Before the pandemic hit in 2020, a shortage of high-tech workers in the U.S. that had been festering for years was hitting a peak.
In a 2019 survey by ManpowerGroup that found that 70 percent of U.S. employers reported a dearth of qualified workers, tech workers such as engineers, information-technology personnel and network administrators were cited as among the most challenging jobs to fill.
The health crisis that erupted a year later has only made the hiring crisis worse, according to experts.
“There are significantly more jobs available than there are available candidates,” said Jim Johnson, a senior vice president at staffing company Robert Half. “And I think the larger companies probably realize … that there is a talent gap, and if they’re not flexible, that they’re going to miss out on talent.”
Little wonder, then, that in this war for talent many tech companies are willing to bend over backwards to accommodate workers’ demands for flexible work schedules.
‘The pledge to flex’
Earlier this month, German software giant SAP announced that it would create “a 100 percent flexible and trust-based workplace” where people could work at the office, from home or another remote location when the coronavirus pandemic ends.
SAP found in a survey that almost half of its employees plan to work in the office for one or two days a week. Another 16 percent want to work remotely on a full-time basis, according to the company.
The firm said it will accommodate the demands of its workers, whatever their preferred work location.
“Our more than 100,000 employees around the world tell us they want maximum flexibility, not rigid, one-size-fits-all models,” Samantha Yerks, a spokeswoman for SAP, said in an email. “The pledge to flex is designed to ensure employees have what they need to be productive, creative and inspired while running the business responsibly and meeting business requirements.”
Other tech giants also are showing they are willing to be flexible about where employees do their work.
Microsoft recently announced that employees who work at its sites in Redmond, Washington, where the company is based, can choose between working full time, remotely or on a hybrid schedule of home and office.
Apple said its employees will be asked to come into the office on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays starting in September and will have the option of working from home on Wednesdays and Fridays. The company’s staff also will be permitted to work from anywhere for two weeks a year. (However, some staff found this new policy not flexible enough.)
Internet-search giant Google plans to allow as much as 20 percent of its workforce to work remotely permanently, while Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has said half of the social media company’s staff could be working remotely within five or 10 years. Zuckerberg’s counterpart at Twitter, Jack Dorsey, told employees that they could work from home “forever.”
A job seeker’s market
During the first quarter, there was a 28 percent increase in tech job postings compared with a year earlier, according to career website Dice.com. Large businesses are also expanding their technology teams. Dice estimates that the top 50 employers in the first quarter created 60 percent more listings on a year-over-year basis.
The outlook for job seekers isn’t showing any signs of slowing.
“The continuous surge in tech-job postings, combined with the low tech unemployment rate, offers a positive growth outlook for technologist hiring and the landscape as a whole for the remainder of 2021,” Art Zeile, CEO of Dice, said in a press release.
Unlike in past years, job seekers don’t have to sacrifice compensation to get a flexible work schedule.
Still, it remains unclear whether the push for remote working is a temporary blip or the start of a long-term trend, said Phillip Perkins, vice president at Boston-based Motion Recruitment.
“A majority of the fully remote, long-term market is larger companies like Twitter, so the remote discount is a thing of the past,” Perkins said, referring to the lower salaries workers would trade for remote work in the past. “We hear all the time that folks may quit ahead of a company’s return to the office, but usually when you dig in, it’s a lot of little issues, and that’s the one straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Large and small businesses compete for tech workers
It’s clear that tech workers are enjoying a plethora of career options as opportunities surge in smaller regional companies, far removed from the traditional tech hotspots like Silicon Valley or Austin, Texas.
Data from trade group CompTIA shows at least a 44 percent hiring increase in Milwaukee; Albany, N.Y.; Boulder, Colo.; Des Moines, Iowa; and Oklahoma City between the fourth quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021.
“On the other hand, there have been prominent employers that have announced a near indefinite extension of their work-from-home arrangements, so there may be an element of workers and employers opting to live and hire where they prefer,” CompTIA Executive Vice President Tim Herbert told The Business Journals.
According to Jim Johnson, a senior vice president at the technology division of recruitment agency Robert Half, candidates are willing to consider positions that are as far as 75 miles away from their homes since they are commuting less frequently than they did before the pandemic.
“Both big tech companies and startups that are serious about hiring are open to the candidate’s desires regarding flexibility,” Johnson said. “It’s carte blanche for top job seekers.”