DevOps Institute

[EP91] Navigating the Hot Labor Market from Both Sides, the Employers and Employees with Jeff Weber


In this episode, Eveline Oehrlich is joined by Jeff Weber to find out how to best navigate the recruiting world from both the employer and employee perspective.

Jeff has over 30 years of experience in IT and business consulting and over 15 years with Protiviti. Jeff, currently the Executive Director at Robert Half, serves clients across industries and company sizes. His core skills are in the areas of IT Strategy, IT Governance, information security, Business Continuity and IT operational improvement.

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Narrator 0:02
You’re listening to the Humans of DevOps Podcast, a podcast focused on advancing the humans of DevOps through skills, knowledge, ideas, and learning, or the SKIL framework.

Jeff Weber 0:17
To me, things like Scrum and DevOps are really critical and touch everybody. And they’re just, we just need to continue to find how we develop that talent and give people with the right technical skills, some of that process framework knowledge.

Eveline Oehrlich 0:33
Hello, I’m Eveline Oehrlich, Chief Research Officer at DevOps Institute, and welcome to our Humans of DevOps Podcast. Today, I’m excited to tell you that I am with a friend, actually, I consider Jeff a friend. Jeff is Executive Director at Robert Half Technology and he is here today to help us understand what’s happening in this wild market of hiring and recruiting and skills. Hello, Jeff.

Jeff Weber 1:04
Hello, everyone. How are you doing today?

Eveline Oehrlich 1:07
I’m doing great and I hope you don’t mind that I call you a friend, because I think we are friends. We are colleagues. in IT right where we’ve met many, many years ago. So I’m excited that you’re here. Thank you again,

Jeff Weber 1:20
It’s great. I was just telling someone how we have careers that mirror each other in many ways from our original beginnings in the 80s to now so always look forward to talking with you.

Eveline Oehrlich 1:32
Yes, likewise. And our title today is Navigating the Hot Labor Market from Both Sides, the Employers and Employees. And as I just mentioned, Jeff and I actually met a while ago when we at the DevOps Institute did our second year of research on upskilling 2020 and Java was 2020. We’re two years older, we’re two years wiser I think and since then a lot of things have changed. But before we go into that, let us know, share with us, because I’m not sure how familiar folks are with Robert, Half Technology and I’m not sure what people think of what an Executive Director does. So tell us.

Jeff Weber 2:15
So thank you. So Robert, Half Technology, Robert Half is an organization that helps provide talent solutions and consulting solutions on a global basis. So we, on our talent side, we help people get permanent placement jobs, as well as provide contract resources. We do that in many different ways. But we also have employees that we provide, right, so we’ve built our own and our own consulting team as well, in talent, and then we own an organization called Protiviti, which is a business and technology consulting company. Together, we then serve our clients on a global basis. So in my role at Robert Half, as an executive director, I’m responsible for helping to set the vision and strategy for the technology work we do globally. There’s an operational side of that, how do we do the work we need to do better, but then also, what things do we really want to do, what types of roles we place, etc. And I’ll just finish with saying we provide a full spectrum of technology roles. We do an awful lot of infrastructure and operation, everything from user support, and desktop work all the way up to cloud and infrastructure engineers and then on the application side, we do a full suite there as well from data and the development web, from intro developers through senior software engineers.

Eveline Oehrlich 3:45
Excellent. So you serve both those who are looking for work and those who are having openings to fill within the technology sector across all the different personas and roles fantastic.

Jeff Weber 3:59
And we work globally, we work across most industries, we work across all company sizes, we serve and provide resources to very small organizations that normally need someone for a short period, as well as very large organizations have quite sophisticated programs on how they acquire talent. So it’s an interesting challenge really accelerated by all the changes that have happened over the last two years and just where we are in labor markets today.

