Tech Talent Pool a Concern as Businesses Look to Hire

A survey finds that sentiment is improving about overall business conditions, with the biggest jump occurring in feelings about the economy.

Technology companies plan to hire new staff over the next 12 months but are concerned about a persistent shortage of tech talent, according to a survey by the Technology Councils of North America (TECNA) and CompTIA, a nonprofit association for the IT industry.

Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of the 1,700-plus C-level executives surveyed say they intend to hire new staff over the next 12 months. Small companies (74 percent) and medium-size firms (72 percent) are the most optimistic on hiring.

In addition to hiring plans, 59 percent of executives say they'll invest in new products or business lines over the next six months, with small (65 percent) and medium-size companies (62 percent) leading the way. About half of all companies expect to boost expenditures on marketing and advertising, as well as on technology.

The survey indicated that there is improving sentiment about overall business conditions, with the biggest jump occurring in feelings about the overall economy. The sentiment scored a 56.4 on a 100-point scale, compared with 46.3 a year ago. And expectations are for more—albeit modest—improvement over the next six months.

Business sentiment is consistent across all four geographic regions of the United States, with the South leading the way (65.5), followed by the Midwest (64.3), West (64.0) and Northeast (61.4).

Concern about lower margins or downward pressure on pricing took a big jump—from 22 percent in the 2012 survey to 38 percent this year, placing it third on the list of concerns. Midsize (51 percent) and large companies (50 percent) are most concerned about margin and price issues.

"Efforts to increase tech sector representation with the federal government, in particular for small and medium sized businesses, are central to TechVoice, our advocacy partnership between TECNA and CompTIA," Bob Moore, TECNA executive director, said in a statement. "Tax and regulatory barriers to tech entrepreneurs, advancing a skilled and career-ready 21st century workforce, and Internet governance are the major policy topics currently being addressed throughout TechVoice advocacy efforts."

A general lack of confidence or economic paralysis is the biggest threat to business activity, according to 44 percent of executives. Government regulation is next at 42 percent. Asked how well the federal government is representing the interests of the tech sector, 45 percent of executives said poorly or very poorly. Another 41 percent said "just okay." The numbers for state government are 38 percent, just okay; and 25 percent, poorly or very poorly.

"The survey substantiates our efforts to champion policies such as STEM education, tax and regulatory reform and access to capital for innovators and start-ups," Steven Zylstra, TECNA chairman and president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council, said in a statement. "From Capitol Hill to state capitals, and from legislative committee rooms to city halls, TECNA members continue to serve as the voice calling for a technology-based, pro-growth, business-focused agenda."