Modern HR in the IT industry. Who are we looking for? What do we focus on?

Modern HR in the IT industry. Who are we looking for? What do we focus on?
In 2023 the Polish Economic Institute estimated the demand for IT specialists at 147,000 vacancies. There is a joke on the Internet about a developer’s unemployment. Supposedly it was “the worst three minutes of their life”. Is this joke still true? According to the Just Join IT report, only 5% of the 130,000 jobs posted on this website last year were for junior developers. Apparently, those who are just entering the IT industry do not have the same opportunities. What is the reality of these statistics and how do we practice modern HR in the IT industry today?

This is what I’m going to talk about with our experts, Paulina Saktura, People and Culture Manager at Hicron, and Weronika Lichnowska, Talent Acquisition Team Lead at Hicron. Welcome everybody.

Date: 7.03.2024

Interviewees: Hanna Dziubińska-Kopka, Paulina Saktura and Weronika Lichnowska

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Transcription: Summary

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Demand for SAP specialists
Hanka Dziubińska:What about the three minutes of unemployment for developers? Is that still true, Weronika?

Weronika Lichnowska: As for unemployment among developers, I think it depends on the economic situation in the country. At the moment we are in a crisis and some of our developers are actually actively looking for work, and we recruiters are surprised when they write to us on LinkedIn asking us to find a role for them. However, this is not the case for everyone in the IT industry. And I think that if we are talking about Hicron here, we are mainly focused on SAP in the organization, on SAP implementation, SAP maintenance, and also development. So we do not have such problems. Our specialists are very much in demand on the market, so my team often has to compete with many large companies to attract specialists to our organization.
Demand for IT workers
Hanka Dziubińska: What about the need to fill 147,000 vacancies? Are these numbers impressive and how do we build competitiveness there?

Weronika Lichnowska: These numbers are impressive, but we also have to remember that artificial intelligence is coming into our lives more and more, and many of the roles that are performed today by, let’s say, I don’t know, testers, may be replaced by artificial intelligence at some point in the future. So at the moment these numbers look really huge, but I think in practice, so far, the Polish IT market has done well to meet this demand, so much so that I think our biggest challenge now is that many companies from outside Poland are using our resources. And in fact, Polish IT specialists, Polish developers, all people who work somewhere close to the IT industry are highly valued in the world when it comes to their expertise and knowledge. Therefore, it is sometimes very difficult for us as a Polish company – which does not have thousands of employees, but only 350, although of course our number is constantly growing – to compete with corporations. They approach employees very differently. Of course, all HR strategies focus on making us more agile. We want to shorten processes and, at the same time, take care of the well-being and commitment of our employees.
Hicron's competitiveness on the IT market
Hanka Dziubińska: It’s probably extremely difficult… this reality, where we compete not only with Poland, but with the whole world. But Hicron also has offices outside Poland, right, we also employ in Australia, we employ in Spain, but we also employ people in places where we don’t have offices.

Weronika Lichnowska:Yes, when it comes to Hicron, we are definitely competing with giants, but we are still doing well and I think we can say – from my team’s perspective – that candidates are very willing to engage in conversations with us on LinkedIn and respond to our messages. I think the biggest challenge in competing with the giants is that they simply have very large resources when it comes to employer branding and other such activities. However, we focus more on the relationship with the candidate, we try to develop these relationships – often our experts in the organization bring their friends in and I think this is something we can be proud of, that at Hicron the largest number of hires are people recommended by other employees. So for me, for Paula, and for everyone on our team, when we do an HR “pulse check”, it really means that people like working here and want to recommend us to their friends.
Age of the applicant
Hanka Dziubińska: Let’s take a closer look at this HR candidate to work at Hicron, because they are probably a bit different if we take a closer look and compare them with other, maybe stereotypical, maybe standard software house employees. I found a report by, a study conducted last year in the Polish IT industry. These results focus on age. 31% are people between 25 and 30 years old. Then there is the group of 30-34 year olds with a share of 26%. And there are even fewer people in the industry between the ages of 18 and 24, dropping to 14%. I think Hicron is a bit older?

