How Higher Ed Can Find Qualified Candidates for Their IT Departments

A 2023 Government Technology report highlights the challenges higher education institutions face filling IT vacancies. There are still lingering effects of the pandemic that led to a mass exodus of qualified staff from the institutions. Add this to the dynamics of shifting world economies, digital transformation, employee skill gaps, and increasing adoption of artificial intelligence.

The report goes on to show that projections for the engineering job sector in the U.S. are quite grim. By 2026, there may be a shortage of more than 1.2 million engineers. The tech sector also has one of the highest employee turnover rates at 13.2%. Although this competition for qualified candidates is fierce, those with specialized skill sets are few. The reality is, holding on to the existing workforce will only become tougher.

So what does this mean for colleges and universities seeking quality talent? The most obvious answer is the need to shift from traditional hiring to modern recruitment methods. And that includes expanding and refining the search for the right talent. Let’s discuss how higher education institutions can find qualified candidates for their IT departments.

Utilize Talent Communities to Find Qualified Candidates

Talent communities, not to be confused with a talent pool, are an excellent place to find the right talent. These communities comprise groups or networks of individuals with shared interests, connections, and expertise in specific professions. Although higher education institutions can tap into such resources to find qualified candidates, the benefits go beyond filling tech roles. Here are some other advantages:

  • The right talent communities keep up with maintaining engagement through constant updates, career guidance, regular check-ins, and networking opportunities.
  • Talent communities help with targeted reach. Connecting with individuals with a direct interest in working in specific fields will significantly reduce hiring time.
  • There’s a chance to reach passive candidates who may not, at the moment, be actively looking for job opportunities, yet they possess the right skill set.
  • There’s the opportunity to create talent pipelines. This makes it easy to reach potential candidates anytime relevant positions arise.

So how are talent communities different from talent pools? A talent pool is simply a database of qualified candidates, typically stored in an Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

Define the Benefits of Working for Your Institution

Attracting and keeping a workforce takes much more than a good salary. This is especially true for millennials and Gen Z that have more demands at the workplace. A Gallup report shows that:

  • The opportunity to learn and grow is of critical importance to 59% of millennials.
  • 87% of millennials are concerned about career growth and development in current and potential roles.
  • Other factors like company culture, innovation, commitment to employee success, and flexible work schedules are critical to this demographic.

Here’s why colleges and universities should define the benefits of working for their institution.

Differentiation: Explain why you’re different from other institutions with similar offerings. Factors like positive work culture, work-life balance, cutting-edge technology, and research opportunities can make the institution more appealing to the right candidates.

Attracting more fitting candidates: By clearly outlining the benefits, the institution gets to attract individuals looking for such opportunities. As we said, while good compensation is critical, it’s not the most crucial factor, especially for the younger demographic.

Better targeting of specific skill sets: By defining the benefits, you stand a better chance of landing candidates with the right skill sets. Take the example of a research-oriented institution. Candidates yearning for career growth and continuous learning will most likely apply.

Employee retention: Clarity on career expectations and benefits can be a powerful motivating factor for employees to stay. It allows them to align their long-term career goals with what the institution is offering.

Perks Are Important

A Glassdoor survey indicates that up to 60% of respondents will strongly consider benefits and perks before accepting a job offer. Meanwhile, 80% of employees would rather get additional benefits than a pay increase. Additionally, 88% of employees will not take a job with a fixed schedule. Even if the salary is lower, they would rather have a job with flexible working hours.

Additional perks include:

  • A healthy work/life integration that provides flexibility to attend to personal matters
  • Leave and/or vacation time
  • Remote working
  • Childcare services
  • Wellbeing initiatives to support mental, physical, and emotional health. These include mental health resources, counseling services, wellness challenges, and more
  • Manageable workloads
  • Family-friendly policies such as parental leave, sick leave, and flexible return to work arrangements

To communicate the benefits, higher ed organizations must include them in job postings, websites, and career pages. The same applies to online and social media platforms. HR teams can use interview sessions to share more information with candidates.

Put an Emphasis On Purpose and Impact

Increase chances of finding qualified candidates by putting an emphasis on the job purpose and impact. This is an especially critical point for millennials and Gen Zers, who seek meaning in everything they do. 

The higher ed institutions should, for instance, communicate how working in the IT Department will impact the students’ educational experiences. Take it a step further by showcasing the use of technology in learning and teaching. 

Also, the societal impact which extends beyond the boundaries of the campus is vital. For instance:

  • Does the institution have any innovations that have changed the society? 
  • Does it engage with the local communities, have outreach programs, or open source projects to promote collaboration and knowledge-sharing? 
  • Is there an opportunity for lifelong learning and personal growth for staff members? 

Explore Talent Communities

For a long time, employers have used good remuneration as a way to find qualified candidates. And the same applies to higher education institutions looking to find the right talent for the IT departments. But in an evolving world, there’s a need to let go of legacy hiring systems that no longer work.

Fortunately, talent communities bring together professionals with similar interests, values, and skill sets.Contact us at nextSource to build your higher-ed tech workforce and make the search for the right candidate easier.

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