The Talent Shortage: How Staffing Firms Can Prepare and Respond

James Vallone

Executive Vice President, Staffing Solutions, Motion Recruitment Partners

James Vallone is the Executive Vice President of Staffing Solutions at Motion Recruitment Partners. James is responsible for leading the strategic direction, business development and operations for Motion Recruitment’s contract staffing division.

James Vallone has worked in recruiting for 15 years. As vice president of IT staffing at Boston-based Motion Recruitment Partners, he has a bird’s-eye view of a major challenge affecting IT organizations: skilled technical talent.

“Everyone’s experiencing the same shortages,” he says, including companies across industries. He identifies the top talent gaps as software engineering and development, devops, and mobile development. Other related skill gaps: information security and user experience design. And the gaps are pervasive, he says. “There are shortages at every level, from junior employees to highly experienced engineers and architects. Skilled IT talent is our bread and butter, and it’s also what every single client tells us they need.”

Vallone doesn’t foresee the tech talent shortage shrinking anytime soon. As mobile technology continues to grow and as emerging technologies come onto the scene, organizations will need more skilled technologists and engineers to build and troubleshoot, along with people who can understand and analyze all of the data generated by sophisticated tech.

So how can staffing firms and tech-focused organizations respond to the talent shortage? It’s all about preparation and building long-term relationships with the right candidates, Vallone says.

Craft a Disciplined Sourcing Strategy

“The days are over when you could post a job and wait for a response,” he says. Instead the search for qualified talent has gotten more expansive. “You have to be disciplined about casting a wide enough net to capture the right talent.”

For Motion Recruitment, creating that wide net starts with people first. Motion has recruiters and sourcers whose days are dedicated to scouring talent profiles to find candidates — including passive candidates and candidates who aren’t looking for a job now but who might be interested in the next few months or even years.

Another key to their sourcing strategy is technology. Motion uses data mining to find candidate profiles online, including on social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, and on resume databases on job sites like Dice, Monster, and CareerBuilder.

Go Where the Talent Is

But beyond scouring online sources for cues, Vallone says it’s important to network. “Attend events where you can build relationships,” he suggests. Vallone’s team attends tech-specific conferences and events, and Motion has created its own tech networking event. Recruiters at the event don’t push a hard sale for open positions; instead it’s about building long-term trust, so when someone is interested in a new job, they know who to call.

Build Passive Talent Communities

All of that sourcing and networking helps build a broad pool of prospective candidates. “Make sure you have people internally at your organization who can build out those passive pipelines of candidates in the disciplines you’re looking for,” he says. In other words, battling the tech shortage is a long game, and the most successful organizations will dedicate resources to meeting the challenge.

Since tech shortages affect positions at every level in an organization, it’s important to make sure your internal pipeline stretches across all levels of experience, from the most senior level down to people who are about to graduate with a certain degree.

And, Vallone says, you shouldn’t stop at IT. “If you’re an enterprise company, it’s about building talent communities around every sector of your business — accounting, marketing, operations — so as needs surface, because of growth or turnover, you’ll have vetted, prequalified people who already know your organization. If you’ve built those talent pipelines it will be faster to interview, prequalify, and hire.

“It’s all about the long-term relationship — building a strategy to have a pipeline of people to prevent a gap. The faster you can fill open jobs, the less revenue you stand to lose.”

Watch for New Gaps

The prevailing mantra in IT staffing seems to be “don’t get too comfortable.” Tech is changing fast, and smart leaders have an eye on trends that will affect staffing in the short and long term. Vallone points to one factor that will have a definite impact on IT talent in the U.S.: recently announced restrictions on H-1B visas.

“The restrictions on expediting those visas is still unknown, but they could obviously present challenges, especially for companies who hire engineers. If the population of people with visas shrinks, it’s going to create higher demand on the already limited population of skilled high-tech workers. There’s going to be a lot of pressure to find other talent,” he says.

Never Stop Recruiting

Finally, Vallone encourages all leaders to look for every possible opportunity to grow their personal network. “You should constantly talk about your business and the opportunities you offer. Be aware of what your organization is looking for, and communicate that on a regular basis. You never know when you’re going to bump into someone who would be a great fit.”