Winning the tech talent war as digital transformation heats up


This year’s report from Tech Nation, which offers insight into the state of the UK’s digital market, identified 58,000 digital tech companies across the British isles.

It revealed over 80% of areas in the UK have seen growth in digital turnover, digital jobs and advertised digital salaries.

Job creation in the sector is taking place at over twice the speed of the rest of the economy. This demand pits all 58,000 of these digital businesses against agile competitors in the market for top tech talent.

Yet the 58,000 number does not even begin to consider the competition for another kind of digital job.

Whilst it may already be challenging enough to find candidates for what Tech Nation refers to as ‘Native’ roles, where a digital job is created within digital tech industries, there is another entire category which is becoming increasingly vital: the ‘Transformer’. This refers to digital jobs in traditional industries.

>See also: Digital transformation in 2016

There is potential for exponential growth in the demand for ‘Transformer’ talent, as businesses in traditional sectors recognise the need for digital transformation.

Indeed 80% of companies surveyed by Albion see the need for wholesale digital transformation in their business.

A startling 83% of these companies say they don’t have the employees they need to create this.  

The competition for high-quality candidates will only intensify as the more traditional companies increasingly come to the market looking for ‘Transformer’ roles.

The most recent high-profile company to join this trend was Deutsche Bank, who sent a letter to staff encouraging them to act like tech entrepreneurs.

In pursuit of innovation and agility, this rebranding towards digital entrepreneurialism will help the bank to compete with its newer fintech and challenger bank rivals.

Employer branding will only become more crucial as the war for talent gets fiercer. Information-rich digital candidates are often savvy to employer branding, possessing preconceptions about different workplaces where they would like to work – or not.

>See also: Digital transformation is the new kingmaker

Some companies are finding that they almost cannot pay enough for digital talent. Beating competition for top candidates involves more than simply hiking up the salary. Since candidates are acting more and more like consumers in the job market, companies have to consider the attractiveness of their digital employer brand.  

When completing an evaluation of their employer brand proposition, companies should consider complementing the traditional areas of external research.

Delving into the perceptions of candidates who have been through some or all of the application process for a particular business gives a valuable insight.

External research provides an understanding of the views of those who have had little or no interaction with the company.

Surveying the thoughts of candidates who have had contact with a brand can provide insight more deeply into the process of attracting talent – and beyond that, retaining it.

These efforts to understand perceptions in the tech talent market, and to build an attractive employer brand proposition, are of heightened significance in the current climate after the EU referendum. Although it is still not entirely clear what the implications of the vote will be in terms of the long-term changes for overseas workers, the Brexit vote has already had an impact in terms of the confidence of talented tech workers themselves.

>See also: The digital transformation jungle survival guide 

With about 50% of the digital roles in companies we help to fill in Britain, individuals from outside the UK are key. The main impact of the EU referendum so far has been to knock the confidence of these individuals who might have been interested in coming to Britain. Suddenly the stakes have been raised in the task of creating an attractive employer brand which appeals to top digital talent.

The realities of the digital challenge are now becoming clearer to organisations in all sectors: digital offers a wealth of new opportunities, including the opportunity to radically transform the effectiveness of a business model.

Yet it also comes with a dire warning for those who are unable to capitalise on the possibilities of digitising a business quickly enough. With this realisation, already fierce competition is only set to heat up, as companies clamour to attract employees from the pool of talented individuals who can actually make digital transformation happen.

Turning digital transformation from a conceptual goal to practical reality is a business critical issue, meaning that companies cannot afford to hope for the best.

Fighting the battle for talent requires a thorough understanding of the strength of an employer’s brand, as well as sustained work to refresh this brand so that it matches the priorities of tech workers.

Making use of the full range of employment models available – full-time, part-time, contract based, consultancy, gig economy short term engagement work, freelancing and outsourcing – means that organisations can access the tech expertise they need, as and when they need it.  


Sourced by James Parsons, founder and CEO, Arrows Group Global

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...