KONNEKT’s IT and iGaming Recruitment Manager, Etienne Gatt, recently spoke to The Sunday Times of Malta about the recruitment strategies of IT companies, what it takes to attract and retain the best talent, as well as the situation of IT job vacancies in Malta.

What growth has Konnekt achieved in recent years?

Konnekt was established in 2007, starting off as a recruitment project for a large company which required the efforts of a number of skilled people.

Konnekt has now become Malta’s largest recruitment agency. Nine years down the line, Konnekt now employs 31 individuals, 24 of whom are specifically focused on recruitment, and we are looking for larger office space, the second time in two years.

In addition to general recruitment, Konnekt has built two strong specialised teams to manage IT and i-gaming, and finance and legal recruitment solutions in 2015. This decision was driven by the increase in demand for expert selection in these sectors. These teams now employ more than 12 individuals collectively, five of who are in IT recruitment. Over the past year, the teams have been undergoing niche training by experts in the field, in areas such as information technology, finance, employment law and relocation services, to further strengthen their knowledge and expertise when dealing with clients from specific industries.

Konnekt handles more than 1,200 projects per year and has dealt with clients from a range of industries. Konnekt was founded with a clear set of values in mind which have undoubtedly led to our success. These values act both as a benchmark and motivator for all our actions and decisions. We are relationship focused, rather than sales focused and hold strong quality benchmarks which we strive to keep to and exceed.

What is the current market outlook for IT recruitment?

In 2015 more than 80,000 people changed jobs – that’s almost half of the total working population. IT is one of the industries where demand largely surpasses supply. This means that the tables have turned and these challenging situations make it paramount to ensure that companies have the right human resources strategy in place. Shortage is experienced Europe-wide and companies are resorting to looking even beyond these borders to fish out talent.

Attraction, and more importantly, retention strategies become crucial in such conditions. It is not uncommon to have a recruitment request of 20 developers. Start-ups need to evidently ensure that they have an employment value proposition that makes them attractive and ensure that recruitment processes are short and precise in terms of timelines.

Recruitment is vital to ensure you have the right people who will take you in the right direction. What strategies are important in this context?

To put things into perspective, in the first five months of the year, 62 per cent of our interviews for IT and i-gaming recruitment were conducted with foreigners, the majority of who are not residing in Malta. This further emphasises the importance to nurture an inclusive and open mentality within companies looking for talent and society as a whole.

Malta is becoming an increasing international hub with widespread expat communities, making the move for such candidates somewhat easier. In this respect, relocation and support packages are important.

Where possible, companies should recruit people who tick most of the requirement boxes. However it is important to prepare for the eventuality that you need to recruit on potential rather than a perfect fit to the current role.

Public and private institutions need to actively work together to attract talent to Malta and ensure that we are still competitive as a relocation option. As for the issue of supply, universities need to attract more students in ICT. The current figures indicate that the number of graduates in this sector will not satisfy the increasing demand. Authorities need to ensure that certain procedures such as employment licences do not take months to finalise, and make it easier to recruit. Ultimately our competitiveness can and will suffer. For candidates, Malta is a far better alternative when compared to most other countries within Europe when keeping in mind cost of living, climate and language. We should do our utmost to use this asset to our advantage rather than deterring individuals with a complex relocation process.

Looking at candidates, what are the typical requests of an IT candidate?

The typical IT candidate is more challenge, rather than money-oriented. The shortage in supply elevates the salary bars by default, therefore candidates know that they will get a good salary without much negotiation. In this respect, work-life balance is becoming ever more important and candidates look for an environment that promotes it. IT candidates typically like having flexibility rather than too much structure, both in terms of hours and location, and prefer companies that promote autonomy and creativity.

Most importantly they are more likely to choose a company for its innovation and technology used, and opt for the one which gives them the better growth plan, both in terms of expertise and employment advancements, for the next three to four years. In fact, this is considered to be the typical workplace longevity for such candidates.

What are the tips that will help start-ups secure the best talent?

First and foremost, start-ups need to ensure that they have a good value proposition. Candidates will choose companies, rather than the other way round. They need to make sure that their recruitment strategies are fast, simple and efficient.

Openness to recruit and ensuring that work environments cater for an international work space, is crucial. Moreover, they need to ensure that they have a good balance of leaders and juniors. Candidates look for and actually decide on the basis of whether their manager or colleagues will help them to grow.

Ultimately start-ups can capitalise on the advantage that they can be fast changing, dynamic and adaptable, a quality that cannot be easily replicated in robust, big organisations.

This article first appeared in the Zest supplement carried in The Sunday Times of Malta.

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