IT departments still under hiring freeze or shrinking

Headcounts in UK IT departments are failing to grow as existing staff are asked to take on more responsibilities and learn new skills.

Despite a rosy picture of job prospects being painted by IT recruitment agencies, just over half of the companies surveyed by Computer Weekly / TechTarget revealed their IT department is either under a hiring freeze or reducing in size.

In Computer Weekly publisher TechTarget’s CIO/IT salary and career survey, conducted in November 2011, 26% of respondents said their IT department is shrinking by attrition, and 26% said the department is under a staff freeze.

In contrast, the survey, which gathered responses from 600 UK companies, also found that 25% are looking to make new hires and 30% claim to be fully staffed already.

Competition for IT jobs

Jim Albert, managing director of IT staffing and recruiting agency Modis International, said: Due to outsourcing and offshoring, IT departments are shrinking and hiring freezes remain. On the flip side, however, we speak to businesses that are ready to hire, but the selection process takes a very long time to narrow down the right candidate.”

Albert said just one IT job role can attract around 700 applications, making it difficult for individual candidates to stand out among so much competition.

“Employers are looking for well-rounded candidates that can communicate on a commercial level, in addition to having the technical skills and relevant qualifications,” he added. 

Despite several businesses in need of IT project growth, many are unprepared to resume hiring. Figures from the survey also showed that the head count within UK IT departments is either the same size as last year (40%) or smaller than last year (35%).

“These figures show that not much has changed from last year, and the results are split quite equally, which shows a lot of uncertainty in the market,” said Albert.

IT and business skills mix

According to Albert, some companies are prepared and ready to hire, but finding a candidate with the right skills is an issue for many employers.

Brian Beneda, manager, strategy and business development, at Hewlett-Packard, agrees. Over the past 18 months, HP has seen its customers looking for IT staff that have a wide range of skills, he said.

“Nowadays, it’s important to have both technical expertise and business expertise. To stand out, and to be in with a chance of getting the job, you need to have technical expertise which spans a broad range of technologies, plus you need to know how to put those into a business context,” said Beneda.

Ben Pike, director of QA Apprenticeships, said: “It is vital that employers continue to make a conscious effort to retain good staff and really nurture relationships when they do get new talent in the door.   

“Forward-looking employers are increasingly using our IT apprenticeships as the primary way to attract and engage young people into their IT teams,” he added.

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