Blog post

Bad Habits Cause IT Talent Shortage

By Mike Rollings | April 03, 2013 | 7 Comments

ManagementHuman BehaviorEngagement

This morning I read a blog post by Nick Corcodilos “Ask The Headhunter: The Talent Shortage Myth and Why HR Should Get Out of the Hiring Business” and it seems Nick and I have come to a similar conclusion – the talent shortage is self-imposed.

My Field Research Summary “The Changing IT Career” is about to publish on This document summarizes our findings from a field research project focused on how goals, expectations, and trends are affecting IT careers. This field research incorporated both a Gartner Research Circle survey and in depth interviews with Gartner clients and non-clients in Q42012. It generated a wealth of data mostly from middle management and practitioners from 29 countries. It sheds light on these important questions:

  • What are the new realities for IT?
  • Why is it necessary to create a participative workforce and a new form of effectiveness?
  • How should the way we manage, hire and engage staff change?

One of the many findings is that IT practitioners realize we must reshape the IT workforce – A participative workforce must emerge but it cannot without attention to non-technical skills, new hiring and management practices, as well as renewed efforts to eliminate dysfunctional and undermining behaviors. Part of that finding is that broken job titles, descriptions, postings and hiring perpetuate dysfunction and prevent us from getting the staff with the broader skills and competencies we need. If you read Nick’s post then this will certainly sound familiar.

Titles and job descriptions have real problems and it is detrimental to reshaping the IT workforce. Jobs are narrowly defined with a focus on technical skills and they seem to get more narrow instead of capturing the broader skills required for today’s IT practitioner. As a result, our bad habits perpetuate dysfunction. This dysfunctional cycle is illustrated below:


Is there a real shortage of talent, or are we looking for, asking for and developing the wrong things? It appears we brought on the shortage ourselves. If we valued competencies over skills (for example, understanding application development not just how to code in a particular language), valued non-technical skills over technical skills, and valued developing people over just finding a resource, then we would find a much larger pool of candidates for any job opening.

Want to cure your talent shortage? Cure the dysfunction.


We will be discussing findings like these at our Catalyst Conference (July 29 – August 1, 2013). Jack Santos, Jamie Popkin and I have several sessions about improving professional effectiveness including our workshop “Gearheads Guide to Your Future IT Career”.

The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

Comments are closed


  • Frank C says:

    I think the key is that we’re asking for and developing the wrong skills. Also, HR departments in many places have setup too many policies that are designed to avoid the bad people, but not necessarily get good people. All too often requirements such as college degree, whether undergraduate or graduate put restrictions on the people who will apply that may meet the skill sets. It’s time to stop the “Excellent communications background” requirement and “Must possess 15+ years in the same position” and put real requirements for the position!

  • Mike Rollings says:

    I agree Frank. Research that I did last year confirms this … IT job postings ask for the wrong thing

  • Paul H says:

    I think this is spot on for the posting side. Certainly, over-engineering frameworks to make life easier in putting job descriptions together, meeting significant and burgeoning sets of business rules, has made it something of a challenge for creative improvements.

    Have you looked at the trends across verticals? My assumption is that there might be more of a correlation where we have greater regulation around businesses – is that what you’ve seen?

    It’s not all on the side of bad postings though. There are still significant numbers of applicants who mass produce their resumés and blanket apply for positions. I’d hate to think that it’s a focus on title and likely pay scale first, rather than what people might actually end up working on for real, but that’s another trend that seems to have become more commonplace.

  • Patrick Moloney says:

    I think the bad decisions are being driven by a desire to cut costs. Companies would rather take on “Consultants” than hire an employee. It avoids having to pay benefits including workers comp and unemployment. These outside workers are often employees of the recruiting firms hired to find help. They are paid far below the going rate for this work by the recruiting firms and are often foreigners working on visas. The company however is paying a good rate to the recruiting firm and doesn’t want to know what the worker is actually being paid. They are insulated. At best they get a one-trick pony that’s good. And in this day of people working longer, the recruiting firms are good at avoiding older workers with a lot of good history and skills. The deal they are making is just too poor and they know it.

  • Mike Rollings says:

    Paul, take a look at this post

    A definite problem is that postings are a result of poorly constructed job descriptions that don’t usually get fixed. We hastily grab one that is close, are rushed to edit, then it hits the airways. I believe the postings have been ‘refined’ over years, looking for quantifiable skills that are defensible in the selection process but become filtering words in the hunt for a great employee. The blanket application process is simply a coping mechanism within a process that won’t progress until you pass the two-stage filter.

    It is also not local to a certain geography nor to a certain business sector. It seems to be quite universal.

  • Mike Rollings says:

    Patrick, I agree that many companies would rather use a consultant than hire an employee. But I don’t see that as the cause for a damaged hiring process. It does contribute to it, in that it has further exaggerated the quest for a particular technical skill.

    There should be a different thought process for a consultant versus a contractor and employee, yet we have coalesced these into one thought process. I see consultants as short-term specialists where the composite of skills and competencies are for a particular moment. However, many contractors are substitute employees and as such it is short-sighted to hire purely on the technical skill of the day and not based on a richer palette of competencies.

    But all IT practitioners require non-technical skills to get things done today and the majority of postings have zero in them. We have narrowed technical skill descriptions to specific disqualification terms that in combination give the appearance of a shortage. Also, job postings seem to be the equivalent of a really bad posting on a dating site – great employees are looking for engagement and all we want is a quick date.


  • Donald Roper says:

    This article is good information but the biggest problem I find with IT hiring is the managers doing the hiring. There are so many mediocre IT managers out there that will NOT hire someone more qualified than they are because the company might replace them with that more qualified person. I can’t tell you how any IT managers who have no post high school education I know personally. Businesses would never hire an Accounting Manager without a business degree but would not hesitate to hire an IT Director without any degrees nor any certifications. How stupid can you get? And people wonder why their ITpeople are so incompetent. I recently interviewed with a HR rep and was told that the hiring manager would be calling within the next 2 days. He did call and proceeded to ask a variety of questions on a minor portion of the position they had available. I answered the questions, had a pleasant conversation about the weather and hung up. I was never called back for a follow up interview. Found out later the hiring manager that interviewed me had a certificate in PC repair and an A+ cert. He thinks the company is looking for his replacement so he “weeded out” anyone with a degree and more than 5 years of experience. The job was for an IT Operation Manager and he hired a complete idiot for the position.