Eveline Oehrlich 4:27
Yeah, absolutely. In that labor market. I was just looking at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of course, that’s the US data. In Europe, that’s a little bit difficult to to get the data. But if we look at the unemployment rate right now, as of whatever, I think this was August 4%, less than 4%. And I also saw that they’re announcing October 7, I think is the next data point coming out. So that’s an interesting data point. That’s very, very low. Right. Then when we think of our research we just released Our 2022 upskilling research and during that work, we found that the number one challenge was to find the right skills within it. That was what over 2000 survey respondents had set. And second to that, when we asked as you, you might remember, we talked about the skill categories, right? Must have skill categories. This year, the number one skill category was price and framework skills, then followed by human skills. And then by technical skills were last year, it was a little bit different last year in 21, we had human skills first, and then the process and frameworks, and then technical skills. So that’s another important detail. And I got a couple more until before I pose a question to you. I also checked the nation of national Sorry, I’ve been in France for the last week and my seems that my English is getting worse. 10 National Federation of Independent Business shows the business owners plans to staff oak positions to remain elevated, of course, right folks, are they looking for people and 94% of owners hiring are trying to hire report few or no qualified applicants for the positions to trying to staff? Wow, I am glad I am not needing to find somebody, but I’m sure it would be in good hands with Robert Half now. You guys, just I think you and another gentleman did a blog. It was called the hard labor market continues. Don’t let a good hire slip away. I love the title, by the way. And there you say in biannual job optimism survey, that four in 10 US workers. So 41% are currently looking or planning to look for new role in the second half of this year, I think there was 22. So that’s now. And it also says that research shows that finance and technology professionals are among the most likely to make a move. So we’ve got low employment, we’ve got a whole bunch of people, at least here in the US who are looking to change the jobs, what is happening, what can you shed some light on what’s going on?

Jeff Weber 7:20
I think we have a lot of factors that drive some of the data that you’re you’re citing there, you know, clearly, the market remains strong, we would often talk with our clients that unemployment in technology, and even some of those specific areas of technology is much lower than that macro, right, that you’re talking about. 4%. You know, it’s, it’s really there’s more available jobs, than there’s people looking for work. And that’s both at a macro and within technology. And I think that’s, that really does exasperate then the question when you’re really thinking about it from the context of, you know, the amount of technology change driven, coming out of the pandemic driven by ongoing digitalization of kind of the entire enterprise, and all businesses, right, that’s not a new phenomenon. I think what the newness is, is the scale of it. And that just creates, then pressure. So clearly, companies are hiring. We’ll probably talk through this discussion of a little bit of the noise right now in the US, at least on on hiring, but most of these positions are looking to acquire talent that they think is important for them to achieve their strategic objectives.

Eveline Oehrlich 8:46
Are there any specific roles you’d say are extremely hot? I mean, I’m hoping you would say DevOps, but obviously, there’s other things, but there’s some specific ones, you’re saying, yeah, those, those are really top top top.

Jeff Weber 9:01
So I agree completely, we don’t necessarily bifurcate between frameworks and, and process, human and skill set the way you are in our language. However, I agree with what those are. I think the, in our world today data continues to be the thing and what that means, right, this idea of information and everybody trying to both consume vast amounts of data, but yet gain analytical capability. So there’s sort of across the spectrum from just straight data, data analytics, to the whole are AI and machine learning. I think companies are just now figuring out how to be strategic in those areas. And so that senior data talent, you know, the true data scientists, the true you know, AI architects, they’re, they’re probably be the most difficult to find. To me things like Scrum and DevOps are really critical. And they’re kind of they touch everybody. And they’re just, you know, we just need to continue to refine how we develop that talent and give people with the right technical skills, some of that process framework knowledge, four or five years ago, when I started in my role, we weren’t talking DevOps every day. Today we do, right. There’s not a developer that we place that doesn’t at least have a discussion with what’s your knowledge and experience with DevOps.

Eveline Oehrlich 10:33
Yeah, we’ve we’re seeing the same thing. It’s, I wouldn’t say yet. It’s over the hype cycle, right, if we think if we use Gartner language, but it’s certainly on its way up on the mountain on the left hand side, sometimes called the hype cycle, a mountain.

Jeff Weber 10:50
You know, in all those curves, and all that kind of discussion, you clearly end up with, when is it hype and when is it just part of the enterprise? I think we’re migrating to where it’s just part of how technology or the business achieves its objectives. You know, we had to be missionaries of DevOps five years ago. Today, we just need the capability that DevOps is an example that gives us right, this ability to truly operate and change our environment on an ongoing and continuous manner. So that’s, that’s just a continued challenge and that does affect how we then develop the skills and the experiences that companies look for and talent whether to hire or to contract with.

Eveline Oehrlich 11:35
Right, so this phenomena of people are shifting out of their roles, and looking for other. I heard the great reshuffle, of course, as a great resignation, right? There’s all of that. Is that in you’re looking at it from a global aesthetic, global phenomena or is it just more so in one region versus the other? Because sometimes I hear my colleagues here in Europe saying, “Well, this great resignation, I think that’s just in the US” I’m like, Well, I’m not really sure. So what are your thoughts on that?

