A war between companies for the favours of top IT managers and tech-savvy staff is looming, according to industry consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
Within three years a scarcity of talented technology staff will cause a scramble for those with mathematical, scientific and engineering skills. The best positions will go to those people who are innovative and able to collaborate, and who demonstrate a willingness to learn, according to a PwC report entitled "Technology executive connections — successful strategies for talent management".
One-hundred-and fifty-three top European executives were interviewed for the report. Eighty-three percent of respondents thought that engineering knowledge coupled with creative and collaborative thinking is in short supply. Similarly, 55 percent say that mathematics, science and engineering talent pools in developed nations are drying up, compared to emerging markets.
However, an IT skills shortage in those developing markets is increasingly forcing up salaries, especially in India and China, making them less cost effective for recruitment.
"Technology companies have always had to compete for the best and the brightest, but with an industry boom they are faced with a talent shortage," said Graham Wylie, director at PwC LLP.
Skills that are particularly prized by technology employers include the ability to turn new ideas into new IT products and services. Finding innovative people who are technically trained is increasingly difficult, and there was a perception among survey respondents that the quality of technical education in the UK and the US is declining.
"We are having greater difficulty — experiencing a longer time to hire for qualified graduates and especially for more senior positions," a senior HR executive at Siemens AG told PwC. "We are also working harder to keep the engineers and technical staff we already have".
IT staff are no longer just attracted by the financial benefits of an organisation. They are demanding innovative and interesting work and a clear view of how their careers will develop, according to the survey.
Several technology companies allow employees to spend some time on their own ideas, including Google where engineers can spend 20 percent of their time on their own pet projects.
During the dotcom boom of the 1990s, competition for software, network and related technical and engineering skills was feverish. Talented employees were often offered stock options to recruit and retain them. IT staff are now more interested in possible career development, according to PwC.