The Australian IT sector is at a crossroads.
The industry is rapidly growing, with the demand for new technology services and projects at an all-time high, but the ongoing shortage of workers is impacting the sector’s ability to deliver.
COVID-19, border closures, and limited immigration have all combined into a perfect storm for employers seeking the right skills.
The IT industry is no exception.
Where it differs is that the tech sector has long-been plagued with labour supply issues, unlike many other industries whose workforces have been upended as a result of the pandemic.
Domestically, a small population and long-term underinvestment in the right education, skills development programs, and training opportunities has meant the Aussie technology industry has long struggled to develop enough skills to sustain itself.
As a result, many firms look further afield for the right talent.
Yet national immigration policies continue to materially impact the ability of many organisations to quickly acquire skills from the global job market.
As the nation’s borders reopen post-pandemic, Australian businesses are still struggling to fill IT positions and they’re now battling many countries facing similar challenges.
Re-opening will provide some welcome relief, reducing pressure on local workers and delayed projects.
But opening up new skilled labour pathways, broadening fast-track schemes, and reducing immigration requirements will further ease pressure – especially as the global talent war heats up.
The industry also needs to change its expectations around minimum skill requirements and be open to upskilling non-traditional candidates to fill in-demand roles.
Structured, career hire programs should focus on attracting a varied talent base – people from diverse groups, including a range of socio-economic backgrounds, educational experiences, and mature workers looking for new opportunities.
The power of partnership
An overall rethink on how Australia’s governments and industry come together to build skills – and reskill – is also needed to solve the sector’s skills shortages.
A focused, strategic approach is required, with governments, industry, and education providers coming together to evolve and implement coordinated policies that ramp up the nation’s skill base.
Good progress has been made – like the Skill Finder Platform and the Victorian Government’s Digital Jobs program – but there is still plenty of room for growth, requiring increased investment and more state and national schemes.
At ServiceNow, we have been proactive in developing initiatives to increase our own local workforce.
We combined with our partner ecosystem, training provider MEGT, and TAFE NSW for the NextGen program.
This offers a pathway into the tech industry to candidates at any career stage, and without requiring a degree.
Through our partner network, we provide candidates with on-the-job training alongside structured learning at TAFE.
This year, we will significantly scale the initiative to make a real dent in our supply shortage.
The experience equation
Retaining IT staff in a post-pandemic world will be top of mind for many businesses in 2022.
COVID-19 has created a new breed of worker, who is more interested in flexibility and seeks a workplace that is family-friendly, with streamlined processes for working anywhere, any time.
Creating a winning employee experience will create greater loyalty, reduce turnover and pay long-term dividends.
Even better, a great employee experience has been shown to improve customer experience, too.
Employers that come to the party, with a culture that supports hybrid and remote work, and an ethos that focuses on outcomes versus time in the office, will have the most success in attracting talent.
Hybrid working is here to stay, and businesses now need to look at how they integrate this model into their long-term plans.
At ServiceNow, we have invested heavily in reinventing our office space, creating more collaboration spaces, and including key amenities like a games room, barista-café, and gym.
This helps our teams work more creatively, while also improving employee wellbeing.
Key areas for organisations to improve include work-life balance, training and development, and benefits.
The Australian IT sector can only continue to grow if the industry and government step up to focus on employee development and skilling initiatives. The approach must be multi-faceted – more partnerships between government, industry and training providers; faster and simpler immigration requirements; broadening the pathways to enter the industry; and creating employee experiences that attracts and retains workers for the long-term.
The future of the industry – and its workforce – depends on it.
Cian Zoller is the Human Resources Director for ServiceNow in Australia and New Zealand. He is responsible for managing people, culture and supporting the organisation’s growth.
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