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Uneven tech forecasts and the downstream impact on talent

Business leaders need to consider how today's 'uneven' economy is impacting talent in the tech space and why they should continue investing in human capital. Here's why.

U-shaped? K-shaped? W-shaped? L-shaped? Our alphabet soup of models for mapping and thinking about economic recovery continues to evolve, but the general picture is most accurately characterized by three words: complexity, uncertainty and unevenness.

Of these three, unevenness, which is related to the International Monetary Fund's warning about a "long, uneven" recovery, is the one that stands out the most. It's a concept that's worth exploring in connection with human capital, organizational investment strategies and what's happening right now in the tech space.

What 'unevenness' means for tech talent

For IT at large, the lingering pandemic may have precluded the kind of gargantuan growth figures in past first quarter predictions. But still, there's reason to be optimistic. Mild forecasts, like Gartner's -- a 4% increase in overall global tech spending -- shouldn't be interpreted as uniformly applicable to the tech sector. The forecast for equipment and software investment, for example, is nearly double that.

The demonstrated strength of the tech industry at large should be a source of optimism. The industry didn't just perform well during the pandemic -- it outpaced all other sectors globally, even as the worst of the pandemic set in.

Despite that, many tech companies will, no doubt, lose sight of the bigger picture and use lower-than-average growth forecasts as the pretext to lower salaries, reduce investment in learning and development initiatives, and generally seek to free up capital by whatever means possible.

A word to the wise: Do so at your peril. Salary cuts in tech might well backfire, and here's why.

For example, take the findings from a study from Randstad Technologies. Researchers found that 63% of all employees said they would accept a role with a new employer that offered a pay increase they wouldn't receive at their current employer. Allowing top performers to get away, particularly at a time when the ability to adapt to market changes is a game changer for talent, is simply not an option.

If that was the case before the pandemic, it's now to a greater degree with the shift to mass remote work. While strong benefits, such as coverage for mental healthcare, can go a long way toward promoting employee loyalty -- and may even help your company stand out in a competitive job market -- salary remains king.

And when was the last time you brushed up on the latest salary data? Now might be a good time.

The same risks around salary go for organizations considering making investments in upskilling, reskilling and professional development initiatives. In fact, this already appears to be the consensus view among HR professionals. According to a report from Randstad Technologies, 91% believe organizations are responsible for reskilling workers in order to overcome talent shortages. However, the bad news is that the entire executive suite may not be on board with this idea, which explains why only 22% of companies are actively training or reskilling their workforces today.

It's also worth noting that, globally, employees have been responding to ongoing talent shortages in kind. For example, when shelter in place took effect in Canada, enrollment in Udemy courses dedicated to deep learning increased by 123%. Meanwhile, national Excel crazes swept both Spain and the U.K., where Udemy course enrollment in Excel-related topics skyrocketed 352% and 209%, respectively.

All in all, employees have a clear and demonstrated appetite for greater access to training and development opportunities, and organizations would do well to stimulate it. Those that do will find themselves in possession of far more digital-savvy, agile and future-proof workforces.

One final word on 'unevenness'

It's also important to touch on the subjective element of unevenness that's characterized by the day-to-day feel of the pandemic itself -- a generalized sense of slowing down. Of course, in a broader sense, we all know the theme -- and the true takeaway for businesses -- is about acceleration, including the push toward digital transformation and the emergence of hybrid and agile workforces.

For now, uncertainty continues to loom large in the business landscape. It's a governing principle in boardrooms, Zoom meetings and strategic planning. In some cases, it's going to lead to a reshuffling of investment priorities.

Some of that will, no doubt, be necessary and unavoidable. But the case to make here is to view ongoing investment in human capital as mission-critical for tech companies today. Those that seize the opportunity -- and make the right capital outlays -- stand to emerge on the other side with a favorable view of unevenness.

Only they'll call it by another name: competitive advantage.

About the author
Alisia Genzler brings over 20 years of industry experience to her role as president and chief client officer at Randstad Technologies. While overseeing all sales teams, as well as sales performance across strategic, major, key and emerging account segments, she's also responsible for expanding the company's staffing, permanent and solutions portfolios at the client level. Previously, Genzler served as executive vice president for the mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions of Randstad Technologies.

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