With the (seemingly never ending) uncertainty around Brexit, as yet another deadline extension and snap election has been agreed, there are concerns around whether London will continue to thrive as a tech hub and leading destination for tech talent. However, recent statistics from the government’s digital economy council found that tech start-ups in Britain gained a significant boost in investment this year (2019). On top of that, the figures also revealed that the UK remains the most attractive country in Europe for overseas technology investors - with tech companies receiving £5.5 billion in new funding this year.
However, to maintain London’s position as a tech hub, organisations will need to ensure they uphold the capital’s reputation as a top spot for talent. This is particularly important as research reveals that over half of businesses think they’ll lose access to tech talent once we leave the EU. This is something they cannot afford, especially considering the fact that we’re currently already dealing with a significant skills shortage in the sector.
Retain and upskill to lead the charge
In this tight labour market, employee retention is especially important. However, to improve retention, employers have to understand what it is that their employees do and don’t want. Ways to obtain this information include carrying out employee surveys and conducting exit interviews when employees decide to leave the organisation. Hosting Q&A sessions with staff or town hall meetings that provide an open forum for discussion, as well as scheduling regular one to one meetings between manager and employee can also help with finding out what is proving successful in the workplace. These insights can then be used to make improvements, address issues, and ultimately ensure the organisation is able to retain talent.
On a similar note, employers should recognise that employee happiness revolves around more than pay, and ambitious jobseekers and employees will be interested in the career development opportunities on offer. As such, upskilling initiatives are a worthwhile investment. Especially as they will also help organisations futureproof themselves by enabling them to grow the specific skills they need.
To help ensure that these kinds of investments give organisations the edge over their competition, promoting exactly what they are doing to retain talent and engage prospective employees is key. An Employee Value Proposition (which should include the organisation’s upskilling strategy) can be extremely powerful, but only if it’s being actively lived and effectively communicated.
Focusing on helping job seekers get work experience is another way in which businesses can grow their own talent, and tackle tech skills shortages. While the government obviously has a role to play in getting people ready for the world of work, businesses must play their part too. Organisations could, for example, host experience work days where jobseekers can come and shadow existing employees, or organise job talks at local schools.
Businesses should also consider redesigning how work is done within their organisations. In order to provide new opportunities for employees, businesses could, for example, make it easier for their workforce to move across and around the organisation, as well as up. As part of this, companies should also make sure employees are aware of the various career pathways open to them. It’ll show that there are opportunities to build a career within the company and, as a result, help improve employee retention.
Along similar lines, rethinking what they are looking for when it comes to talent can also be powerful for organisations struggling with tech talent shortages. Rather than only hiring graduates, they could, for example, think about whether applicants for certain jobs really need a degree?
Dip into other talent pools
Tech companies in London should also broaden their horizons and recruit outside of their usual talent pools. Over the past few years, we’ve increasingly seen companies recognise the benefit of recruiting neurodiverse talent. In addition to improving recruitment processes to attract more diverse talent, companies must consider rethinking their recruitment criteria. For example, by questioning whether a degree is really required for a certain role. Businesses should also consider candidates from other sectors, who bring transferable skills and may be better at adapting to change.
To futureproof London’s tech scene, it’s important that business in this area build a more diverse workforce. This requires the right structure and culture to help bring about positive change to the way we recruit and retain people.
While there is no doubt that London is still very much a buzzing tech hub despite the UK’s decision to leave the EU, tech companies cannot afford to rest on their laurels. Businesses need to do all they can to ensure they are providing their employees with the skills they need, and retain the talent they have – whether it’s through upskilling, supporting job seekers or recruiting from diverse talent pools. Doing so will help ensure London can keep its tech crown when the UK leaves the EU.