The appetite for growth in the UK’s technology sector has never been greater, writes Sam Smith, President EMEA & Global Client Delivery, Magnit. In February of this year, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak furthered his mission to make the UK a science and technology superpower by establishing the country’s first-ever Department for Science, Innovation, and Technology.

The Department’s mere existence, in addition to its focus on the latest technologies such as quantum computing and Artificial Intelligence (AI), demonstrates a clear appetite to drive the sector forward.

Yet, staffing remains a concern for many technology-driven businesses. Magnit’s internal data highlights that it is more difficult to source candidates for specialist IT roles than any other position across all industries. In order for the sector to grow, businesses require urgent solutions to skilled labour shortages.

A struggling sector, despite a perceived digital boom

From an outsider’s perspective, technology seems to be thriving. From ChatGPT to the Metaverse, technology is central to our conversations both at work and at home. Yet, external perceptions of the industry do not necessarily match the internal reality.

Businesses can only succeed when they have strong talent driving their operations. As such, if the technology sector hopes to continue its current upward growth trajectory, it needs to reassess its approach to staffing. For instance, at present four out of five of the UK’s most in-demand roles across all sectors are in technology, including cloud computing engineers and AI solutions architects. This trend demonstrates a lack of talent for specialist technology roles, which is likely to ultimately result in businesses struggling to develop in this area. Organisations cannot expect to be at the cutting-edge of innovation without an effective workforce – it is time to refocus on how to attract and retain the right talent they need to succeed.

Balance employee benefits offerings to ensure high retention

The technology sector is well-known for offering high average salaries, with annual salary estimates for IT jobs in the UK sitting at around £47,500. Technology businesses are already generally providing a competitive financial offering to their employees, so it may be worth reviewing other aspects of employee benefits when tackling the skills shortage.

Analysis of priorities highlights that organisations are increasingly emphasising learning and development (L&D) and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programmes in their offering for employees. Today’s approach to employee experience extends beyond pay, as employees increasingly seek purpose and career development in their roles. In the technology sector, where knowledge can quickly become outdated, employees are likely to have a keen appetite to learn about the latest developments. Equally, in a sector that often lacks female representation, initiatives like women’s networks are often welcomed.

To fully optimise employee experience, businesses should actively uncover the unique needs of their workforce is prioritising by leveraging Talent Intelligence software. Such software gives HR teams the ability to capture worker sentiment in the form of feedback, surveys, and opinions on a range of matters. Firms can then analyse this data to ensure that their employee benefits offering is always up to date with changing internal cultures and desires, ensuring that skilled employees are kept happy and retained.

Regularly attract new types of talent to fill any skills gaps

Candidate attraction goes hand in hand with talent retention; even when businesses have high retention rates, they may still have skills gaps that require plugging. Beyond traditional candidate sources, many technology companies are leveraging new types of talent to fill vacant roles. This includes integrating different types of contingent workers into their existing workforce, whether that be temporary agency workers, independent contractors, Statement of Work (SOW) consultants, human cloud workers, or a range of other temporary ‘gig’ workers. Such talent is popular in the technology sector, as businesses often require a very specific skillset for a given project or period of time. Equally, the technology sector is rather accepting of remote working, meaning that contingent workers can easily slot into an organisation’s existing workforce. When leveraged alongside a strong employee retention strategy, contingent workers can provide a goldmine of key skills to support businesses’ innovation.

Overcoming the labour shortage in the technology sector requires a two-pronged approach, centred around employee retention and attracting a range of new candidates. Companies must first ensure that existing talent is retained, offering a competitive value proposition to ensure that key skills are kept on-board. This can then be backed up with a strong approach to candidate attraction, focusing specifically on diverse types of workers. The two strategies fulfil slightly different purposes, but ultimately contribute to the same goal of ensuring no skills are left behind. In executing this approach, technology businesses can drive innovation forward and continue to deliver commercial success, all the while delivering on the UK government’s aim for the country to become a global technology superpower.