Close IT Talent Gaps with Employer Branding

Why are Canadian IT workers so hard to hire and retain?

Economic uncertainty is now a constant in the Canadian economy. How are organizations responding to this uncertainty? Two words: More. Contractors. In the U.S. alone, contractor roles increased 26% year over year while full-time roles only grew 6%. We’re also seeing similar trends north of the U.S. border. This makes sense in a time of economic uncertainty. Organizations are understandably hesitant to add more full-time talent to their payroll but still need to be able to make progress on strategically important IT projects. 

Recently, we’ve seen some layoffs at high-profile tech companies but the broader IT talent market remains tight. 

There are many factors driving this shortage: 

  • An aging workforce: More than 20% of Canadian working adults are nearing retirement and 19% of the total population is already aged 65 or older. That means fewer workers across all industries. 
  • Growing demand for key IT skills: It’s a familiar story, but it bears repeating: there are more tech jobs than there are qualified people to do them. According to some estimates, Canadian employers might need to fill an additional 250,000 tech jobs by 2025 if they are to close the gap. This challenge is especially acute when you look at IT skills needed for cybersecurity and digital transformation efforts.  
  • Canada’s tech brain drain: Tech talent is in such high demand that U.S./global tech firms are aggressively competing for high-quality Canadian workers. The resulting increase in salaries is hurting Canadian firms most of all. 

How your employer brand can help you attract tech talent

You can’t control the economy or skyrocketing IT talent demand, but you can control your employer brand experience for potential candidates. Focusing on your employer brand among traditional candidates and potential contractors is the best way to attract more high-quality talent. This is especially true for companies that can’t afford to pay significantly above current market rates. 

Here’s how to leverage your employer brand and improve your ability to attract high-quality IT talent.

Get to know your audience. What do IT workers want?

Whether you’re trying to appeal to traditional candidates or contractors (hint: you should be appealing to both!), your first step should be to understand your audience.

What motivates them? What do they want from their jobs? What kind of work environment appeals to them? You can get a lot of this information just by talking to your current IT staff about these topics. This process will help you fine tune your employer brand messaging to attract the IT talent you need. 

Have a large IT department to staff? Consider segmenting your audience to see if different parts of your messaging resonate more or less with different groups of IT workers. Pay attention to how and what motivates candidates within different generations or subsets of IT (e.g., pay v.s. development opportunities, etc.).  

Make sure your brand is authentic to who you are

Nothing kills a brand like false advertising. As you craft your employer brand and messaging, don’t forget to focus on what the IT function at your organization is actually like. What is it like to work there? Is it different from the rest of your organization?

Remember, each department in your company will tend to have its own subculture that is distinct from the broader whole. In our experience, this is especially true for your IT department. Make sure you’re not just using your broad, corporate-level employment branding to attract IT talent. Take time to validate your messaging and tone as being representative of your IT department. 

Ensure your staffing partners know how to represent your brand

Employers often skip this step but, if you use staffing partners to fill roles, make sure they understand your employer brand and know how to communicate that to candidates. Staffing partners are often the first touchpoint people have with your brand, and the first impression is a powerful one. Ensure they’re helping you stand out.

Not hiring right now? You’re still recruiting.

Even if you’re not in aggressive hiring mode today, now is the time to invest where you can in employer branding. 

Conclusion: Leverage your employer branding in recruitment

IT talent shortages aren’t going away. The demographic and economic factors are too strong to ignore. There are no easy fixes to this macro problem but there are things you can do right now to set you apart from your competition for talent. Focusing on your employer brand is a highly effective way to make your organization more attractive to top IT talent.

However, you must make sure your brand and messaging are aligned with your intended audience, authentic to who you are, and conveys what the IT employee experience is like at your organization. Additionally, it is paramount that you ensure both in-house recruiters and external staffing partners know how to represent your brand to candidates. 

If you want to talk more about employer branding in IT or just have a broader conversation about IT talent challenges, please reach out to our team.

2023 Canadian IT Hiring Trends & Salary Guide

In a candidate-driven market, offering competitive rates is critical to getting your foot in the door with top talent. Our 2023 Canadian IT Hiring Trends & Salary Guide gives you not only the rate data but the expert insights and market trends you need to successfully staff your IT teams.