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27th Feb, 2023

Chris Adcock
Chris Adcock
Job Title
Managing Director, Technology

Every year, alongside the launch of our salary guides, Reed holds a panel discussion on the key insights in recruitment for the year ahead.

This year’s expert panel included Reed’s Chairman and CEO James Reed, Managing Director – UK Network, Claire Harvey, and Managing Director – Further Education, Lucie Daluiso and myself.

In this discussion, led by Amy Davis, our Head of Content, we explored some of the questions that arose from our survey around popular recruitment topics, including the four-day working week, hybrid working, salaries, benefits, and how to attract and retain talent.

Here are some of my thoughts from the webinar: 'Hiring in 2023: how to refine your approach to attract talent', specifically on the technology sector.

Watch the tech highlights here, or read the transcription below:

Q: What overall trends have you seen in the tech sector?

A: The technology industry has been on a hell of a journey recently, over the last 18 months or so. We've seen an already-candidate-short market just boom and create probably the biggest disparity between supply and demand I’ve seen in my 17 years in IT recruitment. And basically, we have seen this cooling slightly. You may have noticed a lot of big tech companies laying off tech staff.

What the news isn’t reporting on though, is the majority of those businesses, they've increased their headcount circa 20% over the last few years, and they're now laying off maybe 5%. So, they're still massively up on their recruitment plans. On top of this, you know, the employers who sit outside of Silicon Valley, they continue to hire. Most IT projects rumble on.

So, we're not seeing a huge drop in IT roles like the news is reporting. There's still a lot of work out there. I think the big question for us in 2023 is will we have a better ratio between jobs and candidates? I think it’s going to be really interesting to see as time goes on.

Looking at flexible benefits, or at least personalisation in some way, can be a really powerful way to inspire, motivate, but then also potentially be a cost-saver for you.

Q: Why is it important for businesses to look at their benefits offering and how do you suggest they do this?

A: One of the biggest problems you have is benefits just get missed by people. For example, we give away a Tesla every year and if we kept that quiet it would be a bit of a waste of time. And so, I think it's really important to talk about it.

The other thing that I find quite a useful thing to consider is benefits are very personal things. What's important to one person could mean absolutely nothing to another. So, I think any time you can personalise what you offer – so flexible benefits, for example – you really should.

An example, say, healthcare, might be absolutely one of the biggest things for 60% of your business, but if 40% of your business has private healthcare or just isn't interested in that kind of thing, then that's 40% of the money you're spending on healthcare just being completely wasted. It's going to be no good.

So, if you could reinvest that money into something that does mean something to that 40%, not only will you have happier employees, but you're actually saving money. You're not wasting money on benefits that aren’t being used. So, I think looking at flexible benefits, or at least personalisation in some way, can be a really powerful way to inspire, motivate, but then also potentially be a cost-saver for you.

Companies that don't offer some form of hybrid or remote work will struggle to hire IT staff in 2023. There's no doubt about that.

Q: How do you envisage the hybrid working world in the future? Is it here to stay?

A: It's here to stay, absolutely. I think the key point, again – it's a bit of a theme to my answers here today – is flexibility. It's not necessarily about ‘this works or this works’ in its entirety; three days in a week, two days in a week, one day a week. It's about having flexibility for the employee to find something that works for them.

It has to work for both parties, employee/employer, but people are after personalisation again, something that will work for them, whether it's their gym session on a Tuesday or picking their kids up on a Thursday. So, flexibility is key. I mean, specifically for IT market, as you can imagine, the IT market was ahead of the curve for hybrid and remote working and has been for some time.

It's very much cemented now. Companies that don't offer some form of hybrid or remote work will struggle to hire IT staff in 2023. There's no doubt about that. I obviously won’t cite any but there are clients that we’ve worked with who have mandated five days in the office and it's not impossible, but it just really restricts who you can be contacting and who'd be interested in those kinds of opportunities.

It's hard to even start a conversation because obviously they're interested in how it's going to affect their work-life balance, and a lot of people have had a taste of it since Covid. Suddenly going home and managing to not have that hour commute each way and see their kids a lot earlier than they did and all sorts. To even contemplate losing that – yes, money might help, but I imagine that would be a short-term fix. So, I think [employers] need to think long and hard if they are considering a mandated five-day week [in the office].

