Plan now to avoid being caught out by a jobs upturn

The longest journey starts with a single step, according to the proverb, and given the malaise that has affected the IT sector...

The longest journey starts with a single step, according to the proverb, and given the malaise that has affected the IT sector over the past few years there is no doubt that the road to recovery will be lengthy. At last though it appears that we are moving in the right direction.

This week's release of the SSL/Computer Weekly Quarterly Survey of Appointments Data and Trends reveals the second consecutive quarter of growth in jobs advertised in print, as well as growth in a number of key indicators, such as the demand for contractors. Taken in the round, the position looks more favourable than for some time and effectively marks the reopening of the market for skilled IT personnel.

The SSL/Computer Weekly figures are confirmed by IT recruitment companies both anecdotally and more formally through trading statements released to the City. Although few are prepared to venture an opinion beyond cautious optimism, it is clear that there are more projects being evaluated and implemented in both the public and private sectors. The growth in jobs advertised reflects this increased activity.

Despite this, the growth in IT recruitment needs to be put in context. We are still experiencing a level of job advertisements running at only a fifth of the level seen in the fourth quarter of 2000. It will therefore be some time before we can expect to find difficulty generally in the recruitment of IT staff. The issue for IT directors currently is that, although it has been a buyer's market for IT skills over the past few years, the power is shifting and strategies need to adapt to reflect that.

Effort expended now to ensure that IT departments embrace these ideals will be rewarded when the market for skills becomes tighter. This is the time for IT directors to think about how their recruitment and retention strategies have to change. The answer is not necessarily increasing the salary budget, rather it means ensuring that key staff are valued, given suitable work that helps them develop and are rewarded appropriately. It also means reflecting such issues as work/life balance.

All of the things, in effect, that make an organisation one of the best places to work in IT.

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