27 May 2022

May has seen the return of face-to-face Microsoft events, with Envision UK being held at the InterContinental Hotel in London last week.

This year, alongside the impressive technological advancements and case studies, the tech skills shortage featured heavily in the keynote sessions. Attracting and retaining talent in the face of accelerated tech sector growth is an increasing concern for all IT businesses. 

What to do about the tech talent gap? 

During her opening keynote speech Clare Barclay, Chief Executive Officer at Microsoft UK, was the first to address the issue. She highlighted the major shifts being seen in skills requirements due to an ever-changing global technology landscape, saying that skills listed in LinkedIn job advertisements have changed by 25% since 2015. Data skills were identified as leading the charge with businesses clamouring to make sense of all of the information at their disposal and looking to use the latest artificial intelligence technologies.

There was an update given regarding Microsoft’s “Get On” commitment to enable 1.5 million people in the UK to access careers in IT through digital training by 2025. So far 850,000 people have developed new skills through this initiative and 30,000 people have also now been through Microsoft’s apprenticeship programme. It is clear that progress is being made, but the technology industry is growing and changing at such a rate that, even with all of these initiatives, the skills market is lagging behind as demand for new solutions surges. So how do you ensure your business remains well-staffed? 

Attracting and Retaining Good People 

The British workforce is on the move. We’ve all seen the unprecedented barrage of LinkedIn posts in recent months reading “I never thought I’d be saying goodbye so soon…” or “Looking forward to my next chapter with…” and this trend is showing no sign of letting up. An abundance of opportunities in a labour-starved job market has seen fierce competition for the best talent. In fact, some businesses have been lucky to attract any talent at all! This is especially evident in the technology industry, with niche-skilled professionals commanding higher salaries than ever before. In addition to this, the turbulence families have lived through in recent years has led to a dramatic shift in the priorities of the workforce. So with all of this in mind, how do we attract the best talent into our businesses? What are IT professionals looking for in their new roles? What are their current employers not offering?

Here are the top 4 things Curo is finding that companies winning the battle for talent in 2022 are offering their new hires: 

Remote or Hybrid Working Policy

This may seem obvious in the post-COVID tech job market, but don’t underestimate the importance job seekers are attaching to remote working. Curo is finding that the majority of IT professionals will only consider applying for jobs which allow for remote or hybrid work. Employers looking to secure staff to work in the office full-time are generating next to no interest in their job opportunities, and when they do the applicants expect markedly higher compensation. During Clare Barclay’s speech at Envision UK, the audience heard that 38% of hybrid employees say their biggest challenge is knowing when and why to come into the office, and that only 28% of leaders have created team agreements for hybrid work to define why and when to go to the office. Our advice? Take this seriously and provide clear guidelines to enable your staff to work from home effectively. 

Wellbeing and Work/Life Balance

Clare Barclay’s Envision UK speech also included research showing that 53% of employees are more likely to prioritise health and well-being overwork than before the pandemic, and that 52% of Gen Z and Millennials are likely to consider changing employers because of this, up 3% year-over-year. Providing opportunities for your staff to recharge and spend time with their families will keep them happy and they will likely become more productive. Offering flexible hours is an easy way to start, helping people manage the school run or giving them time to take their car in for its MOT. Too easy? How about a 4-day working week? This year the UK will be the setting for a pilot programme involving 3,000 businesses operating a 4-day working week for a 6-month period, could you see your business offering this to its staff? Some organisations are offering an annual mental health day to allow staff time for relaxation and reflection. Private healthcare benefits are also becoming ever more sought-after. 

Company Culture

No one wants to work somewhere they feel unheard and undervalued. Never has it been more important to ensure you build an inclusive, friendly, perhaps even fun culture into your business. Employees want to be listened to, given autonomy in their work, feel like they belong, work for an ethical employer, etc. Establish clear company values and be ready to live by them, during the good times and the bad. 

More Money

Although the above aspects of working life have rocketed to the top of the priority list, a competitive wage will always be a driving factor in talent attraction. With even relatively common skills at a premium and demand showing no sign of slowing, salaries continue to climb and those with the rarest skill-sets are benefiting from eye-watering day rates and remuneration packages. When Tony Danker, Director General of the Confederation of British Industry, graced the stage at Envision UK he talked at length about inflation, rising energy prices and supply chain shortages driving up the price of goods. With the cost of modern life increasing, salary expectations are naturally following suit. As an employer, it is important to do your research and ensure your business is competitive. Don’t rely on the salary research you did 6-12 months ago, the market is changing all the time! 

Curo has surveyed our candidate base on a number of occasions over the years and other attractive qualities applicants look for in a new job include interesting work, training opportunities and career progression. These talking points factor into almost all of our daily discussions with job seekers. If you can offer any mixture of the above you will increase your chances of filling those open vacancies! 

What else can we do about the tech skills shortage? 

Still not able to hire? Many organisations are investing in upskilling existing team members and hiring more junior professionals in behind them. You might also consider reviewing your job descriptions and limiting the skills requirements to only the most essential items. It is better to hire the ideal trainable candidate than fail to hire the perfect person. 

Judson Althoff, EVP & Chief Commercial Officer at Microsoft, also took to the stage at Envision UK last week. He talked about “digital perseverance”, putting technology to work to get people and businesses through difficult times. How much could our existing teams achieve if supported by innovation and automation? Judson claimed that businesses which embrace digital technology are more resilient. You may find that this use of technology itself becomes a selling point for prospective hires in the future. 

Become a Company Worth Working for 

In the current market, it isn’t enough to be a profitable business delivering a high-quality service. To attract and retain great people you have to reshape your organisation to enable remote working, stick to your values and improve company culture. Show that you are prepared to advocate for your workforce, nurturing their well-being and championing work-life balance. Analyse every aspect of your systems and processes to optimise and automate tasks, ensuring your staff are doing interesting work and have time to up-skill and learn about new technologies. 

The technology skills gap is just one of a number of important topics discussed at Microsoft Envision UK. We hope these insights from both Microsoft and Curo help you establish a competitive position when hiring your next new team member. 

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