As demand grows and the talent pool remains limited, the channel will have to pay top dollar next year to hang on to its most capable staff or attract top performers from rivals.
That is the view of Channel Recruitment Solutions (CRS), a firm specialising in the recruitment needs and strategies, as well as the employer-branding, of resellers, distributors and vendors. The Northampton-based outfit has reported that smaller players were able to benefit during 2011 as larger companies suffered the consequences of excessive amounts of red tape.
CRS figures indicate that time-to-hire lengths grew by almost 50 per cent for the industry’s largest manufacturers, distributors and resellers as many were affected by onerous offshore sign-off procedures.
Simon Brealy (pictured), business development manager at the recruitment firm, said: “A lot of candidates were lost to alternative employment where a decision can be made faster, giving the candidates a feeling of being more valued. Often, these opportunities are coming from smaller organisations that can adopt a more flexible approach to getting top talent.”
Brealy reported that 2011 “had a cautious start” in terms of recruitment, as many channel players were “still reeling following the turbulent previous years”. However, in the second and third quarters, the market began to pick up and retail management became far and away the most active recruitment area, fuelled by activity from both vendors and distributors.
Category management was another area of heightened recruitment which emphasised channel players’ need “to negotiate heavily on their rebate terms to secure every penny”, according to Brealy.
Category managers will remain in demand next year as skilled staff find the balance of power is shifting in their favour. An insufficient pool of talent will mean that channel firms may have to pay top whack to secure the services of the most sought-after performers. Brealy encouraged firms to consider if skilled staff could apply their expertise to new areas.
“Talent is becoming more expensive as the demand grows on a limited pool within the IT channel,” he added. “Ask if a successful category manager from an alternative background, securing prime rebates and pushing products hard, could do the same for you. From our experience, they can, and very well.
“The low supply and growing demand is simply going to mean that candidates will be able to demand far more in 2012.”
Metaskil is another tech-focused recruitment outfit that thinks employees with the right skills will have heightened bargaining power in the coming year.
“Candidates with niche skills and excellent business acumen will be able to command high salaries and day rates,” said resourcing director Paul Hunsdon. “But with the public sector cutbacks continuing through 2012, it will remain a buyer’s market for the more traditional IT skills.”
Kathryn Haralabidis, head of the IT division at Communicate Recruitment Solutions, also said top candidates will hold all the cards next year. Firms may have a hard time recruiting permanent staff with skills in growth areas such as cloud and mobile apps.
“In-demand skills are shifting the balance of power, so the market is becoming much more candidate-driven,” she said. “In-demand skill sets are often serviced by contractors, which makes it difficult for companies to recruit in the permanent employment sector.”
Dave Stevinson, sales director at distributor VIP Computers, claimed northern channel firms, particularly in the distribution space, can suffer from a dearth of available talent.
“Without a shadow of doubt, those with the right talent, relationships and expertise will have the upper hand in renegotiating compensation packages [next year],” he added.
But David Crabb, managing director of Microsoft Dynamics partner Cambridge Online, maintained that “top-end salaries have peaked”. He predicted that 2012 will be about retaining and training existing talent.
“Competition within the ERP and related markets has put a great deal of pressure on resellers and general company profitability, which, despite talent being in demand, will bring some common sense to the salaries on offer in the coming year,” added Crabb.
Cloud tops VARs' recruitment wishlist
Looking at hotspots for recruitment next year, CRS again picked out retail management as a potentially busy area.
CRS' top five recruitment hotspots for 2012
Marketing - the rise and rise of the bring-your-own-device trend will see channel firms increasingly look to consumer-focused marketing talent.
Virtualisation - channel players are expected to bring in experts as they vertically align sales efforts in this area
Cloud - predictably, resellers will be hunting enterprise-level dedicated cloud salepeople in 2012 as many look to set a top-down go-to-market strategy in this area
Retail - demand for posts in retail management are projected to spike around the second or third quarter of the year. This would mirror 2011 trends and back up anecdotal evidence pointing to the return of retail
Windows Server 8 - CRS sees the release of Microsoft's latest software server technology in 2012 as causing "tremors within the channel" as firms clamour to get accredited. Other virtualisation vendors may see demand for skills around their technologies wane.
"There is growing evidence that it is making a comeback, albeit slowly," said Simon Brealy at CRS.
Perhaps more expectedly, cloud has been projected to be another hotspot for recruitment in 2012. According to Brealy, many channel firms feel a "return must be realised from their investment in cloud provision".
"Growth is predictably in cloud services, with most large and many smaller firms pushing this area with new divisions and sweeping overhauls of services," he added.
Nicola Lidgett, head of marketing at integrator Azzurri Communications, stated that agile product managers and pre-sales heads will be in vogue at her firm in the coming year.
"We call them ‘space travel' people," she added. "Largely in product and pre-sales roles, [these are people] who have the vision: first to design agile and open systems that support evolution, second to anticipate what our customers will need in future, and third be able to create solutions that quickly take advantage of any new phenomena."
VIP's Dave Stevinson also picked out retail as a watchword for 2012.
"The most important areas of growth will be to obtain expertise on sales and channel management into specialist retail and corporate VARs," he claimed.
Kathryn Haralabidis at Communicate Recruitment Solutions claimed that VMware technologies and cloud have been hotspots for recruitment activity in the past year.
"Cloud computing is still a huge growth area, along with candidates with skills in developing software for mobile platforms," she added.
Tech titans slam ICT curriculum
Google and Microsoft are among the many big-name tech companies calling for computing to be taught more effectively in British schools.
The two vendors have joined a wide range of companies - including Sony, Nintendo, Electronic Arts, Activision, TalkTalk and the Guardian Media Group - in backing the measures recommended in the NextGen report, which was published earlier this year.
The report, which laid out various measures designed to turn the UK into a creative hub for the games and visual effects industries, made a total of 17 recommendations for schools, colleges and universities.
At the top of the report's list was the recommendation that government "bring computer science into the National Curriculum as an essential discipline".
The government response to the recommendations in the NextGen report, issued in a statement, accepted that "the current ICT programme is insufficiently rigorous and in need of reform."
"The government recognises that learning the skills to use ICT effectively and acquiring the knowledge of the underpinning computer science are two different (albeit complementary) subjects," added the statement.
Colin Bannister, chief technology officer at CA Technologies, claimed that ICT should be taught in British schools with much greater reference to its practical business application.
"ICT is rarely taught in conjunction with business skills. However, this is terribly damaging for students who enter the workforce not knowing what to expect from a job and not having all the skills needed for it," he said.
"The ICT skills shortage is not just a channel issue; it is an industry issue that impacts us all, and businesses, as well as the education sector, have a role to play in nurturing and developing our leaders of the future."
Derek Britton, product management at Micro Focus, added: "One of the biggest issues that exist today for enterprise businesses is the shortage in mainframe-skilled programmers. Mainframe programming languages are critical to pretty much everything we do, every day."
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