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IT workforce trends amid COVID-19

How COVID-19 is shaping the current and future state of IT teams

May 5, 2020 | A Q&A with Matthew Fielman and Mike Levender

A man sits with his laptop on a video conference discussing IT workforce trends amid COVID-19

Navigating the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented. Our first and foremost priorities are ensuring we’re supporting our employees, consultants and clients across the globe. As a full-stack technology and talent partner, we want to share our experience and offer support in how to alleviate the uncertainty around business continuity as many organizations shift to a primarily remote workforce for a period of time.

Within weeks, or even days, companies shifted from face-to-face professional interactions to remote work in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. And with that comes growing pains. Remote workplace best practices are still being formed; managing teams from afar has its learning curves.

Our IT talent services experts weigh in on a few key workforce trends we’re tracking as our new reality continues to impact our ways of work—from managing teams through a crisis and shifting to remote workplaces, to changes in the hiring landscape—and where we can all lean in and learn from this experience to move forward.

Workforce Trend 1: Leading remote teams with empathy

Mike Levender, TEKsystems Data Analytics and Insights / Enterprise Applications Account Lead: One of the biggest themes we’re seeing across the board is how critical it is to lead with empathy and concern. Workplace conversations are more personalized, authentic and intentional. There is comfort in connecting on a personal level during a shared time of challenge. The theme of partnership is heightened as we all maneuver within this new reality.

Matthew Fielman, Director of TEKsystems Core Applications / Direct Placement Services: It’s important to take a step back. Workers are figuring out their new normal—managing children and schoolwork, working next to their spouses and bound by lack of proper tech infrastructure. Ultimately, top priorities revolve around being overwhelmingly empathetic.

Workforce Trend 2: Minds could be changing re: more remote work in the future, but too early to tell

Fielman: Working from home is no longer a privilege—it's a necessity. Many organizations aren’t fully ready to manage this new reality. It has now become a forced trial for managers to trust their employees and for employers to prove productivity.

Levender: Managers will face some accountability challenges. You need to let your employees know what’s expected of them and provide the necessary tools for how you’ll communicate, and staying connected will be important. It’s imperative to take extra steps to overcommunicate—connect with remote employees and see how they’re doing.

Fielman: Managers are looking at the current dynamic and evaluating its impact on how they’ll operate in the future. This could increase the appetite for a remote workforce moving forward and changes how you measure productivity, not by time in the office but by work produced. Right now, it’s difficult to compare past performance against current performance because economically, the two conditions aren’t the same. The real test is when stay-at-home restrictions begin to lift, and employees have more options in terms of what they can do. There are so many things to consider, and everything is changing daily.

Another future impact of this forced trial of remote workforce is opening their minds to more remote workers. For employers who previously insisted on local candidates, it could help open the talent pools for more specialized skill sets.

Workforce Trend 3: Agile hiring, onboarding and team-building

Fielman: According to Gartner (and what we’re seeing firsthand), companies are leveraging technology to operate more agile. Think: collaboration tools for education, telehealth, etc. Pivoting workforce planning, keeping employees informed of changing operational plans. Virtual interviews have become more common in IT over the last several years. We’ve seen some onboarding challenges where employers couldn’t access a company-issued computer; the shipping facility was closed. Hiring managers are forced to think outside of the box, be creative. We produced an onboarding checklist for our customers to support them through the virtual onboarding of our consultants that has been helpful.

Levender: Instead of the watercooler, we have Slack, WebEx happy hours and coffees. What should be mentioned is that if you have cultural challenges, they can be exacerbated by remote work. What is good and bad will be magnified.

Workforce Trend 4: Security, infrastructure in demand now; automation, digital roles will see uptick later on

Levender: Right now, we’re in a “let’s get people working from home” phase. Infrastructure and dynamic workplace services roles are critical. The next phase will be prioritizing security measures and keeping remote workers safe. Eventually, we’ll turn a corner—to win market share within this new normal, companies will need to invest in technology to make apps more responsive and software that allows products to market quicker.

Fielman: I anticipate an accelerated leap into automation and an attempt to engage with customers more through digital channels that don't require in-person interactions. If companies haven’t invested in their digital experience previously, they’re going to see a greater impact to their business during this time, and likely will start making those investments to continually improve their digital experience even when brick-and-mortar locations reopen. Investments in security will become more popular as breaches start to happen. With more people working from home and entry points increasing, security skill sets will see an uptick in demand.

Matthew Fielman is the director of core applications and direct IT placement services at TEKsystems. With 15 years of experience in IT and talent services, Matthew works with customers to drive revenue growth and realize quicker return on investment through the use of technology to drive business and people outcomes.

Mike Levender is a data analytics and insights / enterprise applications account lead at TEKsystems. Mike works within a dedicated team of industry-leading sales and recruiting professionals focused on meeting the hiring needs of IT employers and the career needs of technical professionals in the U.S. and Canada.