Weronika Lichnowska: It is, but we are very proud of that. The whole organization, not just us – the HR team, we know that Hicron is focused on SAP, we always promote ourselves on the market this way and this is what we are best known for. Of course, our software house is growing and has more and more clients in its portfolio, but SAP is visible next to the Hicron brand most often on the market. When it comes to this age distribution, I think it results from the fact that SAP started its adventure as a technology more than a dozen years ago, and many of our experts started their careers in this technology. But from our point of view, it brings a lot of positive aspects to the work of our employees, such as the fact that many people who started their careers in SAP years ago are great mentors and guide our juniors very well, provide support, and also remember the times when they themselves started working in SAP and can simply share the pros and cons of this role.

Hanka Dziubińska:We give out quite a few of these watches.
Who can become a SAP specialist?
Hanka Dziubińska:Let’s continue the topic, because we are talking about this persona, about the candidate we accept, but I don’t think everyone is within our reach, because very often during family events someone says – my friend’s grandson is also an IT specialist, maybe we can hire him. How does this work? Who do we employ? Who are we looking for? Who is really the target of Hicron’s HR?

Weronika Lichnowska: It depends, because if you ask our managers, some of them believe that anyone can be a SAPer, anyone can join SAP and be an SAP consultant. I think there is some truth to that, because many of our consultants, both in logistics and finance, are not strictly from IT universities, they did not study IT, their studies were related to finance or logistics – we have some interesting configurations in terms of educational backgrounds. But I think it is not the case that an IT specialist is just a person who sits and codes. In those situations, because we know they happen, I always say I need more data and then I usually try to advise.

Hanka Dziubińska: Should we talk to auntie?

Weronika Lichnowska: Yes, you can forward my contact details.
Specialist-consultants wanted
Weronika Lichnowska: However, when it comes to the profiles we are looking for at the moment, these are mainly SAP consultants for various modules. As you know, we have modules that are more popular on the market, such as EFI, CO, SDMM. However, we are in a very interesting phase of development as an organization. We are growing the SAP SuccessFactors team. We are basically working with two of the coolest SAP projects out there. So we are definitely looking for a lot of consultants in this area in different configurations of SuccessFactors modules. In addition, we are building a competence center around PP and EWM, so we will actually want to have two implementation teams there. There’s a lot going on here. There will definitely be a lot going on, so I encourage everyone to connect with us on LinkedIn. I think we will be able to advise you on the direction you can take professionally.
Candidates for Hicron Software House
Hanka Dziubińska:If somebody is listening to us because the title is about the IT industry, and you actually talked about SAP modules, they might be a little bit confused. I read in the report that the most popular jobs in the IT industry are DevOps, backend developers, frontend developers, testers, project managers, full stack developers, mobile developers, and security engineers. Tell me, are these positions also desirable at Hicron? Is our software house developing enough for these positions to be hot there as well?

Weronika Lichnowska: I think that all the roles you just mentioned will find their place in our software house. In fact, when it comes to the software house, we are at the stage of development. It is a smaller part of our organization now, so we may not need a security specialist right away, but we definitely need front-end developers, back-end developers.
Soft skills in IT
Hanka Dziubińska: What about the people who don’t have technical skills, do we need to fill these positions at Hicron, do we need people with soft skills?

Weronika Lichnowska: You know, I would say that it would be nice if all people who have technical skills also had soft skills. I know that is wishful thinking, but I think that at some point in the development of your role, even in IT, you need to have those skills. Whether you are a developer who works in sprints and has to talk and communicate with your team, or you are a solution architect who has to go to the client and explain complex technicalities related to your daily work, but you have to use simple words so that the client can understand what you really want to do with their system or code. So I think these soft skills are going to be even more desirable on the market, and you shouldn’t just focus on the fact that you don’t like people and you don’t want to talk to them, so if you just keep writing code, you’ll be left alone. It does not work like that. Especially in modern business.
Soft skills – training within the company
Hanka Dziubińska: So you value soft skills, and I also know that our organization provides training for our employees. As a People and Culture manager, you probably have a more strategic focus on the development of our people, and probably also on the retention of candidates. Could you tell us something about that as well?

