HOST: Adelina Kainer 

GUESTS: Darin Stevenson, Director of Strategic Solutions; Kayley Perkins, Associate Solution Leader for Talent Management Solutions 

SUMMARY: Kayley Perkins and Darin Stevenson share some of the current challenges and trends we see companies facing when hiring technical talent. 

Adelina Kainer  00:21 

Welcome back to the Apex virtual studio of Digital Reimagined. We are excited to talk to you today about the trends and challenges customers are facing in the tech talent acquisition. Joining us today are two of our thought leaders in this space, Darin Stevenson and Kayley Perkins. Glad to have you both on today.  


Darin Stevenson  00:38 

Glad to be on Addy.  


Kayley Perkins  00:39 

Thanks, Addy.  


Adelina Kainer  00:40 

Well, why don't you first, before we get started, introduce yourself to our listeners and what your role is. 


Darin Stevenson  00:45 

Yes, I'll go ahead and start. My name's Darin Stevenson. I oversee our Talent Management Solutions for Apex, enterprise talent acquisition and consultant management for our customers, and how we help them out with different solutions in that space. 


Kayley Perkins  00:57 

And I'm Kayley Perkins, I am the Associate Solution Leader for talent management solutions, and I primarily focus on upskilling and reskilling and talent generation for our clients.  


Adelina Kainer  01:09 

Awesome. Well, I think this topic is so timely right now, as we're all living in this "great resignation era". So we are seeing our customers essentially take a hard look at their own hiring roadmap and adjusting to bring on the right talent. Okay, Darin, what is TMS - Talent Management Solutions - and its role in the marketplace. 


Darin Stevenson  01:27 

Talent Management Solutions is really around enterprise talent acquisition, planning, and strategy, and really getting ahead of the business in a way that, traditionally, vendors have not done with customers, right? So when you think about contingent labor programs, internal FTE hiring, professional services, those have always been kind of exclusive buckets that have been managed through procurement VMOs, along with HR, and there hasn't been a lot of synergy created between external vendors in those different segments. So there's really a breakdown in communication that we've seen at Apex over the years. And so we've come together and said, "How can we solve this problem for our clients?" And I think a lot of it is bridging the gap between those different stakeholders and groups, and helping them to develop more enterprise demand plans and getting ahead of the situation, being proactive versus reactive, right? And I think, in reality, it's very difficult to do, right? You've got a lot of moving parts in some of these large organizations. And so a lot of what we do within TMS is what we call advisory services, where we're advising clients on best practices and things that we've learned based on 26 years of experience in the market. 


Adelina Kainer  02:40 

Love it. And so yeah, you talked a lot about the challenges here. So if you maybe can go in a little more detail, what are some of the challenges our clients are facing in external and internal hiring? 


Kayley Perkins  02:50 

Yeah, so you know, job openings are on a steady increase with bill rates being on a steady decrease. And so we're really referring to this as "the war on talent". One in fifteen positions are filled by employers and there's three IT openings for every candidate. And so we're really finding that push of supply and demand in the marketplace. And some top trends we're seeing are, you know, around this skills gap. This idea that there's not enough talent to fill the marketplace. They don't have all of the technologies required to fill those roles, so employers are going to have to understand, "How can I adjust my requirements, really understand the market constraints, and be open to different types of talent?" We're also seeing what we call a nationalization of wages. So obviously, COVID has allowed a lot of people to work from home. And companies are now having to be flexible and offer flexibility, offer remote work, and understand that they're competing for talent across the country. And so their wages are going to have to match that. And then probably one of the biggest trends we're seeing is around interview processes. So one in three candidates have a job within five days, and so this lengthy interview process of five panel interviews, six panel interviews, tech screens, phone screens... people are opting out, and they're going to turn down jobs because of how long these interview processes are. So we have to advise our clients on how we can shorten that, how we can really limit that gap to get candidates in the door a lot quicker. 


Adelina Kainer  04:22 

There’s some crazy stats. So how can clients generate the talent and really keep ahead of these ever-changing skills that are needed? 


Kayley Perkins  04:29 

So I think what you just said there, "generate" is the key word. It's all about talent generation and talent creation. So a lot of times clients, and even us internally, have thought, "Well we just need to train people or put people through training." And we're really having to step back and I think the market is stepping back and understanding we need to create new talent, infuse talent into the workforce. This gap isn't going away. So how can we create software engineers, create cloud engineers? Whether that's from mainframe developers, or you know, from database administrators, or maybe it's from new talent, diverse talent. And so we're doing that, you know, in a couple of different ways. We're not a boot camp, so we're not putting people through some long twelve to fourteen week training, we are really focused on upskilling and reskilling consultants to be fit to our clients' custom environments. And that's really the key for us, is creating resources specific to our clients needs, getting them in the door as quickly as possible and ramped up quickly, and then offering them that continuous learning so they can continue on in their careers.  


