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How to beat the tech skills shortage

By James Milligan, Director UK & Ireland, EMEA for Technology and Project Solutions

In the light of Brexit and with continued reports of sluggish UK productivity levels, you could be forgiven for assuming that business confidence levels are low throughout the UK.

However, the Hays UK Salary and Recruiting Trends 2018 guide revealed that 95% of technology employers anticipate their activity levels will either increase or stay the same over the next year.

There is no question that there is ongoing political and economic uncertainty. However, it is positive that business outlook in this sector has remained robust – testament, perhaps, to the demand for technological solutions to at least some of the problems British businesses face.

Reflecting this business confidence, plans for recruitment continue to grow. Nearly three quarters (74%) of employers plan to recruit technology staff in the coming 12 months. Cyber security, development, data science, project management and business analyst skills are in particularly high demand, and salaries for these roles have seen corresponding increases as employers compete for top tech talent.

Skills shortages are a growing challenge

Yet there is an elephant in the room, one which threatens to tread on these optimistic growth plans: skills shortages are acute, getting worse, and particularly bad in the technology sector.

79% of technology employers said that a shortage of suitable applicants is their top recruitment challenge for the coming year. Three-quarters stated that they have experienced moderate to extreme skills shortages, and, of these, 13% labelled them as extreme. Only 4% of employers stated they had not experienced any skills shortages at all.

With demand for technology skills only set to increase, and shortages showing no signs of abating in the short term, employers face a very serious question: how do they set themselves apart from the competition in order to attract the best and brightest to fill technology roles?

This question is particularly pertinent for those organisations which, in the face of rising demand for these skills coupled with their woefully short supply, are keen to avoid continuously inflating salaries as their sole attraction strategy.

Our salary guide showed a number of ways employers can mitigate themselves against the risks they face in light of these skills shortages:

1) Invest in a strong ‘employer brand’

Ensuring that you have a strong employer brand has never been more essential. Competition for candidates has intensified and employers should target their offering to appeal to the specific type of candidate they want to attract.

Of course, salary levels need to be benchmarked accurately. However, workplace culture and benefits, such as progression or training opportunities, should also to be publicised and clearly promoted at each touch-point of a potential employee’s journey – from your website to candidate interviews.

2) Be progressive in your attitude to a good work-life balance

Nearly two-fifths (39%) of the technology professionals we surveyed stated that they were unhappy with their work-life balance. Furthermore, over a quarter (26%) of technology employees value work-life balance most when considering a new role. Compare this to only 15% of technology employers promoting work-life balance as a means to attract new members of staff, and you can see a clear mismatch between what these professionals want, and what most organisations offer.

An offer of a good work-life balance may be one of the most effective means of attracting in-demand tech professionals to your organisation. Likewise, if your employees’ work-life balance isn’t prioritised, you may find it difficult to retain them. To be a technology employer of choice, you must have a progressive attitude towards a good work-life balance for your employees, and as such should consider options such as flexible working where possible.

3) Utilise contractors to alleviate pressures

Employers should reconsider their approach to hiring contract workers. Whereas traditionally contractors have been used to supplement projects where specific skillsets are required, they could be used to a greater extent to help alleviate some of the pressures from the increased workload and fewer resources that result from difficulties filling roles. They will therefore allow permanent staff to stay focused on core business activities, helping to ensure growth plans can be sustained, targets met, and will improve the job satisfaction and retention rates of employees.

4) Optimise your hiring process

It is imperative that employers move quickly when hiring. Rather than having long waiting times before selecting a successful candidate for a role, work to a fast, well-organised turnaround model. Rely on your recruitment partner to find established, trusted and qualified candidates. Have streamlined practices for interviews and assessments. Once you have found the right person, reach out to them immediately. If you do not move fast, you will likely lose your candidate, and it may not be easy to find another to replace them.

To find out more insights and advice about technology recruiting trends into the year ahead, request your copy of the Hays UK Salary & Recruiting Trends 2018 guide.

For more information or to discuss your recruitment needs in this field, please contact your local consultant.

About this author

James is Director of Hays IT, Digital Technology and Project Solutions in the UK, Ireland and EMEA. Having joined in 2000, he is responsible for the strategy of Hays’ Project Solutions, IT and Digital Technology businesses, which includes IT contracting, permanent technology recruitment, resource augmentation and statement of work solutions across both the private and public sectors.

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