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Issue Report

Collection of full-length papers and in-depth analysis of economic and management issues.

Cultivating and Retaining Top Software Talent in Korea

Cultivating and Retaining Top Software Talent in Korea

KIM Jae-Won, RYU Ji-Seong, LEE Sung-Ho, CHOI Eunjeong, HAU Yong Sauk

Feb. 7, 2012

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Originally released in November 2011

A paradigm shift is taking place in the software workforce as the shift to mobile and cloud computing demands increasingly sophisticated skills and added value in software products. Developers that once simply carried out predefined tasks for individual clients are giving way to developers that can anticipate changes in the market and create products led by mass market demand.

Korean firms, however, have yet to respond to the shifts in the industry and the changes required of its workforce, leading to a mismatch between supply and demand in its software labor market. Despite massive demand for software skills, Korea’s software workforce is still plagued by perceptions of low pay and poor working conditions. This has fostered a vicious circle of low popularity for computer science as a major among students, inadequate and resource poor computer science education, and mediocre graduates in the universities, leading to weak performance, low compensation, and low job satisfaction in the workplace. All of these factors then further diminish the pool of students willing to pursue a career in software.

To transform this circle into a virtuous circle, Korea’s software industry needs to make the following changes: ① Companies need to provide a clear vision for career success and pathways to career development, where developers can receive due recognition and treatment, regardless of age. ② Universities must strengthen the curriculum and move beyond simple lectures by providing opportunities to gain practical experience, while providing software “convergence courses” that incorporate input from diverse academic disciplines (including the liberal arts). ③ Companies and universities need to revitalize academic-industry collaboration to respond to changes in the industry through joint conferences between academia and industry, joint development of job relevant educational programs, open research shared between companies and universities, and the establishment of R&D centers within universities. ④ Companies must revamp their recruitment strategies to focus on project perf ormance and practical suitability for jobs, rather than on generalized specifications like GPA and English test scores, while simultaneously recruiting project leaders and team members. ⑤ Company HR departments need to cater to software employees by setting challenging goals and providing performance-based incentives, while providing opportunities for retraining to address the job insecurity caused by technology obsolescence. ⑥ Finally, companies must establish an organizational culture that allows autonomy and tolerates failure for software workers.

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