Jeff Weber 12:09
I think we would say it is global. Like you mentioned a moment ago, we don’t have great data that gives us that, but anecdotally, our teams around the world say the same things and see that I think the, you know, to me, there’s two phenomenon going on in that whole question of reshuffling and resignation, right? There’s the what type of work people on how they value work, and how they look at work in their roles. You know, younger generations are looking for various opportunities, and they’re not beholden to their career of choice in their 20s, and their 30s and 40s. Right. And so I think they built into the cultural fabric change, which is new for many of us, that have been around for a longer time. And the other phenomenon, it’s really then driven by the pandemic, I think that is really true and real is, especially in technology, our ability to work from anywhere. That isn’t new, right. But it wasn’t really applicable to most technology professionals for many, many years, right remote or at home, as an exception, was viable, became viable over the last 10 to 15 years, but very few roles truly were remote. And today, such a large end of the development space, maybe 65 to 70% of roles would allow for especially senior level development roles would allow for remote if not all time, full time, a majority of the time. And as that permeates through, people have now become accustomed to their work cycle, which is very, very different from Monday to Friday. Yeah, full days. And that’s really creating a challenge. It’s, you know, once we talk through how we retain talent, that cultural shift is dramatic, and they value things differently than how we’ve always really addressed with the people we work with and hire.

Eveline Oehrlich 14:11
Right? And I was just reading an article, I think, I’m not sure if it’s HBR, or one of the other journals I typically read, had worked from home and opened up a lot of opportunities for a home, you know, typical like mothers of children who actually are also in professional roles. And that’s fantastic. Or I another data point there was for people who have some kind of physical handicap where they are not able to actually go into in the US this is much better. There seems to be a lot more awareness of that. But in Europe, having a workplace where you find an elevator to get up is still very difficult. I noticed that when I had my kids and in the little stroller I could never go anywhere in your home with a stroller because it was really really hard. So that’s that’s a good Rate opportunity for those folks.

Jeff Weber 15:01
And in many ways that that dynamic is great for many, many people because it allows them to be in the workforce. And I’ll just add to it, then this, this acceptance of variable labor, you know, we might call it gig labor, those kinds of things. In our careers, people have done contracting professionally, right, where they wanted to work for themselves or work interative internally, but that was the exception. And I think it’s becoming more more accepted both by the individuals that want to do that work and have flexibility and control as well as then the company’s hiring it right. And that then is still, you know, an ongoing change that’s happening that we haven’t gotten through, probably we’re going to be dealing with over the next several years.

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Eveline Oehrlich 16:26
Right, yeah, I mean, when I joined Forrester in 2006, I had a home office, and I left in 2018, I still had a home office. So that role is as the Vice President and Research Director, they’re allowed me because it was I used to say, I work at United Airlines or my location is United Airlines. Seed to a because my, at that time, we were doing a lot of travel. All right I have one more question on a term, which I shake my head because it’s just so flabbergasting, quiet quitting. What are your thoughts on that? What’s what’s happening? I mean, I remember back when I was Hewlett Packard, we had quiet quitters. This was this is just 20 years ago. So it’s nothing new. Right? There’s always people who kind of checked out because they were not engaged. They didn’t care. Why is this right now coming up? Is it just press who is pushing that? What are your thoughts on that? I’m curious thing.

Jeff Weber 17:27
It’s like a term like the great resignation, that term can become globally known within days. Right. So quiet quitting is now that that trend, I agree with you completely, I think there’s always been the phenomenon. But you had to be really good at it to do it when you were in an office environment on a consistent basis. Right. And I think today, the idea of variable and there’s distrust, right, we don’t necessarily have employers that trust their, their workers and workers don’t always trust their employers. So they’re trying to take on that control. And it’s a function of what are they looking for, they’re looking for compensation, they’re looking for opportunity. But that opportunity is not necessarily long term and short term. And they’re looking for flexibility. So we have to label everything. I think it’s real. And probably it’s always been there, I don’t know that it will, in and of itself, you know, be a trend that we see that we have to kind of address systemically on an ongoing piece, but it’s obviously an issue that we’re dealing with today.

Eveline Oehrlich 18:41
If I have a job, and I am unhappy, let’s say I’m somewhere and I have actually met some of those folks, right? They’re working somewhere in an IT organization, they’re on call, they’re, they’re stuck, they can’t really develop their training budget is low. They work really, really hard. What would you advise those folks to do? I mean, of course, trading, right. But what can an individual like that? What options does this person have? In this hot market?

