IT Hiring Expected to Grow in 2018

Employers plan to raise wages, while IT budgets decline

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer January 22, 2018
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IT Hiring Expected to Grow in 2018

​Organizations in the U.S. plan to add more full-time information technology (IT) staff to their payrolls in the first half of 2018 than they did last year, according to the Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Forecast.

The survey found that 21 percent of 2,600 chief information officers across 26 major U.S. markets intend to increase staff levels in the first six months of the year, a 5-percentage-point increase from 2017. Sixty-three percent said they plan to only fill vacant positions, 12 percent have instituted a hiring freeze and 2 percent plan to decrease headcount.

"With a strong economy, we are seeing the increase in technology investment across the industries we serve," said Greg Layok, senior director of the advanced analytics practice at West Monroe Partners, a business technology consulting firm based in Chicago. "In particular, we see heavy investment in digital initiatives, analytics and artificial intelligence. Now that companies are more digital, they are having to increase investment in product management and act more like software companies, which requires different kinds of technologists than they have on staff."

Jim Johnson, senior vice president for Robert Half Technology, an IT staffing provider in Menlo Park, Calif., noted an increase of digital, mobile and web projects contributing to the growth in hiring. "Additionally, enhanced security initiatives and a greater focus on security in general by technology leaders has in turn led to a need for more security professionals," he said.

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Sixty-one percent of respondents said that it's currently "somewhat or very challenging" to find skilled technology professionals. "Companies will have a hard time making these hires given their high demand in the market right now," Layok said. "The digital workplace also requires more collaboration between the business, technology and design functions," he added. "As a result, collaboration, communication and leadership skills are more important for technologists than ever."

According to IT executives, the hard skills in greatest demand within their department include:

  • Database management (48 percent).
  • Desktop support (44 percent).
  • Telecommunications support (44 percent).
  • Wireless network management (44 percent).
  • Business intelligence/reporting services (44 percent).

Forty-five percent of 1,000 IT leaders polled by TEKsystems, the largest IT staffing firm in the United States, expect software engineers, developers and DevOps talent to be the most difficult to find this year, followed by people with data analytics and security skills, each cited by 29 percent of respondents. While it is understandable that programmers, developers and project managers would be ranked highly, the report noted an apparent shift in the importance of business analysts and help desk or technical support roles now being considered critical.

Jason Hayman, research manager for TEKsystems, based in Hanover, Md., believes this is another indication of the changing nature of the IT department.

TEKsystems' data show that relatively few respondents said key new initiatives such as artificial intelligence and blockchain are in the implementation phase and a significantly high percentage of respondents indicated that they have nothing planned on these initiatives in the next 12 months. "Part of the lag in implementing key new initiatives may be explained by the fact that IT leaders are not as confident in their ability to satisfy and support new initiatives … [which] can be attributed to a lack of budget and the overall trend of decentralization of IT, whereby the actual decisions on these initiatives are being taken out of the hands of the IT department," Hayman said.

He believes that the IT department is being asked to do more with less, IT budgets are decreasing and tech spending is moving outside of centralized IT. But he added that "the responsibilities for 'keeping the lights on,' including data integration, information security and a host of other duties, remain."

The top workplace technology priority for the next six months will be maintaining IT security and safeguarding company information, according to the Robert Half survey results.

"With the public breaches that we've seen of late, maintaining security is a top priority among leadership across businesses, and technology teams are responsible for ensuring that data remains safe and employees are informed on best practices to avoid common threats that may start at the desk level," Johnson said.

Salaries to Rise, Despite Budget Cuts

More than half of IT leaders expect overall technology staff salaries to increase in 2018, despite projected budget cuts, according to TEKsystems.

Fifty-eight percent of respondents said their overall IT staff salaries will increase in 2018, a significantly higher proportion than the 36 percent of IT leaders who took the survey a year ago. Forty percent expect salaries to stay the same, compared to 63 percent in the 2017 survey, while 2 percent expect salaries to decrease, compared to 1 percent last year.

"Many of those increases are likely to be marginal due to cost-of-living allowances," Hayman said. "Apart from marginal increases, it is also possible that IT managers considering new initiatives in the coming year are anticipating the need to pay increased salaries to individuals possessing high-demand skill sets related to specific initiatives."

Seemingly counter to the finding about raised pay is the drop in budget expectations for IT departments. The survey found 2018 budgets to be close to the lowest levels seen in the previous five years. Forty percent expect their organization's IT budget to increase, down from 49 percent in the 2017 forecast, while 16 percent expect a decrease, up from 12 percent last year. IT leaders expecting budgets to stay the same rose 5 percentage points from 39 percent in 2017 to 44 percent.

"While many IT leaders anticipate that their staff's salaries will increase in 2018, bear in mind that the IT labor market is competitive and the vast majority of high-quality talent is already employed and paid well," Hayman said. "In addition to adopting a creative sourcing strategy, organizations need to understand the professional goals and interests of candidates and leverage that to develop a compelling employee value proposition, including competitive compensation. This is essential to stand apart from the competition."

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