Paulina Saktura: Absolutely, when it comes to developing soft skills, we have a Learning and Development department that also supports our employees in developing these skills within the organization, which is extremely important because we work primarily for clients. Of course, we have some internal projects that are implemented, mainly in the software house or SAP area, but we primarily work for external clients, Polish-speaking and English-speaking, and it is necessary that these soft skills are relatively high level – from service skills, talking to clients, cooperation, and quality service provision. What is also important to us today are our values. This year, we are also developing the Learning and Development area even further. We are creating a catalog of soft trainings that will be dedicated to the entire organization. Training dates will be established, and each employee will have the opportunity to sign up for a specific date. Go, train, and develop the competencies required in their role.
Candidate experience
Hanka Dziubińska: Soft skills make an impression, and a growing body of data proves that they not only make an impression, but also deliver real, measurable and financial benefits. So much for how clients experience us, why it is important – but this “experience” is not only about how Hicron is perceived by clients, but also by candidates, and the topic of “candidate experience” appears as well. What is it and why is it so important to the HR environment today?

Weronika Lichnowska: This English term refers to the experience of a candidate. It is the moment when you go to the career website, look at all the roles, and basically decide whether or not you want to participate in the recruitment process. Later, it is the moment when someone from the HR team contacts you and conducts the first interview. Then it’s your job interview and how it was conducted. And later, the feedback you receive and a possible offer. But I wouldn’t really say that this “candidate experience” is limited to the recruitment process itself. It is also onboarding, the process of joining an organization. It is also the moment when you actually hear about the brand and your friends talk about this company at a party, for example, or someone shares with you a negative experience related to this company. So all of those things that I mentioned really make up the candidate experience, and then that candidate experience actually turns into employee engagement.
Hanka Dziubińska: It’s amazing that so many things happen before the first day of work, that all the elements you mentioned are actually a pre-start before we hire an employee, and then that employee, that newly minted Hicron employee comes into our organization and that’s where we start to build their... engagement, their, I don’t know, loyalty.

Paulina Saktura: Motivation.

Hanka Dziubińska: Motivation, yes, thank you, exactly. How do we act here, what are the next steps?

Paulina Saktura: There are many levels to this, starting with the onboarding itself, which is how the person is introduced to the role, the organization, and the job. We have this practice in the organization where we assign a buddy to help the new person during the onboarding process to get administrative information, to get to know the organization, to talk a little bit about the organizational culture, where to find the information that we use, platforms, but of course there is also another dedicated person who helps them directly with their new job, their role, so that they are not left alone. In such situations, we use an onboarding matrix, an onboarding map, to support managers and trainers in this development. This is necessary because many companies, and there are studies on this, say that if people are poorly integrated into the organization or position, they leave the company within a year, so this process is crucial.
Motivating the employee
Paulina Saktura: Then the building of engagement is really in the hands of the manager, in the hands of the leader, the direct supervisor, whose role is to constantly check it, to give feedback, to motivate, to evaluate the work, but also to listen to the employee. The IT industry, the SAP industry is very dynamic. If we do not keep this magnifying glass over the person all the time to see if they are satisfied, if these tasks are OK for them, if they are developing, we may miss the moment when this person actually says “goodbye” to us. Therefore, this vigilance on the part of managers is very important. That’s why we also provide support on our side, giving feedback and building development paths, so that these people feel that Hicron is a place where they can actually grow.
Manager support
Hanka Dziubińska:Do you take care of new employees as well as managers?

Paulina Saktura: We support managers as well. The role of HR Business Partner was created over a year and a half ago, and HR Business Partners focus all their energy and knowledge on managers, supporting them in human resources management, motivating them, and building this engagement. This is the first element. The second one is training and development packages for managers. Last year we had a very growth-oriented period in terms of leadership, with new leadership roles being established in two major areas, three actually. Our leadership team has grown. These people are new to the role of direct supervisor. Previously their roles were more “technical”. We created the entire Lions Leap global project, targeted at young leaders, with whole modules on how to manage, motivate, and give feedback to your people.
The history of soft HR at Hicron
Hanka Dziubińska:This is actually a very large, very broad plan with a wide spectrum, because you basically cover every level, right?

