Tech talent poaching will be determined by industry

A majority of surveyed managers and recruiters expect organizations to get more aggressive this year trying to lure employees away from one another.
Written by John Hazard, Contributor

IT hiring managers and recruiters are preparing for an IT talent-poaching war in 2011, according to a survey by IT job board Dice.

Fifty-four percent of surveyed managers and recruiters told Dice they expect organizations to get more aggressive this year trying to lure employees away from one another.

Not surprising, considering another report this week. TekSystems, a technology staffing and services agency, reported 57 percent of IT executives said they plan to increase the number of IT projects on the docket in 2011 as they began to emerge from the recession do more do more than just "keep the lights on."

The trend that began last year prompted Businessweek to call surge in talent poaching an epedimic.

Median voluntary turnover at 616 U.S. technology companies rose 27 percent from the first quarter of 2010 to the fourth quarter, with no sign of slowing, reports San Jose compensation consultant Radford. In the fourth quarter of 2010, Radford found 16.3 percent of 520 technology companies surveyed planned to hire aggressively, vs. 9.1 percent at the start of the year.

"You've got a lot of people who aren't interested in staying where they are and employers who are saying it's time to get aggressive and poach talent from bigger players," says Alice Hill, managing director of Dice.com, a technology job-posting site. "Companies like Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and Amazon that have put a lot of money and time into recruiting and training are the most vulnerable. They're great sources of proven talent for startups to plug into."

Industry matters

How do you know where the poaching is most likely to occur and how do you put yourself in the best position to be poached or leverage a counter offer into a higher salary? A trio of recent IT employment surveys offer some clues.

According to TekSystems, CIOs are interested in projects that support expanding business lines. Businesses climbing out of the recession say 2011 is the year they intend to do more than just "keep the lights on," said Tania Lavin, TekSystems Research Manager. For most companies, that means hiring or outsourcing and that will force IT salaries to rise, she said. The top initiatives cited by TekSystems included Mobile Applications projects (54 percent), Virtualization (42 percent) and Business Intelligence (45 percent).

The projects cited and the roles align with Foote Partners 2011 IT Skills & Certifications Hot List Forecast, released last week, which indicates enterprises are paying a premium for IT skills that impact business, not just "keeping the lights on."

And the Dice survey reports industry experience trumps everything else. When asked "how likely is it that the industry-experience requirement will be relaxed in 2011", 74 percent of respondents said no way.

Industry experience matters because technology is moving from IT for the sake of IT, to IT for the sake of business. Managers want to see your ability to impact a business line similar to their own and that typically means industry experience.

More than skills or domain-expertise, what industry you work in will dictate the level of poaching you may see and the likelihood it will put upward pressure on your salary.

For those working in industries that are thriving or racing toward a technology advantage like social media, energy or financial services, 2011 is a good year to test the waters for a new job. Those in poor-performing industries or those where technology is more likely to be considered an infrastructure necessity, should be more cautious or try to make the jump to a new industry.

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