New data on job vacancies in the UK suggests that employers are switching up their recruitment efforts in response to the continued shortage of tech and IT workers.
The latest Report on Jobs, published by KPMG and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and compiled by IHS Markit, found that the IT and Computing sector continued to lead growth in permanent job vacancies in December 2021.
But while there were more full-time roles available in technology than the nine other sectors monitored by the report, vacancy growth is beginning to slow. This might suggest that the boom in demand for tech workers prompted by the pandemic is beginning to wane, with KPMG and REC finding that businesses are focusing their efforts on "hiring smarter, not faster".
Lisa Heneghan, chief digital officer at KPMG, said the findings indicate that employers are resolved to the fact that hiring alone is not the antidote to an increasingly pressurized tech-hiring market.
Heneghan said that employers are already "paying over the odds for skills that are in high demand," with smaller companies finding themselves easily outpriced by larger companies with bigger hiring budgets. At the same time, the rollout of emerging technologies by businesses requiring specialised technical knowledge means "there are simply not enough individuals available to fill this huge void."
Businesses have started looking inwards to address their tech talent deficit, said Heneghan: "As a result, we will see more organisations turn to upskilling their existing employees instead to fulfil their digital requirements."
In addition to filling skills gaps, upskilling and reskilling could play an important role in staff retention as tech workers contemplate new employment opportunities.
Resignation rates have inched up in many counties over the past 12 months, with record levels of US workers quitting in November 2021.
Software professionals in particular are readily eyeing up new job offers, lured by offers of greater flexibility and better pay from organizations desperate to hire.
Giving employees an opportunity to learn new skills and progress – particularly if they feel their career development has come to a standstill – has been shown to be a potentially effective means of encouraging workers to stay.
Competition for scarce workers is also pushing up starting pay for both permanent and temporary workers across all sectors, the report found, with inflation rates "among the quickest on record."
Neil Carberry, chief executive of the REC, said: "Businesses need to make sure they are reacting to the long-term challenges of this market, thinking harder about their offer to staff and how to shape their future workforce. Recruiters are ideally positioned to help employers with this, and support governments across the UK on the skills, immigration and tax reforms that are needed to keep us competitive."
If job vacancies do continue to fall, employees might have more of an incentive to stay put. However, KPMG noted that while growth in both permanent and temporary tech jobs has slowed, the data "still pointed to a marked uplift in vacancies as firms continued to try and expand their workforces."
Heneghan said: "Throughout 2021, the ongoing pandemic accelerated organizations' digital transformation, the knock-on effect being a boom in technology jobs across the UK. Businesses were scrambling to hire talent to support their efforts, but, for many, it was unclear what digital skills they needed for the long term. Now that companies have breathing space to plan their future technology strategies, the data suggests that they are hiring smarter, not faster – reflected in the slowdown in the growth rate of permanent staff demand.
"Every company is using technology more and more, so I expect the IT & Computing sector to retain its leading position for permanent vacancy growth for the foreseeable future."