Employees with cloud, software development and IT security skills are most likely to be safe from layoffs and other workforce pressures caused by a recession over the next year, a survey of UK IT leaders has found.
According to Robert Half's 2023 Salary Guide, business leaders remain focused on expanding, accelerating and protecting their IT investments over the next 12 months, despite many companies preparing to feel the squeeze of an economic downturn.
In fact, 79% of chief information officers (CIOs) and chief technology officers (CTOs) report feeling 'very confident' about their company's growth prospects in the year ahead, citing efficiency and productivity (31%), computing initiatives (26%), digital transformation (24%), and blockchain and Internet of Things (IoT) projects as their top strategic priorities for 2023.
Recruitment specialist Robert Half said tech leaders' focus on technology investments meant that tech and IT workers would continue to be in high demand, and that tech leaders "are clear that roles are likely to be safe from recession fears."
While developers and cloud experts are in "unprecedented" demand, cybersecurity professionals were identified as the employees companies are most eager to hire in the year ahead.
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Over a third (36%) of CIOs and CTOs said that rolling out IT security and information-safeguarding initiatives were "key strategic priorities in 2023 and beyond."
To meet these targets, 30% of employers are actively hiring to boost their stretched IT teams. However, just under half of respondents reported that cybersecurity skills were the most difficult to find, highlighting the ongoing difficulties companies face trying to close their skills gaps.
Craig Freedberg, director of tech placements at Robert Half, said the need for cybersecurity professionals was becoming even more urgent as cyberattacks on businesses, consumers and infrastructure mount in frequency and sophistication.
Companies that can't find the talent they require through traditional hiring should consider providing skills training to existing staff to help meet their requirements, he added.
"Due to the growth of cloud and 'big data', security is a growing concern for many UK businesses, and this will only increase as the vast number of digitalisation projects near completion," said Freedberg.
"However, our research shows that the demand for candidates with the sought-after skills far outstrips the supply and as such, we recommend employers upskill their current workforce to ensure vital IT infrastructure is cyber-secure and fit for purpose."
Technology and IT skills have been more difficult than ever to come by since 2020, when many companies were forced to invest in apps, cloud services and software when the COVID-19 pandemic made remote working essential.
Now that tech projects have been pushed to the top of bosses' agendas, employers are determined to keep up the pace of innovation: which means having to hire more and more developers, cloud experts and IT security professionals.
While this has caused headaches for hiring managers, skilled tech workers are seeing their employment opportunities flourish, with employers offering ever-higher salaries and flexible working options in an effort to attract candidates.
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Robert Half surveyed 300 leaders at small, medium and large business in the UK to understand how companies were being affected by these issues.
Of the CIOs surveyed by Robert Half, 44% reported that job candidates were asking for higher salaries after receiving a counter offer from their current employer. With competition for tech talent at an all-time high, organizations are increasingly relying on counter offers to hold onto employees, Robert Half said.
Salaries for tech workers are also less affected by inflation than those of workers in other industries. According to Robert Half's findings, the median salary for a mid-level cloud engineer based in London is £67,100 a year – 22% higher than the median national average. Senior-level engineers, who are currently seeing highest demand, earn a median salary of £74,000 per year.
A senior-level head of engineering can expect to make an average of £109,000, the study found. For an information security manager, the median salary is £88,000.
Robert Half also found that leaders are wary about introducing working arrangements that could harm retention: 38% of CIOs and CTOs believe that remote working has a negative impact on employee career progression, while 28% said they were finding it hard to maintain corporate culture.
And yet, retention concerns mean that 74% of tech leaders are currently operating a hybrid model – although 20% expect to be back in the office full-time next year.
Freedberg said: "Everyone is playing the same game, and tech leaders need to think carefully about their strategy to ensure they have a competitive advantage when it comes to attracting and retaining great talent."