COVID-19 has driven demand for digital and technology talent globally in 2020. Here’s how businesses can stand out in a competitive market.
Demand for technology talent has evolved rapidly since the start of the pandemic.
At first, there was a hugely increased demand for candidates that could enable remote working – people with cloud-based skills that could deploy systems like AWS and Azure. Within the first four to eight weeks of lockdown happening, demand for these candidates rose by 400 per cent.
That quickly changed to interest in cybersecurity candidates. While technical skills were sought in these candidates, businesses also needed people who could drive behavioural change in users. When employees are working from home, there are different vulnerabilities compared to working in an office environment. Organisations needed candidates who could ensure employees were operating in a secure environment with the quick deployment of new systems.
Next, we saw an uplift in demand for data analysts and data scientists, particularly in the UK. There was demand from central governments and health services for people who could crunch the numbers around COVID–19 and take a predictive view of what would come next.
There was also some private demand for these candidates, with businesses trying to understand how their risk profile might have changed.
Those trends were seen between March and May, but we’re now seeing companies think longer-term about their digital and technology talent strategy. Here are five of the key areas organisations will need to consider when recruiting technology talent:
1. Planning further into the future is key
After the first months, where companies were playing catch-up, businesses were starting to look ahead. They understand that COVID-19 is going to be here for some time and, rather than just reacting to the immediate crisis, organisations have started planning for the future. From May to June, there was a drop off in demand as they considered what their next steps were going to be.
Lots of companies, from large enterprises to public sector organisations, had digital transformation programmes in place, but they needed to identify new priorities based on the new needs of employees and customers, whether they were individual consumers or businesses. Many found they had room for improvement when it came to the tools they used to engage people. There was also a need to improve virtual shop windows, websites, and anything else businesses had to facilitate their direct relationship with the customer, which will have replaced or augmented traditional human interaction.
We found these forward-looking businesses were coming to us with a planned approach. They had identified their programme of work and the types of people they would need to enable change and transformation. Most organisations now work in an agile or a semi-agile way, so they are looking for skills that can enable the change, but also software developers that can build and develop the applications that they require.
2. Recruitment processes need to keep evolving
To be successful in their hiring in this highly competitive market, businesses have had to evolve their processes quickly. Most companies had some sort of video platform, but adoption was poor, generally speaking. COVID-19 made it a necessity because everyone was working remotely, so you had that accelerated transformation, which increased adoption very quickly.
The next challenge was around onboarding. Many companies don’t have a cohesive remote onboarding process where they can bring somebody into a business in a non-physical way. Luckily, technology companies, or technology departments, move in quite an agile way, they are almost always the early adopters of these changes. They’re familiar with the technology and they’re advocates of it. On the whole, though, COVID-19 has accelerated cultural change in non-native digital organisations.
3. It’s worth searching outside of your usual talent pools
Organisations have become much more flexible in the geographies they will hire from. We have helped a company in Belfast recently that was willing to look for candidates within three time zones. They are tapping into a much broader pool of talent. We’re starting to see this trend more frequently.
What remains to be seen is what will happen over the next six to 18 months, and whether this has become the norm or if these placements are outliers within the market. My instincts tell me that, in tech, we’re going to see an awful lot more talent placed that is not linked to the geography of the office that they’re ‘based in’.
4. There has been a cultural shift around technology adoption
A lot of the time, when technology workers try to launch new systems in organisations, the process change is difficult and people won’t take it on quickly. People have been forced to adopt new technology rapidly and that’s changed a lot of people’s view of it forever. The pandemic has been the biggest change that’s happened in the business world in our lifetimes, and collectively we’ve demonstrated that in a matter of weeks, most organisations have been able to pivot from working in an office to a fully remote working environment. Behaviourally, users have demonstrated they are able to make this rapid change, so psychologically they will be more open to new systems in the future.
5. Organisations will need to take time to reflect
Organisations have moved quickly and will want to go back and revisit what they did earlier in 2020 to make sure it’s robust. They are looking at a new hybrid world where employees work both from home and in the office. Strategically, they must make sure that they are in a position where they can continue to operate and thrive.
This move to hybrid working is likely to mean an acceleration in digital transformation and that means that technology professionals with legacy skillsets will need to retrain to make sure that they have the skills required in this new world.
Finally, all organisations need to consider what this means for new entrants to the workforce. A large part of learning how to be effective in the world of work comes from observation, being mentored and getting real-time feedback. Organisations that have shifted to a remote model will need to consider how to manage this.
James Milligan is the Global Head of Technology at Hays, having joined in 2000. In his role, he is responsible for the strategic development of Hays ‘ technology businesses globally.