Paulina Saktura: That is, from a candidate who is not yet in Hicron to the highest positions that are supposed to take care of the rest of the organization. We try. This area of soft HR at Hicron in general, its career at Hicron is not long – it has been developing for only a few years, and we really try to look very carefully at what the needs are at Hicron in terms of supporting managers in managing and creating solutions mainly to ensure that there is low retention and that employees are satisfied and able to develop. High retention, sorry.
Why is Hicron developing soft HR?
Hanka Dziubińska: Where did this need come from? What happened to bring about this emphasis on soft HR?

Paulina Saktura: Several factors influenced this. Mostly trends. At the moment, as Weronika mentioned, we are competing with giants. Because other organizations had well developed soft HR, they provided opportunities for training, development, cool projects, highly specialized management staff to manage these people, we couldn’t be worse. We are a very aggressive shark in this respect and we want to compete with such giants as much as possible. In addition, Hicron has grown very fast in the last few years, and the need for employee development has increased significantly.

Hanka Dziubińska:I also have the impression that there is a trend to appreciate soft HR, there is even this famous case of Simon Sinek, who does not talk about soft skills, but human skills. The word “soft” has a somewhat depreciative meaning, and in fact it is a package of very important skills.

Paulina Saktura: Definitely, I also think that especially in the IT industry, where most of the people who start companies, software houses or other types, are introverts with an engineering education, not people who come in and raise their hand first and say: “I want to develop, this is my dream”. It takes real skill to be able to reach out to these people and be able to skillfully verify what will actually help them grow and how we as an organization can use their skills, whether soft or hard, in a way that makes both parties happy. And the third party – the client.

Hanka Dziubińska: Of course.
CULTURE FIT – does the candidate fit the organization?
Hanka Dziubińska: We are talking about soft skills, soft HR. This is certainly closely related to the values of the organization, its organizational culture. Tell me, is there a moment during recruitment when we check the “culture fit”, whether the candidate fits into our organization?

Paulina Saktura: Definitely. Organizational culture and adaptation to organizational culture is a key element of effective organizational and business development. I would say it is a two-track process, because on the one hand we have the organizational culture and verifying whether the person is aligned with our values and the way we operate. I’m talking about cooperation within the team, between departments, the high quality of service we want to deliver to our clients, and responsibility. This is verified by a behavioral interview at the recruitment stage by the HR department, i.e. Talent Acquisition Specialists verify this by asking questions. And the second such element is adaptation to the team, because in addition to having certain values of organizational culture, each team is a micro-element that also has its own culture. And it may be that most of the time we are looking for people who fit into that puzzle, but sometimes we need someone completely different. Let’s say the team is very introverted and the manager wants someone with more power, a typical yellow person who will make the team more dynamic. So it is always very important to check who exactly we are looking for, not only based on the organizational culture and who would fit specifically into Hicron or the client, but also into a given team.
Location and employment // remote work
Hanka Dziubińska: We have already talked a little about the age of the candidates, their characteristics such as introversion, extroversion, we also started to talk a little about employment location, but let us continue this thread because a lot has changed during the pandemic, we have started to work remotely and to hire remotely, but does the place of residence have a significant impact on whether a person will be employed by Hicron?

Weronika Lichnowska: No, it doesn’t have much impact. I think it depends on the role as well. Well, if you are a team manager, of course you can work for us remotely. However, there will be times when we will ask you to simply come to our office and meet with your team. But we do not limit ourselves in terms of location, when it comes to Poland, we work with people from all over the country. The three offices we have, i.e. Wrocław, Poznań, and Warsaw, do not limit us in these activities. Of course, we also have offices outside Poland. We have an office in Malaga and we have an office in Australia, in Sydney. And, of course, we invite our consultants as well if they want to work with us there. These are, of course, our subsidiaries. But on the recruitment side, I am responsible for both Australia and Spain, so you are invited. I’m always available to answer any questions you may have about working with us.
Organizational culture and distributed teams
Hanka Dziubińska:Let’s get back to this organizational culture. How is it maintained across distributed teams? It looks like a complicated task.

