External challenges of recruiting technical talent in Europe

Blog posts 20 February, 2017 Fred Smith

Challenges of attraction & retention – external

     As we move onto the second paper in this series we will examine a second set of challenges which are largely dictated by market forces. These can be labelled as external challenges which have arisen as a result of the relative speed in which the industry has developed and from an employers perspective are harder to manage as they are aspects which they can have little to no influence over.

Demand outweighs supply

     According to Stack Overflow, a leading website for Developers, 98.5% of Developers are employed in Europe, and only 8% are looking for a job. This is illustrated in a recent survey by research group gfk which found from a survey of businesses within London’s Shoreditch Tech Cluster 77% saw a lack of skilled workers as the single biggest hindrance to growth.

     In a candidate driven market, when technical talent become available it is very common for them to juggle multiple offers from competing employers. Therefore, the risk of getting to the end of a long recruitment process only to not be able to secure the required technical talent is increasingly common and often allows candidates greater freedom to increasingly dictate their own terms.

Local hires favouring contract/freelance work increasingly early on in career

     Traditionally within the talent IT have waited until they have been in permanent employment for significant periods before entering the highly lucrative contracting market. With an increase in demand, attractive day rates on offer and favorable taxation available, technical talents are now entering this space earlier and earlier. As a result, the pool of talent IT available on a permanent basis is shrinking. Whereas, the number of ‘mercenaries’ who move around often largely attracted to the highest bidder is increasing.

     When continuity in knowledge sharing and an in depth understanding of an organisations development goals and processes is key to a project being delivered on time and to budget. The need to rely on a market which leans towards contract engagements can be a precarious position to be in.

The growing phenomenon of ‘prima donna engineers’

     An article by techcrunch details a phenomena that is emerging where “In a world where technical talent truly are the new rock stars and markets continue to be moderately funded, it is not uncommon to witness or experience the engineering “prima donna effect.”

     Ultimately this is a factor which employers may or may not be able to control, dependent on whether it can be picked up on during a hiring process. Ben Schippers of techcrunch identifies that if some of the below traits are common place in team members  – it may be an issue:

  • “Working hard” is rolling into work at 10:22 am and wanting to leave by 4:50 pm because are tired
  • Only write “good code” during full moons
  • Graduated from a developer bootcamp and have full-stack engineer on their resume
  • They and their friends refer to them as a “ninja”

     A 2016 survey conducted by Stack Overflow of over 56,000 developers found that 10%  self-identified as Ninjas. As they have rightly pointed out ‘Real ninjas don’t tell you they’re ninjas. They just sneak up on you and slit your throat, which we’re pretty sure constitutes a “hostile workplace environment”’. The effects of this phenomena are often felt most when looking for longevity throughout a project lifecycle as can often tie in with retention difficulties that can disrupt project flow.

     As we can see these external factors are some of the forces at play within the human capital market in the technology industry. While both internal and external challenges pose their own unique problems these external factors are certainly more difficult to control. The final paper, will move on to examine the alternative fram^ approach which can offer solutions to these – both internal and external.

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