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The gig economy—coming to an IT position near you

Over 15 years in IT staffing has given me some unique insights and front-row seat into the IT industry—emerging technologies, purchasing trends, the steady move toward software-based solutions, digital transformation, and on and on. I’ve seen XaaS and cloud services take the industry by storm, hyperconvergence provide more efficient deployment and management of data centers, and WANs and LANS revolutionized through software-defined solutions. With it all, I’ve seen the need for specific IT expertise evolve with it. What organizations require of their IT departments can change on a monthly basis, if not sooner. With it, I’ve seen another dramatic change, this one in the staffing industry—the precipitous rise in the gig economy. In the IT industry alone, the number of contracted, external technical professionals has grown by almost 100% in the past few years. It will only get bigger.

According to a survey by Global Fortune 500 company Accenture, which provides, among other things, services related to IT and technology, 85% of IT executives plan to increase their use of independent, freelance workers within the next 12 months. While that percentage may be shocking to many, it’s not for GDT’s Staffing Solutions team. We’ve seen and experienced this rise of the gig economy in IT for years. It’s one of the many reasons GDT’s Staffing Solutions has grown so much, and so fast.

It’s common to find an HR department, even one that serves a workforce in the tens of thousands, that doesn’t compartmentalize its recruiting efforts. In other words, its recruiters may be tasked with filling positions in every department, from marketing and finance, to sales and IT. That’s not to say requirements and needed skill sets related to other departments haven’t changed (marketing now includes social media, keyword-focused content, SEO, and analytics related to each), but no skill sets have changed like those in IT.

According to a survey conducted by a noted IT research firm, of the 96% of executive-level respondents who stated that their organization currently uses the cloud, 90% of them felt that they had a definite skills gap related to cloud technology.

If expertise in deploying, monitoring and managing MPLS networks is needed, the next logical question for a recruiter to ask should probably be about SD-WAN and any related experience. Where MPLS is being used, SD-WAN is most assuredly being evaluated, and will probably be utilized to some degree in the future. Or, if MEF (Metro Ethernet Forum) certification is required, does the applicant have the latest certification? Or, how well do certain certifications translate to specific technologies? And, one of the most important elements that’s often ignored as it relates to things that can’t be found on a resume—soft skills, like how well an applicant’s personality, experience, work ethic and corporate philosophy will jibe with those in the IT department they’ll be working in.

With the technology industry evolving on what seems like an hourly basis, it stands to reason that the gig economy is perfectly suited for the IT industry. Required skill sets transform so fast that asking recruiters to keep up with the technology industry is a tall order, especially those tasked with filling positions in other departments. And, if they do find the perfect candidate, how long did it take to get the ideal candidate on board? In the business world, time is money. In IT staffing, it’s big money.

It’s been estimated through several studies that it cost approximately 150% of an employee’s annual salary to fill a position that pays over $100,000 annually. It’s about 20% for jobs less than $30k, and over 250% for executive-level positions.

If you need an IT professional whose certifications and experience will net them, on average, $110,000 annually, that’s over $150,000 you can spend finding the right candidate. Consider costs related to man hours spent on the phone screening candidates, advertising and job board costs, onboarding and training expenses, and any fees related to software licensing, memberships, or employee referrals. It starts adding up pretty fast. And, those costs don’t take into account what it’s costing your organization to not have the right candidate in place—projects don’t get completed in a timely manner, or new solutions are put on hold that could be generating revenue. Also, if an IT expert is only needed for a limited amount of time, that time may come and go without the position getting filled. Or, worse, you might end up putting somebody in the position who isn’t ideal, which means you may have to start the entire screening, interviewing and hiring process over again.

Even a half-full view is expensive. If you find the perfect candidate in just 2 months—a stellar accomplishment in IT—that $110,000 professional will have probably cost you over $15k.

The IT landscape is changing. Are you prepared to change with it?

No question, the gig economy is changing the IT landscape. Trying to staff experts to cover all the IT bases is cost prohibitive for many organizations. We’ve seen the issues that securing the right professionals have afflicted organizations, regardless of their size or the industry they represent. That’s exactly why so many of them have turned to GDT’s Staffing Solutions professionals. We understand IT and the demands placed on that department. We have a vast network of IT professionals who span the globe, and our staffing professionals are in regular contact with them. We save customers considerable time and money getting the right professional placed, and do so within some very tight timeframes (in many cases, a few days). If you have questions about how GDT can reduce expenses and secure the right IT professional for your organization, please contact me at troy.steele@gdt.com. I’d love to hear from you.

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