Paulina Saktura: Because it is a very complicated task that requires a lot of commitment, especially from the manager. It is very important that the company provides this manager with the appropriate tools. So in our case it is an appropriate messenger, Teams, various tools, Miro for conducting various creative meetings that support brainstorming. However, it is necessary to educate and support the managers in managing motivation and maintaining commitment, so that it does not turn into micromanagement – someone is sitting in Suwałki and I don’t know what they are doing so I will force them to describe their every minute from 9 to 5. Of course, as an organization we also provide tools for time reporting and project management, so it is very important that companies provide these tools. For communication, for project management, but also to support managers in this very difficult task, either through HR business partners, through training on how to manage distributed teams, or through leadership development.
New technologies and artificial intelligence in HR
Hanka Dziubińska: We all work in the IT industry – we’re not developers, but we’re very close to these technologies. We hear all the time that Hicron carries out implementations using artificial intelligence, robotization, automation, optimization, and a lot of long words ending in “-ation”. And now tell me, does AI or ChatGPT etc., does this also influence your work?

Paulina Saktura: These are extremely helpful tools, especially in the field of communication. ChatGPT can be great for support. There are various chatbots working in different organizations, even for conducting some preliminary recruitment interviews, or even within the organization, for example, to help submit various applications, right? You write it, you get an answer immediately, and there are many companies – even when you call the bank, you also talk to a bot, not a real person. And I think it is definitely worthwhile to educate yourself in this aspect, to keep up with the trends and to use these tools skillfully to help you in your daily work. Will they replace us? Because this is probably another question you would like to ask.

Hanka Dziubińska: A silent question.

Paulina Saktura: Yes, because you can hear it very often. We are convinced that they will not. Today, artificial intelligence cannot replace a human being, the human eye, empathy, creativity and, above all, emotions. Emotions that can be read from another person through their gestures, eyeballs, and simply an honest conversation.

Weronika Lichnowska: From my perspective, I can also add that some time ago I was at an HR meeting where they showed us, recruiters, a bot that would conduct recruitment interviews. And to be completely honest, from my perspective, I obviously was the “candidate” in this role. This bot did not convince me at all. I believe that in recruitment it is very important to build relationships with candidates and it will be very difficult to do that through a bot. Also, I am not at all afraid that artificial intelligence will ever be able to replace us in our cycle.

Paulina Saktura: I would like to elaborate a little bit on what Weronika said about building relationships. Recruitment in IT is like sales, and like in sales it is very important to build a relationship with the customer. Sometimes they will come to you because they have a relationship with you, not because it is cheaper, they will come even if it is more expensive, it is the same here. If the recruiter establishes a good relationship with the candidate, they will be able to convince them to choose a certain company, even if the conditions offered do not fully meet their expectations.
Hicron's approach
Hanka Dziubińska: When I talk to people from Hicron, I get the impression that these teams also have a sense of belonging to their recruiters, that they say “I’m from Weronika” and so on. It’s quite sentimental, isn’t it?

Weronika Lichnowska: I think so. I think this is simply because my team and I treat the candidates we work with in the recruitment process as if they were our clients. We want everyone to be happy with the process, to have the best possible “candidate experience” that we talked about earlier today. Those are the memories that stay with you from your first two days in the organization. And we, as a recruitment team, always try to say hello to the people we have recruited, talk to them for a while over coffee, contact them after two months and ask what it is like to work in the organization. So relationships, relationships, and again, relationships is how we really build this organization and I think our HR team as well.

Hanka Dziubińska: In this case, I wish you a lot of success in the development of these relationships and the development of Hicron as a whole, because it depends a little bit on you, so all the best and thank you for talking to us.

Weronika Lichnowska, Paulina Saktura: Thank you.

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