Jeff Weber 19:11
Yeah, well, they clearly have potential opportunities to get another role and I think because of the openings, most everybody if they have the skills that we’ll talk about, right, they are able to go find a different role that oftentimes that frustration now is something that they think the better answer is a new place. And sometimes it is right. But I think it’s a real challenge, because, you know, no different today than what we would have seen over the last many years. The next place, you know, has its own culture and has its own requirements. And I think that’s really what we’ve seen in the last couple of years of not the breakdown of the culture and accompany but the changing of that culture to where it’s You know, you don’t really build the relationships by sitting with and being with, in the same way face to face like we’ve had. So that’s making it you feel like you’re doing it on your own. You really, and I think that’s a real challenge in there. Clearly, they’re going to ask for more training, they’re going to ask for more money. But at the end of the day, there’s only so much that that will do for their satisfaction. And maybe the last piece there is burnout. You know, that’s not a new concept, either, right? Yeah, he’s burned out, but our awareness of it, because of how we live our life, right, we just think of all the time, we all have gotten back from commute, and all the different things. But now we’re working it at home, a large majority of people a large majority of the time. And so you’re working at whatever those hours, and we don’t really understand how that’s going to impact burnout. Right? You’re online at 6am, or online at 8pm. It may only be an eight hour day, but it feels very, very different. Right. So the opportunity of remote and the opportunity of the technology to enable all that is great. The impact of that I think we’re still starting to understand on younger people.

Eveline Oehrlich 21:17
Yeah, absolutely. So if I am in a position where I either have desires to move, what are some of the hot skills? What should I stress as an individual? What are some of the things you guys are looking for or what are your companies who are coming to you say, hey, we need some we need some hot shots, what do these hot shots need to have?

Jeff Weber 21:42
So there’s, you know, there really isn’t any one technology that I would say today is the hotspot, but you need software engineers, you need data engineers, you need those cloud engineers, so all three of those things, you know, the ability to adapt the skill sets, right? Clearly, every business processes training, transforming every external client facing process continues to transform. And we just don’t have enough talent with the skill sets that enable all of those process changes, right. So whether it’s cloud, whether it’s data, whether it’s applications, and the integration of all of those, that’s clearly a challenge. That’s typically how we get requested for talent. I think it’s really, we our clients then would assume that we’re screening for human skills. And they probably add the requirements of the process and the frameworks. But they don’t start with that they start with, do you have the right cloud infrastructure? Do you have the right experience in React or Angular? Or what are all the various technologies that are the application frameworks, which I view those application frameworks different than process frameworks? Right? Yeah, right, are very, very different. So it’s a challenge for how organizations go look for talent is embedded in, especially in big organizations is how they’ve always looked for talent. Right? And I think companies have to continue to figure out, is it? Are they buying the skill? Or are they hiring the person with the skill, because those are two different approaches. But when you end up with a high trend, you know, high volume of people you’re looking for, you get you get really problematic. The other thing is, maybe as we do that, it’s what are the skills that you have to have from the beginning capability, right, that then enable you to grow into, you know, you don’t train to be a software engineer, or a software architect, you learn how to be an architect, you learn how to you get trained on how to develop, and then you have lots of experience in developing and you can apply that from cloud and data and all the different capabilities. And so we continue to see a challenge with organizations on whether they train their own people, or whether they need to enable entry level talent that will eventually have those skills. That’s just an ongoing challenge for many companies, not just what we might view as the higher end engineers and architects.

Eveline Oehrlich 24:26
Yeah, we’ve seen that great point. Of course, we’ve seen that in our research as well, that there is a significant uptick in how these organizations are developing their individuals. Like you said, you don’t have a degree as a software architect, right? There’s not a in any university, you come out of computer science or you come out of computer information systems, but to become an architect, an enterprise architect or a software developer or any of those you actually started at a particular level that makes me think of one very interesting, funny situation, when I got my degree from Colorado State University go CSU. In in the US, I was a 4.0, master student computer science computer information systems. And I’ve worked down towards my customer and the customer looked at me and he said, Are you my new programmer? And this was in this was in 1994? Of course, I didn’t, I thought programmer was very derogative. At the time, nobody wanted to be a programmer right. Now, if he probably would now say, are you my new software developer, I would have probably smiled and said yes. So that that how it changed right from then to now is quite, quite different

