Talent Wars: Are Your IT Staffers Being Poached?

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Wanted: Deep Experience

But it's not just any IT professionals they're after. What most companies want are IT people with experience in newer technologies they're looking to deploy or those with very deep technology and business experience in a particular industry. Experience with developing mobile and social media applications, using newer programming languages like Ruby, and deep integration skills for linking on-premises computing systems to cloud-based services are at the top of recruiters' wish lists.

Harris' Patel, for example, says the application development openings he has are for highly experienced professionals. "For these positions, which are for new projects, we need people with five to 10 years' experience. They are not positions for new graduates," he says. "It has been very difficult to fill them."

Guardian Life Insurance in New York recently conducted an IT workforce assessment and found that 35% of its IT staffers are over 55 years old. "Almost half [of our] IT workforce will be eligible for retirement in 10 years," says CIO Frank Wander. "It's staggering. These are our most experienced people."

What Guardian is looking for, he says, are young IT professionals to whom extremely high-value senior IT employees can pass on their experience and knowledge about Guardian's business and processes (see sidebar). On the technology front, Guardian -- like just about every other company that's hiring for IT -- needs professionals with data modeling and design skills and mobile application skills. The insurer is also seeking IT workers with data center consolidation experience.

"Fifty percent of Fortune 500 companies will be modernizing their data centers over the next five years. The reason is that devices are becoming more powerful. They take up less space and need less electricity," Wander notes. "We're doing a data center modernization and consolidation initiative, and we want people who have been through this. It's very hard to get. It's one of the hottest areas."

Healthcare IT

Hospitals Compete for IT Talent

Healthcare providers in the U.S. are encountering a shortage of qualified IT job candidates as they race to meet federal government deadlines for converting paper charts to electronic health records.

At stake is $25 billion in funding allocated in 2009 by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for spending on EHR technology and other forms of healthcare IT. Medical providers will be compensated for the cost of these systems if they meet certain implementation deadlines.

"You can imagine there's going to be a fair amount of hiring," says John Halamka, CIO at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and a Computerworld columnist.

To manage the hospital's EHR rollout, Halamka opted to outsource the task to a firm that specializes in EHR implementation and practice transformation. The healthcare facility is also developing a private cloud, which required hiring IT professionals with backgrounds in database development, wireless networking, security and server administration.

Equally critical are employees who grasp how introducing technology into medicine changes how care is administered.

"I need an analyst who really understands how it is you can take a paper-based office environment and then move it to this new world of using electronic records, because it isn't just digitizing paper," says Halamka. "So they really have to understand how you leverage the technology and change processes in order to move doctors from what they may have been doing for 30 years to a new world."

Beyond IT skills, Halamka looks for candidates who "have a working vocabulary of healthcare" and are familiar with the industry's privacy, security and regulatory compliance needs.

Halamka has found, however, that his organization must compete with EHR vendors for staff. Candidates may find these vendors' fast growth and lucrative salaries more appealing than what a nonprofit hospital can offer, he says. But, he adds, Beth Israel's connection with Harvard University's medical school gives him an edge in the talent wars.

- Fred O'Connor, IDG News Service

This version of this story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an article that appeared earlier on Computerworld.com.

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