Today’s digital sector is marked by a wild imbalance between the supply and demand of IT skills. There are over 20,000 vacancies in the sector, putting the candidates in control.
How can Scottish employers equip themselves with the skills they need? Or, put another way, how can employers attract and retain the best tech talent?
The stats offer a glimpse of where we are. 1 in 10 jobs in Scotland is now in the digital sector. In 2021, the country boasted 73,700 digital technologists – a figure expected to grow by more than 9% by 2024, to 80,400.
We’ve seen plenty of change within the tech sector. With the rising threat to cyber security (covered recently in our podcast with Professor Bill Buchanan), demand has doubled for cyber security engineers specifically and increased over 600% for security skills generally since 2019.
Earlier this year, in Q1, there were 22,514 open tech jobs. The external drivers behind this are well known: Brexit put obstacles in the way of European tech talent. COVID-19 put the market on ice – with 2 years of pent-up demand, start-ups, investment and new ideas flooding the market in late 2021. And, with the introduction of the (soon to be short-lived) IR35 legislation, there’s less contract resource available to fill short-term needs, putting more pressure on internal teams.
Things can change quickly, but Market Equilibrium feels like a distant dream right now. So how do we find the skills we need?
Whether it’s about attracting new talent or keeping the people you have, the equation for employers is the same: it’s about the head, the heart and the wallet.
Winning minds is about those logical factors. Does the techstack match the role? How far is the commute? Do the working conditions fit with personal priorities? This offers up a very topical pitfall: “flex-washing”, the false promise of flexible working. We’re seeing candidates leaving jobs when they realise remote working, flexi time and wellbeing policies don’t actually hold much water. There’s little sense in offering a 4+1 days home/office working pattern, then tutting when they don’t come in much – it’s vital to be up front and authentic, spelling out policies then sticking by them.
In terms of the heart, providing a clear sense of purpose is key – in terms of the individual, their team and the wider organisation. What problem are you solving? What mark are you making on the world? It may all sound slightly existential, but our sense of self-worth and personal satisfaction rely on having a role in life.
And, finally, the wallet: a simple problem, if not an easy solution. The average tech salary in Scotland is £55,893 (a figure which is probably out of date by the time you read these words). With employers increasingly desperate, particularly for developers and software engineers, six-figure salaries are not so rare. The pandemic-fuelled adoption of remote working has swept away geographical barriers – bringing London-weighted salaries across the country. Throw in issues around inflation, interest rates and energy prices, and there’s little wonder tech professionals are looking for a thicker pay packet.
On average, it costs 6-9 months’ worth of salary to replace a team member, in induction, legal and recruitment costs. So, if someone’s on the way out, make sure you understand why and see what you can do to address the issues – even if it means you can’t convince them to stay.
If you’re short on skills, you’re probably short on time too. But, if you can take a longer view, developing skills via training doesn’t just build your capability, but plays a role in those three attraction/retention factors above. Logically, a role that offers the opportunity to learn new skills and develop capabilities is a better proposition. Emotionally, the sense of personal growth and development is hugely fulfilling. And, financially, training can offer the promise of better rewards tomorrow.
Of course, if you need to grow your team or replace someone, training won’t fill that gap. And, if you’re forced to go to the market, but you’re struggling to attract, look again at those three factors above. The logical, emotional and financial: consider what you really need, how you’re framing the role and what the whole package offers (including salary, flexibility, progression and more).
And, of course, when you need some help, you know where to find the experts...
Managing Director, Be-IT