The shortage of skilled workers shouldn’t be new to us, but a topic everyone speaks about right now – especially when it comes to IT experts. Already at the beginning of the year, Germany’s digital association bitkom spoke of 96,000 vacant IT jobs in Germany. At the same time, every unfilled position costs companies a lot of money. But where should the amount of well-trained IT specialists with the right university degrees or professional training come from? Isn’t it time to rethink recruiting and human resources and develop innovative ideas for filling open positions? There is a lack of paradigm shift to address the IT skills shortage.

Rethink And Redefine Recruiting Criteria

Many companies stick to standard solutions: They do expand their resourcing to the international labor market, talk to ex-employees who have resigned in recent years or to candidates from previous application rounds who were not hired. These are definitely important measures to fill open IT positions. But that’s not enough.

It’s time to change the approach and look at job profiles differently: does everyone on the team really need to have classic qualifications such as a degree in computer science, knowledge of various software programs, experience in programming, quality assurance, software testing, data security or analysis? Doesn’t an efficient and effective tech team today require other skills? For example, project, product or content management, user experience, service or customer consulting. In addition, IT people need – besides hard skills – an open mindset, flexibility, adaptability, teamwork, cross-functional, emotional, intercultural and communication skills, as digital transformation has made them the interface in the company. In many cases, they lead the projects. This requires additional leadership skills.

The IT skills shortage is an opportunity for companies to build diverse teams now: If they have already brought their recruiting to an international level, they should not only search in other European countries, but worldwide. This way, they can increase their diversity in terms of nationalities and cultures. If they focus more on positions with requirements around customer consulting, project or product management, they are automatically more appealing to women and, therefore, raise gender diversity in the departments.

Career changers can also enrich a tech team – from industries such as publishing, journalism or creative industries. A change in perspective toward soft skills can also be helpful. Candidates with these qualities, which are so important today, ensure the further development and future viability of the team. After all, focusing more on various capabilities prevents stereotyped thinking. And this can also be achieved by training great candidates with the necessary technical expertise once they have been hired. This is a better alternative than leaving positions unfilled.

Diversity Programs Should Specifically Integrate Inclusion

People – for example, with neurodiverse disorders such as dyslexia, autism, ADHD and Tourette syndrome – also strengthen a team. This is because they often bring with them underestimated potential, such as pattern recognition, memory skills or mathematics. That’s why they can be the driving force to ensure more creativity and collective intelligence in the team.

In order to hire people with disabilities, companies must create suitable framework conditions: The hiring process and job requirements should be modified for them. For candidates with neurodiverse disorders, the focus cannot be on social and communication skills, but solely on their practical expertise and technical skills. They also benefit from a low-stimulus work environment, clear, structured organisation and communication. Mentors or coaches can be helpful by assisting with integration. For these colleagues to feel at home in the company in the medium and long term, a corporate culture based on respect, tolerance, appreciation, mutual support and understanding is a basic requirement.

Another key to a barrier-free application process, barrier-free career development and an inclusive and safe working environment are the managers. After all, they are largely responsible for the corporate culture. Training helps a lot here. One option is Unconscious Bias Training. Here, the aim is to overcome even unconscious biases. This eliminates discriminatory behaviour in the workplace. In the absence of in-house expertise, companies are also well advised to partner with nonprofit organisations that have deep knowledge and experience with people with disabilities.

Diversity & Inclusion Managers And Scorecards

To drive transformation toward diversity, equality and accessibility, hiring a Diversity & Inclusion Manager can make sense. This is because they actively take responsibility for this topic: analyse, listen, advise and sensitively initiate a process within the company. This also includes Diversity & Inclusion basics on the status quo of the company and the identification of key areas for action, such as training and coaching. They actively initiate discussions. That’s the most important thing of all. Start the conversation between employees and don’t let it break down. In this way, it raises awareness – alongside managers – prejudices can be avoided and you promote a healthy change in thinking.

Scorecards also help to check the diversity & inclusion status in the IT departments and in the entire company at any time. On the one hand, quantitative goals can be tracked, such as how many women or other minorities have been hired, retained and promoted; on the other hand, qualitative aspects such as mentoring and training can be monitored.

The Time To Rethink Has Come

The challenges companies face in filling open IT positions vary greatly from one individual to the next. But ultimately, they all need to look for innovative solutions to address the skills shortage. Firmly embedding diversity and inclusion in the recruiting process, career development and company culture is therefore no longer an option, but has become a must. Moreover, the future success of the technology industry lies in bringing together different experiences and expertise. After all, such measures ensure greater creativity and innovative strength within the workforce and make companies more competitive. Diversity & inclusion programs also have a positive impact on employer branding, because companies are perceived as much more likeable this way.