Do enterprises have only themselves to blame for the ‘tech talent shortage’?


“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves.” — Cassius, a nobleman and CIO, speaking to his friend and enterprise chief executive about the vexing tech talent shortage in ancient Rome (apologies to William Shakespeare)

A few weeks ago I wrote about whether enterprises truly are struggling to find people with sufficient technology skills.

Two readers weighed in with interesting and related perspectives that I want to share here, because I only hinted at them in my post.

Susan Smoter writes:

I am witnessing IT executives lamenting the shortage of skilled workers while they struggle to fill antiquated positions linked to an org model that isn’t designed for the future – a future where different skills and fewer hands are needed.

And here’s Akhileshwar:

Recruitment unfortunately is the most neglected, key word searches ruin the first step in filtering out people illogically. Next resume screening is done by lower most HR persons who don’t understand the complexity and nuances or the work, they look for comfortable matches and weed out nonconformists.

Let’s take Susan’s comment first. People in the workforce constantly are being advised — at least three times just by me alone here, here, and here — to level up in anticipation of the dramatic changes already underway in the workplace due to automation, artificial intelligence (AI), chatbots, robotics, etc. It’s pretty good advice (if I do say so myself!).

But Susan seems to be arguing that the fundamental problem is this: The structure and requirements of enterprise jobs, as well as the organizational models under which employees and teams are expected to operate, have become outmoded relative to emerging technologies and technology skills and the competitive necessities of the digital economy.

I saw the video below over a recent weekend. The obvious butt of the joke here is Amy, the millennial job hunter, who is asked by the older man interviewing her whether she is adept at Excel, PowerPoint and other business tools that have been around for decades. Amy says she isn’t, and the hiring guy then asks how she’ll be able to do research for the job if she can’t use those and other legacy tools. Amy replies that she’ll “just ask Siri!” The hiring guy is aghast.

Again, the video plays the young woman for the fool. But 10 and 15 years from now, what will be the more valuable business skill? Proficiency with PowerPoint, or the ability to work with voice assistants and AI? I think the answer is pretty obvious.

Akhileshwar’s observation is that enterprises are missing out on the right tech talent because 1) the wrong people (low-level HR workers) are in charge of filtering out candidates, and 2) these HR people don’t really know what to look for.

I’m not knocking HR people (really!), but there’s a lot of merit to this. The typical large enterprise with multiple departments — sales, finance, marketing and advertising, IT, operations — has a centralized HR department that is supposed to act as a clearinghouse for all jobs across all departments. How can anybody reasonably expect HR pros to grasp the skillsets required for these disparate jobs on anything beyond a superficial, keyword-search level?

This gets back to Susan’s point about outdated org models. It makes a lot more sense for HR pros to be embedded in each operating unit. No doubt some enterprises already do that, and they probably make better hires because the HR folks have a clearer grasp of what the department heads are looking for and what skills and training are most suited for the available positions.

Do enterprises need to overhaul hiring processes and revamp organizational models in order to overcome the perceived tech talent shortage? I’d love to hear what readers think.

Or maybe I should just ask Siri.


  1. Daniel Munyan says:

    If the older guy can ask Siri, there is no need for the millennial. The Office tools he asked about are for communication of ideas and plans in a common format, when used correctly. Unfortunately that is about the time most of our workers time out and check their social media accounts.

    The tech talent we need is there, but industry doesn’t want to pay for it. They have sold most of the buildings, shifted the IT cost to the workers by sending them home, and outsourced as many of the jobs as possible. They failed at shifting the rest of their IT cost to workers with BYOD. IMHO, most tech workers salaries, when divided by hours worked, have gone down every year for over a decade.

    Pay the tech workers what they are worth, insist our vendors and government buy American, and force the Gig economy (The new Robber Barons) to abide by the same labor laws we fought for a century to build, and create a new social contract for the 21st century between innovators, industry, education, and government.


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