Jeff Weber 25:46
than we see. That’s an interesting story we see for us, whether you call it some people call it programmer, some call it software engineers, some would call it you know, application architect, there’s so many different software developer, web developer, they’re all really different ways to express the same thing. Right. And so there’s some of that’s very cultural, some of that’s just how that company has evolved. You know, I think, when we often talk with people that have concerns, we use the word advancement, in my mind in a very historical way, and assume people want to advance. I think advancement for many today is a new skill, or a changing skill, or not necessarily from programmer to senior programmer to, you know, that was my generation of growth. They want to try a new framework, a new application, a new industry, and so they’re changing. And that’s their frustration. What we have here is advancement, and what they’re looking for his change in diversity of opportunity, diversity of challenge. And that’s, that’s, that puts stress on all of us, the individual got that not sure how to articulate it, and the person those of us that are hiring, that are trying to understand that that message?

Eveline Oehrlich 27:04
Yeah, yeah. Great point, I have two more questions for you and then I’ll let you go to the rest of your day. So one is around retention. So if I have a great team, right, I have wonderful individuals, I have implemented the foosball table, I have the the beer, things wide, where we have after work, fun and all of that. But I still have a challenge with retaining some of my really good people, what are some ideas for our listeners here? Who might have that challenge? What retention strategies have you seen? Or would you suggest,

Jeff Weber 27:44
I think those are consistent, whether it’s compensation, recognition, you know, professional development opportunities, some of those kinds of things. Flexible work, I would say many companies struggle with really earning the trust of their employees that they’re committed to all all of those. Right. So they give, they might, they might have attacked compensation, but they really are trying to limit flexibility. They might have done some, some things for training, but it’s only temporary and that the employees don’t trust it. Right. So I think that’s really one challenge is that we have to be as hires of talent or retainers of talent, we have to be committed to all of those and understand that flexibility and recognition are really critical and important to a vast number of the people that work for you. In today’s environment. We at Robert Half are continually challenging ourselves, how to build a recognition program that resonates with the people being recognized, not the way necessarily people want it to be recognized in prior in prior eras, and compensations a challenge everybody, many most organizations have increased their compensation. Right. In today’s world, very few employees, employers, employees, excuse me think it’s enough. Right. But as that changes, right companies are going to be faced with I have my cost of labor has gone up significantly. And what am I doing? So compensation is always a part of that. It’s just not by itself enough. I don’t think there’s any one great idea that people aren’t trying I think the important thing for employers is to to be creative and listen to their employees, but also then be committed. Right? So the ability to not necessarily just get new experience, but then have the opportunity work in those roles. Right. Those are challenges companies struggle with the learning factor for their own employees. Yeah. And so that’s that’s just a real challenge. But I think it’s a really important one for companies to deal with.

Eveline Oehrlich 29:57
Great, great advice, Jeffrey. All right. I have one more question has nothing to do with what we talked about, what is your favorite weekend activity?

Jeff Weber 30:07
So one of the things before the pandemic, I traveled continuously, since the pandemic, I’ve traveled very little, and my wife and I have decided we’re going to be country lovers, right? We’ve always been in suburban suburban US cities. But we have a cabin, we build a log cabin, for the last 18 months out in the mountains of the state of Pennsylvania, where I live. So our our whole goal is to figure out I’d love to be doing a call like this. Three miles from the cabin, you know, internet has made everything great. So I can, you know, watch the bald eagles soar over the mountain and or, you know, go trout fishing in the morning, and yet still, so it’s something I never would have dreamed I would have enjoyed is just sitting in the mountain by the stream and, you know, enjoying nature. So it’s been a big shift for us. But it’s the one thing we like to do now more than anything.

Eveline Oehrlich 30:59
That sounds wonderful. Well, let’s make that our goal. Our next call will be from the mountains, you’ll be somewhere in Pennsylvania mountains, and I’ll try to be either here in the south France Alps or somewhere in Colorado mountains, something like that. Well, thank you, Jeff, this has been great and thank you for doing the hard work, helping people finding the right spots and helping companies hire the right people to fulfill themselves and their business goals. This was great. Thank you to all the listeners. If you want to know more about Robert Half, it’s easy to find them just Google them. Stay safe, stay human and hope that you tune in next time.

Narrator 31:40
Thanks for listening to this episode of the humans of DevOps podcast. Don’t forget to join our global community to get access to even more great resources like this. Until next time, remember, you are part of something bigger than yourself. You belong


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