Workers with open-source skills are crucial for South African business

Joe Svetlik

Wednesday 14 September 2016

More and more companies are moving to open-source software, meaning workers skilled in this area are more valuable than ever. Here’s how South African employers can attract them, and retain them, in order to stand your business in good stead.

More companies are moving from legacy systems to those built on open-source software. And as they do, the demand for workers skilled in open-source software increases.

According to the 2016 Open Source Jobs Report, 65 per cent of hiring managers say open-source hiring will increase more than any other part of their business over the next six months. And those skilled in working with open-source systems are being held on to; the study says 79 per cent of managers have increased incentives to hold onto their current open-source professionals.

South Africa might have a smaller market than more developed countries but it has huge potential for growth in this area.

Areas of expertise

Open-source talent is one of the top priorities for recruiters this year – 59 per cent of respondents said they’ll hire more open-source professionals in the next six months. Developers are the most sought-after, with 74 per cent of respondents saying they’ll hire one, while DevOps is also one of the most highly prized skills, with 58 per cent seeking professionals in this field.

Networking is a leading emergent technology with 21 per cent of hiring managers saying it has the biggest impact on open-source hiring. But it’s not as important as knowledge of OpenStack, CloudStack and related cloud technologies.

Open-source professionals are driven by a need to innovate and create. So much so that only two per cent said money and perks were the best thing about their jobs. Working on interesting projects was most important (31 per cent of respondents prioritised it), followed by working on the most cutting-edge technology challenges (18 per cent) and collaborating with a global community (17 per cent).

How to hire and retain such skilled staff

Finding the right people isn’t easy: 87 per cent of respondents reported difficulty in finding the right skills and expertise. Make no mistake – competition for the best people is fierce. Providing them with interesting and stimulating projects to work on will be a big draw, as will allowing them to collaborate not only with other staff in South Africa, but around the world if possible.

Once you’ve hired them, you’ll want to keep them. The best way to do this is to help them keep their skills up to date and develop new ones – this can be done with online resources, tutorials, training courses, conferences, networking and open-source software projects. Otherwise, if you don’t offer them, someone else will.

Open source is clearly a priority for hiring managers. To attract the best staff with the right skill set, you have to realise what’s important to them in a job, and how to keep them on board. Ignore this advice, and not only will your business suffer, your competitors will prosper.