Adelina Kainer  05:43 

As we wrap up our conversation today, what are the top three key elements employers need to be intentional about going into 2022? 


Darin Stevenson  05:50 

Yeah Addy, I think the biggest thing is they need to develop a proactive talent acquisition roadmap, and really a blueprint for 2022. Alright, so as an example of this, you know, you want to start by building a proper demand plan, right? So to do that, you've got to begin with the end in mind and really work backwards from the larger goals. So as an example, let's say you want to hire 500 people annually, you really need to break that down into monthly and weekly goals, right? So that's a real formal artifact or document that you need to build out before you really get started on your talent acquisition approach. And then the second piece is you want to try to identify the talent gaps in your organization. So you need to work with all the IT stakeholders up front, understand their demand plans and where they're gonna be having people sit. And then also you got to prioritize those resource needs by level of impact, right, so that goes from high to medium to low. So let's say you're going to be implementing the AWS cloud, and you need to get a cloud engineer with that experience- that person's probably going to be higher level impact for the business that year than somebody who's coming in to do support service center work. And then really, you got to put pen to paper with all of this. So you can't keep it in your head, it's something you got to really build out. I suggest building out a formal project plan with some sort of project management software, really to get those milestones in place. It allows you to communicate across the organization with all the stakeholders where you're at in the process at any given time and it also allows you to collaborate and make updates real time. And then really, you got to revisit that plan regularly, right? So you know, as you're proactively going through these plans, and the year’s evolving, you may have some unexpected turnover that happens. And when that happens, you're going to have to revise this plan, maybe even reorganize that level of impact resource need that we talked about earlier, where it's high, medium, low, some stuff that may be medium now moves to high, sometimes high maybe moves back to medium. So all of that's really important. And then, the key to success as you're building out a talent roadmap is really communication between all the stakeholders that are involved. You know, obviously, when you're trying to organize hiring around, let's say, 500 people in a year, there's a lot of moving parts to that, there's a lot of managers, a lot of interviews, a lot of interactions with HR, a lot of resumes. And so you want to make sure that the communication is streamlined, that somebody is really owning that process as a go-between the different stakeholders in the organization. So I think being very proactive and understanding which partners you're going to leverage is really a big thing that I'd have clients focus on for '22. And then along those lines, it's really knowing and understanding your market. So as it relates to the salary trends, the nationalization of wages, with the world working from home, you've got to take that into the equation if you're going to ask people to come onsite. I've had customers that have asked me, "Hey, can I just have somebody come onsite in a hybrid work environment, two or three days a week?" And the reality is, most workers, especially within the IT space, can find jobs where they don't have to do that. So, you know, that really leads me to the third point, which is you need to be flexible, right? You have to understand the realities of the marketplace and that you can't change those realities as much as we all might want to. We're in this new normal, whatever that means. And we've got to be flexible and so you've got to listen to your partners, you've got to listen to the people who are in the marketplace, and then create synergies that allow you to create efficiencies in your program. 


Kayley Perkins  09:07 

And I also think the talent gap is going to continue to widen and we don't really see that slowing down. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a 22% growth in software engineering roles over the next ten years, which is a great example of how the talent gap will continue to widen and not slow down. That's a huge opportunity for companies to create that talent like we were talking about. And then kind of going along with that, a whole generation of workers are retiring. So how do we continue to infuse more talent into the workplace, create that talent for our clients? I think that all of these go hand in hand to the different solutions that we can provide. 


Adelina Kainer  9:48 

Love it. Wow, thank y'all both so much. This was so insightful for me personally, as we talk to clients every day around the different hiring challenges that they are experiencing, and it shows it's not slowing down. Thank you guys both so much, Darin and Kayley, it's always a pleasure to talk to you and learn from y'all and all the different advice you can give to all of us in the field. Thank you so much.  


Darin Stevenson  10:08 

You're welcome Addy. Thank you.  


Kayley Perkins  10:09 



David Broussard  10:13 

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Adelina Kainer  10:18 

To learn more about Apex Systems' offerings, visit us at You'll find our podcasts here along with success stories, articles, news, and trends. 


David Broussard  10:31 

The music you heard was Do Ba Do by Otis Galloway.