As we enter a new decade, the demand for tech skills is higher than ever before. To thrive and gain the edge in a fiercely competitive market, having access to certain tech skills will be crucial. But as technological developments gather pace, snowballing their way into 2020, how can businesses keep on top of knowing which skills they need to tap into?
As an online marketplace for flexible talent, with access to insight from businesses across sectors and their current demands for skills, we, at Worksome, expect the top ten sought-after tech skills this year will be:
- Machine Learning
- Data Science
- Web Development
- Mobile Development
- Cloud Computing
- Agile/Scrum Master
- DevOps Engineering
- Data Visualisation
- Information and Cybersecurity
No surprise there, I know. You’ve probably seen a list like this a number of times before. In fact, you probably would have guessed, straight off the top of your head, that AI, Machine Learning, and Data Science would be right up there in the top five, right?
There’s no doubt that having access to tech skills will be critical for businesses looking to gain a competitive advantage this year, but what about the longer term vision? If you’re looking to truly future-proof your business with the right skills, there’s one important thing you’re probably overlooking.
You should not merely employ your workforce based on their skills alone. It’s important to take into consideration other factors, such as the ability to work in an agile, flexible and project-based way.
Let me explain why. With the rapid technological developments constantly changing, so are the skills that are needed in order to keep up. There’s no real way of knowing whether the skills needed for this year will be the same as the skills needed for the following year, or even the year after that. With a foreseeable and linear growth in technology, it’s easy to plan ahead. But with exponential growth in technology - it’s a lot harder.
That’s why it’s so important to hire people who are able to function in an ever-changing business environment: people who are adaptable. That’s not a skill - it’s a profession and an attitude. The flexible workforce consisting of highly skilled freelancers, independent consultants and contractors, represents a pool of talent who are able to do just that.
And it has been growing in recent years. According to a study by IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and Self Employed), the freelance economy in the UK has grown by 25 per cent since 2009, and generates an estimated £109bn a year. This study is supported by the Office for National Statistics, who found that flexible workers now account for around 15 per cent of the working population in the UK. The IPSE study also states that nearly half of the UK’s self-employed fall into the highly skilled, well-qualified and highly educated category, working in managerial, professional and technical roles. This has helped to drive the freelance economy with approximately two million freelancers currently working in the UK, with 5% of all freelancers working in the IT and telecoms industry. Using the freelance pool of talent, companies can pick and choose skills according to their needs in real time, providing them with the ability to respond much faster to market demands. Which is why more companies than ever are now using flexible workers to meet their demands. The REC (Recruitment and Employment Confederation) believes the number of UK employers intending to increase or maintain their use of flexible workers will rise to 87 per cent.
Research by Accenture Strategy shows the key advantages of employing flexible workers include fast access to relevant and highly skilled talent, and agility in the face of a highly turbulent business environment. Given today’s competitive business world, this is absolutely crucial. Hiring flexible workers enables businesses to quickly adjust to changing consumer demands, by upscaling and downscaling staff accordingly.
Workmarket’s 2017 Workforce Productivity Report suggests that businesses that embrace these changes build more competitive organisations, experience greater efficiencies and cost savings, and are able to deliver specialised skills faster.
Yet, in spite of all these advantages, some companies are still reluctant to hire from the flexible workforce, because they fear the average cost of a freelance developer is higher than that of a permanent developer.
Surviving and thriving
Nowadays, that’s simply not true. While freelancers usually command a higher hourly rate, the overall average cost of hiring a freelancer is, in fact, lower than that of hiring a permanent employee. Consider all of the hidden costs of hiring a permanent employee, such as pension, insurance, holiday pay, sick pay, bonus, shares - the list goes on.
So with the evolving world of recruitment, combined with the fact that business needs are constantly changing, it’s important to keep an open mind when expanding your workforce. The key to hiring the best team in 2020 is to not only focus on great skills, capabilities and personal fit, but to also consider people who have the right attitude towards challenges and learning. With more and more people choosing to freelance rather than seeking permanent employment - creating a more competitive marketplace - businesses would do well to take note and adapt accordingly to ensure they continue to attract the right talent.
That’s the key to not only surviving in the years to come, but to thriving and staying at the top.
Mathias Linnemann, Co-founder, Worksome