15 Nov 2017 17:04 IST

The new war for talent

If you have any of the hottest new skills in demand, companies will bid furiously to hire you

Do you have IoT skills? Are you versed in Machine Learning? Or know data science? If you do, congratulations. It’s a seller’s market out there for these skills, as companies furiously bid to acquire talent in these areas.

According to predictive outbound hiring platform Belong, the demand for IoT talent shot up by 304 per cent between 2014 and 2017. With IoT engineers in limited supply, even those with just a few years experience are able to command whopping salaries.

Globally, companies seem to be willing to shell out up to half a million dollars for AI (artificial intelligence) talent, going by a report in The New York Times .

News coming in from Pittsburgh, where self-driving cars are being tested, is that companies like Uber are offering pay packages of as much as $200,000 for robotics graduates. In the US, Uber, Facebook, Google and other tech companies are apparently raiding institutes that teach robotics and taking away the staff!

So if you have the right skills, sky is the limit it seems, as companies lay out the red carpet to woo talent.

Investing right

What are the new skills in demand? What qualifications should you be investing in for a fast-track career?

According to Belong, which unveiled a Talent Supply Index a few months back, IoT skills tops the demand list. Data science is also sought after, as can be seen by the demand that grew by 76 per cent between 2014 and 2017.

This is corroborated by companies such as Airtel, which have completely changed its talent acquisition strategy. Apart from network engineers, the telecom company is now also shopping for data scientists, and IoT and cloud engineering talent. See Airtel case study here .

According to Rishabh Kaul, co founder of Belong.co, cloud computing and security engineers are also in high demand — and there is a limited supply of talent in these areas.

To hire or to up-skill?

Talk to the HR heads of companies and you’ll get to know that they really are on the horns of a dilemma. The current pool of talent with new skills is limited. One option they have is to shell out huge amounts of money to get the right skilled people. The other option is to train their own employees and equip them with these new skills, which will take time.

This is where Belong says its new Talent Supply Index comes in. It measures how competitive the market is for a given job by dividing the total number of people with relevant skills by the total number of active opportunities for that job. This will allow companies to take a call on whether to spend lakhs on recruiting new talent or to invest in training and create its own talent pool.

What’s interesting is that the companies shopping for such talent are not restricted to IT, telecom and other new age sectors. Everyone, right from FMCG and pharma to auto companies, are interested in data scientists and security engineers, making the war for talent that much more brutal.

As Kaul points out, there is the convergence of job roles across industries.

Watch out for the trends

As the battle for talent heats up, some interesting trends are emerging, that will redefine hiring as well as training:

1) Changing talent acquisition strategies: If there is more AI talent available in a particular geography, then companies are posting a talent acquisition lead there. Globally, Montreal, Canada, is emerging as a hotbed for AI talent. In India, Bangalore is proving to be the place to look for Data Science talent, accounting for 40 per cent of the supply. Companies are also shopping for talent in universities. The data science pool, for instance, has now expanded to academics.

2) Shorter employee tenures: Given the acute scarcity of talent in robotics, AI and data science, the average length of employees’ tenure is going down. There is high mobility of skilled talent, which is, quite naturally, making hay while the sun shines. Hence, companies have to really beef up their talent retention strategies.

3) Job-role mapping: Companies are realising the need to do job-role mapping and also start gazing into the crystal ball to see what skills will be needed in the future. Organisations that manage to hire the right talent early will get a head start in this digital age.

4) Strategic tie-ups: Several strategic tie-ups between companies and learning and development firms are taking place. Firms are now investing in large training centres on campus to up-skill their employees.

5) Individual learning accountability: Learning accountability is now increasingly shifting to the individual, notes Arun Rajamani, Country Head, Pluralsight India, a technology learning platform. This means whether your company or your university teaches you new skills or not, you will always have to be learning. If you look at on-campus placement trends, companies tend to choose those candidates who have gone beyond their curriculum and learnt skills outside of it.