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May 25, 2022updated 30 May 2022 1:37pm

IT recruitment in the post-pandemic era: How to compete for top talent

It's a seller's market for technology talent, and employers must make themselves as attractive as possible.

By Sophia Waterfield

The pandemic has intensified demand for technology talent at a time when skilled workers are more inclined than ever to move jobs. As a result, in-demand candidates have the power in their hands, and employers must make themselves as attractive as possible to compete in a red hot IT recruitment market. As well as high salaries, this means putting employees in control of their working lives.

IT recruitment has never been harder. Close-up on a blue and white sign in a window with written in "We're hiring".
‘Today’s skilled IT candidates have never been more aware of their worth.’ (Photo by Gwengoat/iStock)

IT recruitment after the pandemic: a seller’s market

Since the pandemic started to ease in the UK last year, record numbers of workers have moved to new jobs. According to ONS figures, nearly a million people switched jobs in each of the last three quarters – roughly 200,000 more than pre-pandemic levels. This job mobility has been driven by resignations, the ONS says, not dismissals.

Some attribute this ‘Great Resignation’ to workers reassessing their personal priorities during the pandemic and seeking out opportunities that more closely match their long-term objectives. Others argue it is simply the after-effect of suppressed job mobility during lockdowns.

Either way, the effect is the same: employees are on the move at the highest rate in recent memory.

Meanwhile, demand for skilled workers is soaring. Sixty-seven per cent of senior technology decision-makers surveyed by Harvey Nash last year reported that a skills shortage is holding back their organisations’ digital transformation plans.

As a result, they are hiring in record numbers. According to BCS’ latest State of the Nation Report, there were 64,000 vacancies for UK tech jobs in the third quarter of last year – up 191% year-on-year.

All this means that, right now, it is a sellers’ market for technology talent. Andrew Maeer, CEO of tech recruiter Amsource, says skilled technology workers hold “all the power if they choose to move role”.

Nick Brand, co-founder of IT recruitment platform Onskil, agrees. “Today’s skilled IT candidates have never been more aware of their worth to the sector – particularly against the backdrop of a global skills shortage,” he says. “Candidates are now in the driving seat and looking to secure their next job, quickly and efficiently, but most importantly, on their own terms.”

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To attract and retain the technology talent they need, then, employers must make themselves as attractive as possible – both to prospective employees and their current workforce.

How to recruit in-demand IT staff

A recent survey by CIPD, the professional body for HR, found that companies with ‘hard to fill’ vacancies have turned to three responses above all others: raising wages (44%), upskilling existing staff (39%), and ‘advertising more jobs as flexible’ (48%).

The first of these is impossible to dismiss. The UK’s cost-of-living crisis is forcing workers to seek higher wages just to maintain their existing lifestyle.

Tech workers, in particular, know they are in demand. A recent survey by consulting firm PwC found that 35% of UK workers are planning to ask their employers for a raise. For the tech sector, the figure is 44%.

But increasing salaries is not the only way to hire or retain in-demand talent. Since the pandemic revealed the viability of remote working, especially for desk-based jobs, flexibility has become almost as important as salaries in the war for tech talent.

The tech sector has taken note. “Our data shows that over a third of all the UK job vacancies being advertised as 'remote' or 'work from home' are currently within the tech sector,” says Paul Lewis, chief customer officer at job search engine Adzuna.

Indeed, for tech workers, “work from home is now expected and is not a benefit,” adds Maeer.

Allowing home working at set times is not good enough, however, says executive coach Della Judd: in-demand candidates want to be in control. “Even if a role is good, having specific rules about when and where people work is a turn-off, for example, ‘you must be in every Tuesday and Wednesday’.”

And there is more to empowering workers than simply allowing them to work from home. “It’s part of a growing focus for tech workers on culture, values and sustainability,” says Adzuna’s Lewis. “Most of all, workers are looking for employers that treat them as individuals and recognise that everyone has different needs.

“That could be preferences in terms of days in the office, working hours, or offering training and progression opportunities.”

In other words, employers must allow their tech talent to define what 'work' means for them. “The mindset of the workforce has changed drastically over the last few years,” said Sarah Moore, people and organisation leader and head of purpose at PwC UK. “Gone is the time when there was uniform agreement on what 'work' means."

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