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Comment | The Post-Covid Battle For Top Tech Talent

Steve McNally

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IT

Steve McNally, Director of McNally Recruitment, discusses the post-Covid IT recruitment landscape and the inevitable battle for top tech talent.

As the IV drip of the furlough scheme runs dry and the wave of redundancies swells up, many are bracing themselves for a battle for jobs. However, in certain sectors, IT as a prime example, I believe it is going to be quite the opposite.

With an increasing demand for mobile & web development, security, and cloud storage, in particular, it is going to be a battle for the best talent – and one that will require new strategies from organisations of all sizes. The pandemic, by forcing the rise in remote working, has changed the rules.

First, the location of the physical premises has been one of the key considerations for job seekers. Up until now, if you wanted to work for a large organisation, you had to be prepared to work on-site, usually near a large city. While some offices could be based in quite prestigious areas, you would have to contemplate the possible challenges of peak-time traffic, be it long traffic jams or commuters packed into train compartments like sardines.

Working for a smaller organisation, based on the outskirts, did not erase the downsides of the commute either, as a car (or car share) would still be necessary. Now that you may be based at home, these dilemmas have been taken out of the equation – not only can you save enormous amounts of time and stress getting to work, but also it makes no difference what premises an organisation has or  where your employer is based.

The second bargaining chip that Covid-19 has taken away from firms are all the perks of the offices, no matter the style your employer adapted to entice you with. Some would have tempted you by working in an environment that was literally a mini village, with retail services, parking on-site and leisure facilities to suit every need.

Others offered spacious, open-plan workspaces with chill-out areas, table tennis, and gaming in order to keep you mentally and physically relaxed. However, the design, equipment, or services that you might have been provided with to make you feel comfortable in the pre-Covid era, are no longer a factor if you work remotely.

Thirdly, where you live is no longer a factor in where – or should I say for whom – you might work. It certainly used to be something an employer would be considering when hiring you.

Would the employee be close enough to work to be able to appear at a moment’s notice? Would the commute to work become too much for them and they would end up quitting? Were they serious enough about working for the organisation to move home?

A business has always been limited to the talent they could attract based on where employees lived in comparison to where the office was based. This of course gave some organisations a distinct advantage. In the post-Covid era, this aspect has been greatly minimised.

I have been involved in the IT sector since 1996. For years, I have always been an advocate of remote working, but quite often, when I would suggest this to management, it was scoffed at. The underlying assumption was that employees could not be fully trusted to do an honest day’s work if they were based at home, that there would be too many distractions. The image of a worker ‘watching TV in their pyjamas’ was as powerful as it was cliché.

When I had an opportunity to work from home, I actually found that I was more productive, as in fact there were fewer distractions. There were no constant coffee breaks, which would usually entail bumping into a friendly colleague where a chat would commence. The friendlier the relationship, the longer the chat. You could also be easily pulled away from the work you were supposed to be doing to ‘help out’ a colleague, as you were physically there, and how could you say no when asked?

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There now has to be mutual trust between the employer and employee: the former needs to know that the work is being done and the latter needs to believe that their job is secure. Whilst this existed before, working remotely is in a different context. The benefit is the greater the trust, the stronger the relationship.

The times of being chained to a designated desk because everything must be done in the office have gone, forever. There is going to be a serious battle for the best talent, as the battlefield of old has just been levelled out with enforced remote working. Employers will now have to change their game plan if they want to secure the best people in the sector.

Do they have the leaders in place to know how to make this transformation? Something to discuss next time. Let the battle commence.

Steve McNally

Director, McNally Recruitment

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