Which IT Jobs Are the Hardest to Fill?

Posted 2020/3/15

Forget love, a good mechanic, and downtown parking. Nowadays, a good database administrator is hard to find, according to an IT skills and compensation study published annually by people3.

Analysts conducting the study looked at which specific IT skills are in demand and the types of IT jobs companies struggle to fill. For 2003, more than 25 percent of IT organizations participating in the study say they have difficulty finding workers with Oracle administration skills. PeopleSoft and UNIX tied as the second-hardest-to-find skills, followed by Java, Oracle development, and Microsoft SQL Server. Researchers point out that these rankings suggest an increasing demand for skills related to enterprise resource planning (ERP).

"Since I've been doing this [study] -- which is about seven years -- Oracle has always topped the list, particularly Oracle DBA, as the most difficult job to recruit," says Diane Berry, Managing Vice President for people3.

Another significant change she's seen in the last couple of years has been the rise in demand for PeopleSoft skills.

"Three years ago, it would have been SAP. Now it's PeopleSoft," she says.

In general, companies say Microsoft skills haven't been too hard to find. However, Berry notes, the researchers added Microsoft.NET for the 2003 survey, and that skill category had a fairly high response in terms of the level of difficulty.

Researchers examined recruitment from another angle, as well, asking companies which IT jobs are the hardest to fill. The most difficult-to-hire positions (in descending order) for IT organizations include the following:

Database administrator (listed by 32.8 percent of respondents)
Internet/Web architect (27.6 percent)
Network architect (27.6 percent)
Network engineer (27.6 percent)
Security analyst (25.9 percent)

In the 2002 survey, 54.5 percent of respondents cited database administrator as a hard-to-fill job, and 40.9 percent cited Internet/Web architect.

Methods for improving worker performance

A person might think that in a rough economy, holding onto any employees -- particularly those in IT, a segment that's been hit hard -- wouldn't be much of a challenge. However, when people3 examined compensation practices for IT workers, it found companies are concerned with keeping these employees both productive and satisfied.

The researchers asked companies about the techniques they use to improve IT workers' performance. Increasingly, companies are focusing on "variable pay," such as short-term bonuses, spot awards, and project milestone pay.

These short-term incentive and bonus programs based on business unit performance were listed as the most effective ways to improve performance, people3 says. According to the survey, this method is becoming increasingly popular, with 39.1 percent of the survey participants using the short-term incentive method in 2003, up from 30.9 percent in 2002.

Berry says it's critical that IT leaders tie employees' monetary rewards directly to the achievement of their respective business unit objectives. This technique boosts near-term performance and helps companies hold onto skilled IT employees.

"It's really a softening market," Berry explains. "It used to be a few years ago, you'd bring on anybody: 'If you have a pulse, we'll bring you board.' Now it's much more about quality versus quantity. To get those really highly skilled folks is difficult."

Bad economy or good, when companies bring those skilled workers on board, they have to invest the money to keep them satisfied.

"I caution my clients all the time: You can sit fat and happy now, but when this market moves and you haven't taken care of some of your best performers that have all that business knowledge, you've going to be sorry."

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