What skills will tech jobs demand in 2020? Source: Shutterstock

What skills will tech jobs demand in 2020? Source: Shutterstock

Businesses need to re-think how they attract talent for tech jobs in 2020

“THERE IS a deep skills-shortage in the tech sector that shows no signs of change, and it is a major challenge to businesses across the APAC region,” said Robert Half Senior MD David Jones.

“The rate at which businesses have embraced digital transformation – particularly in markets like Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore – has positioned the region as a digital leader on a global scale, however, they risk losing this competitive edge and inhibiting their rate of digitisation progress if the tech talent crunch is not properly addressed.”

Jones, who works with hundreds of companies across the region and hires thousands of candidates for tech jobs in a variety of categories and industries, shared his concerns with Tech Wire Asia during a recent interview.

According to the Senior MD, as awareness of cyber-security threats continues to rise alongside the introduction of new regulatory processes to combat these threats, there is a growing trend towards enhancing the ‘cyber-hygiene’, resulting in greater demand for cybersecurity-related skills.

In the past, cyber-security recruitment was conducted on a ‘as needed’, reactive basis. However, companies are now increasingly trying to mitigate potential damages of cyber-security breaches by frontloading their infrastructure, creating a sustained demand for cyber-security specialists on longer-term projects.

As a result, roles such as cyber-security analysts or technology risk managers are expected to attract sustained demand and correspondingly high salaries over the coming 12 months.

“This demand is expected to exacerbate an already deep talent shortage in these business-critical fields which can leave businesses vulnerable to increased cyber-security threats should they fail to introduce the necessary talent to drive these initiatives.”

As supply is short, companies and regulators, both, need to take action to ensure that tech jobs attract the right talent quickly.

In a skills-short market, Jones believes that most IT employers understand they need to offer above-average salaries or risk losing candidates with in-demand skillsets. This is particularity evident for compensation for data science and cybersecurity specialists.

Outside of salary, the Robert Half Chief argues that benefits revolving around work-life balance such as telecommuting, extra vacation days, or flexible working hours are very important to candidates and are increasingly used by employers to carve a competitive point of differentiation from their peers, particularly in instances when the employer cannot afford to meet salary expectations.

Experience Jones has gained helping clients fill IT roles suggests that jobseekers are also looking for modern technology stacks and cutting-edge projects to advance their technical skillset and expertise.

“Communicating pipeline projects, undertaking innovative projects, and offering professional development initiatives are attractive attraction and retention strategies — particularly for contact workers whose next role is often assessed by the nature and success of their last project.”

However, companies are also mindful that opportunities created by the market or regulators require them to act quickly or lose out.

The introduction of virtual banking licenses in markets such as Hong Kong and Singapore have stimulated an increase in demand for technically skilled software engineers who have demonstrated experience in Java, C#, Python, React, as well as DevOps cloud engineers and UX/UI specialists.

“As business growth and innovation are constrained due to skills shortages, the war for talent is putting increasing pressure on companies to consider recruiting overseas talent. The government should explore the implementation of global visa schemes designed to attract and expedite the entry of highly-skilled international talent into local workforces.”

Facilitating the entry of global tech talent can help alleviate the skills-gap pressure while simultaneously upskilling local talent and seeding the market with a variety of international skills and programming capabilities, as well as building the environment to allow home-grown talent to grow and excel.

Jones also believes that the government needs to invest in professional development and training opportunities at all stages of the domestic employment cycle – from those entering the workforce to skilled employees – to create a sustainable supply of talent who can adapt to the evolving tech field.

“Focus should be placed on cultivating a future generation of workers into the IT field by driving entrants into STEM studies and aiding the upskilling of the entry-level workforce through incentives like subsidized education costs.

Reskilling senior IT professionals should also be a high priority to keep workers at the forefront of technological advancements, and to help them stay relevant in the market.”

Overall, Jones believes that the biggest opportunities in 2020 will revolve around maintaining or increasing their tech headcount for specialists with specific techno-functional skills that incorporate digital knowledge and regulatory/compliance knowledge.

Ultimately, attracting the right talent is what will help businesses deliver on expectations, providing better experiences to customers, better privacy and security guarantees to regulators, and better returns to stakeholders.