How to attract IT professionals to the public sector

Facing a general shortage of workers in the Russian labor market and separately increased competition for qualified IT specialists, the authorities need to develop new approaches to attract personnel.

Photo by Kevin Ku on Unsplash

Difficulties in finding and attracting personnel in the current situation are associated with a whole range of reasons. First of all, there is a general shortage of the working-age population: we entered a period of decline in the number of candidates due to the demographic “pit” of the 90s. It will last about 10 years, and the competition for people will be intense for a long time.

At the same time, due to the rapid development of IT, there is an increased demand for qualified specialists. According to some estimates, in 2023 it increased by more than 80% compared to last year. About half of the IT industry companies faced a shortage of middle and senior level specialists. Most IT companies in St. Petersburg note a shortage of qualified specialists of this level.

The shortage of personnel warms up the level of salary expectations. At the end of 2023, the median values ​ ​ of the proposed salaries in the IT sphere in St. Petersburg amounted to approximately 71 thousand rubles for specialists of the junior level, 133 thousand rubles – for “middles” and 184 thousand rubles – for “seniors.” At the same time, salary opportunities from business can be 2-3 times higher than the salary level in the public sector.

In addition, there are several other reasons that reduce the attractiveness of public organizations for applicants.

Bureaucracy. The public sector is characterized by a multi-stage hiring procedure, slow and complex processes for coordinating tasks. This can create challenges for IT professionals who are accustomed to a more flexible and free work environment.

Lack of flexible working hours. Remote or hybrid operation is rather an exception for the public sector. At the same time, most IT professionals prefer flexible hours.

Technology stack. Many IT specialists are used to working with foreign technologies, which in some cases becomes impossible in government agencies due to the import substitution policy. In such cases, it is necessary to invest the time and energy of people in retraining.

What can attract specialists

In the public sector, there is a high need for system architects, system and business analysts, information security specialists, DevOps engineers, and developers. At the same time, sometimes there are specific requirements to them. For example, knowledge of the regulatory framework in the field of procurement and development of information systems.

To attract and retain experienced professionals, public sector employers need to reconsider their approach to working conditions, as well as strengthen and promote their advantages. It is unlikely that it will be possible to solve the “salary issue” – it is difficult for budget structures to keep up with commercial companies. But in addition to direct income, there are other tools that can increase the attractiveness of work in the public sector.

Social guarantees and benefits. Public organizations often offer a wide range of social guarantees for employees, including health insurance or monthly salary allowances for length of service, compensation for recreation and recreation costs or travel on public transport, additional days for vacation. Also, do not forget, for example, about the reservation from mobilization.

Intangible motivation. It is worth borrowing effective motivation tools from the commercial sector. We are talking about the development of corporate culture and values. Therefore, the advantages of working in the public sector are stability and confidence in the future. Initiatives to improve family values, as well as caring for the children of employees, can be effective.

Focus on social relevance. IT professionals often come to the public sector because they want to benefit their city, country and people. This is the most powerful motivation that can withstand all material incentives. Therefore, it is important to broadcast this idea to society, to convey it to experienced and novice specialists. It is worth showing the public importance of those projects that are being implemented in the public sector.

For example, in St. Petersburg, a mini-application “I live here” is being developed, implemented on the basis of the VKontakte social network. It offers Petersburgers a number of unique digital services that help to receive a variety of information about events, places and objects near their location. This project really inspires our team of young developers.

Personnel development programs. It is necessary to develop and widely use advanced training programs for specialists working in the public sector, including in the field of IT. For example, the program “Youth Personnel Reserve,” operating in St. Petersburg, helps to provide internships in government agencies for students and young specialists from 20 to 35 years. Among the list of available areas of internships, there are 12 areas from the field of “computer science and computer technology.”

Improving the efficiency of processes. Bureaucracy pushes specialists away from the civil service and work in state organizations. It is important to eliminate unnecessary approvals and lengthy procedures, speeding up certain processes. So, in St. Petersburg, the program “Effective Region” is being implemented for this purpose. By automating processes, introducing lean technologies and using digital services, the work of various departments, including IT departments, becomes more efficient.

Work-life balance.  Public organizations may seek to create a more flexible work schedule and environment that improves the work-life balance of employees. In those organizations where possible, it is necessary to reconsider this issue, as well as the possibility of using “remote” or a hybrid work format. Employers in St. Petersburg are now actively using the provision of the opportunity to work remotely. This format accounts for about 40% in vacancies of IT companies.

Digital and data economics

Digital projects in Russia are gaining momentum. Government agencies are facing many large-scale tasks, including the transfer of public services to a digital form, reaching a new level of work with data within the framework of the new national project “Data Economy,” the introduction of the capabilities of generative AI.

Therefore, working with these projects will be especially interesting for people for whom it is important to benefit society, to introduce new things into our lives. Those for whom it is paramount to participate in revolutionary and ambitious projects will be able to find their place here.

However, in the current labor market conditions, it is important to make a number of efforts in order to bring the working conditions in the public sector closer to what modern commercial companies offer. Only then will it be possible to compete for the best specialists.

By Stanislav Kazarin, Vice Governor of St. Petersburg

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