads.

The majority of CIOs in the Pacific (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington) states credit plans to add IT staff to corporate growth or expansion.

Hiring activity isn’t likely to reach mid-decade highs again anytime soon. However, this may be an opportune time to build bench strength on your team through judicious full-time hires that support longer-term needs. With many talented IT professionals in the job market, you may be able to recruit individuals with marketable skill sets who might not have considered your firm in the past.

Dave Willmer is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals for initiatives ranging from e-business development and multi-platform systems integration to network security and technical support. The company has more than 100 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at www.rht.com. Please see the whole the Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Index and Skills Report for addtional results.