But there are tools (Amy, to your point earlier about what's coming in the future from a technology point of view) … because I don't think anyone believed that this kind of working: Teams, Zoom, etc., would be so integrated in our lives so quickly. We’ve fast-forwarded five to 10 years of technology adoption, in my opinion.

A lot of them are fads, but there's definitely a lot of effort and money going behind technology to improve the hybrid-working model.

So, the question is, what's next? And that's a problem a lot of start-ups [have] to try to tackle right now. The key problem is engagement. So, how do you take somebody, multiple people, working from home and in the office, and allow them to feel engaged and connected with each other rather than just on these structured calls? And there's all kinds of people looking at metaverse, looking at how you can kind of try to encourage these chance bump-ins to each other.

I saw one piece of technology the other day where you essentially go into the little virtual office and you say, “Well, I'm in here” and you can put a sign up to say whether [you’re happy to let people] pop in and have a chat with you or whether you're focusing and all sorts. A lot of them are fads, but there's definitely a lot of effort and money going behind technology to improve the hybrid-working model.

Q: In what three ways can an employer stand out from the crowd as an employer of choice?

A: The first would probably be play to your strengths. What do you do better than your competitors? I really like the theory that you should be there, or thereabouts, on most things with your competitors, but then there should be one or two things where you absolutely blow them out of the water.

I think that's really important when you're looking at an EVP and you’re looking at benefits and trying to attract people. You should always have those one or two things that just really make people go: “Wow.”

And, in a similar vein: focus on the headlines. You need to grab attention. When people are looking at your company or, you know, they might be scrolling through LinkedIn or somewhere, but they're not going to spend ten/20 minutes researching unless they're further down a stage. You need to grab their attention. You need to shout about what you do.

And it's hard to come up with having a great offering, great benefits, even a solid EVP, but all that time is completely wasted if you're not shouting about it. Make sure it is on all relevant socials. Make sure it's on sites like Glassdoor etc., and make sure you do focus on the headlines and put that out there.

The last one would probably be to get external feedback. It's very hard to see the wood from the trees internally. It’s that impossible view of: how do you see yourself from somebody else's eyes? And so external feedback is really important. Our local consultants in the market can probably quite easily tell you how candidates are looking at your company right now, and therefore, ways you might be able to fix that.

So, those would be my three: play to your strengths, focus on the headlines, and then get external feedback.

Actually, the big tech companies play a relatively small part of the percentage of overall IT employees in the world.

Q: Chris, what do you see happening over the next 18 months in tech in terms of salaries? Will the bubble burst?

A: So, the tech market has burst before, we’ve all seen it happen. It was a very different time back then and technology adoption was in a very different place. My own personal opinion is I feel there's too much momentum. There's always a lot of focus – and we talked earlier about the Silicon Valley and looking at technology as the big tech companies, when actually, the big tech companies play a relatively small part of the percentage of overall IT employees in the world. There are businesses like our business that employ a huge amount of the IT workforce.

We're seeing projects continue, we're seeing innovation, we're seeing IT and technology be such a necessity in every business and I just can't see that stopping. I can see it slowing down and changing, absolutely – but a bubble burst, definitely in the next 18 months? No, I don’t think that's a realistic thing to expect.

Q: What reasons do companies give for mandating a five-day week in offices?

A: When it's not physically needed and it’s a decision made by the company, the one big thing I've seen as consistent, through all those companies, is probably a lack of trust from the top down. And I think that's where companies need to be careful. They might see a productivity improvement, they might not, but one thing I think they’d lose straight away is the trust of their employees and potentially the engagement of those employees.

The reasons they gave for the five-day week do vary, but underlying it is essentially that they want them in the office so they can ensure they improve productivity and can keep a close eye on people.

Q: What is the likelihood of a four-day working week becoming commonplace. If so, how far into the future?

A: Four days a week is kind of this utopian land that everyone loves the idea of but, probably what we're thinking of as four-day week now, we were probably thinking about working from home ten years ago.

I'm just not sure – and I hope we don't – have another pandemic to kick us along and get us there quickly. I think it will be a slow burn getting there. I think things like condensed hours – so, people who take that 40-hour week/35-hour week, whatever it is, and do it in four days – that's quite a good benefit for people. But, actually, moving companies to just being open four days or having an only-four-day policy, I think we're a long way off that, if ever.

To find a technology recruiter to help you find your next opportunity or a talented technologist, contact your nearest Reed office now.