COVID-19 and the Technology Talent Market

Published: 21 December 2020

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Earlier this year, when the first lockdown was well underway, we launched a survey to understand the impact Covid-19 and the associated lockdowns, have had on the lives and careers of technology professionals. Much has happened in the time since, a return to the office for many in September, followed swiftly by a call to work from home and of course, a second lockdown. As we approach the end of 2020 it feels like the perfect time to take stock and reflect on Covid-19’s impact on the technology talent market and technology professionals.

We surveyed technology professionals to ask how the lockdown and the global pandemic had affected their careers. Some of the biggest takeaways are about how this year has changed candidates’ priorities when looking for a new role. In our survey, we sought to look at the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic from a new perspective. With so many people out of work, almost every industry has become a candidate-driven market. Advice abounds about how candidates can make themselves stand out, but it’s an appropriate time to call upon the responses to gauge what worked, what didn’t and what candidates will be looking for in 2021 and beyond.

It has broadly been acknowledged that technology professionals have been integral in enabling businesses to adapt to the lockdowns, either through supporting remote working or digitising customer touchpoints. You may have even seen headlines stating that the technology industry is not slowing down. Certainly, in April and May, Zoom and Microsoft seemed to be some of the early winners among the chaos. How do those peaks measure up to the lived experience of those working in the technology industry?

How the pandemic affected careers:

  • 43.9% of professionals surveyed had retained their job with no change
  • 12.2% said their contract was not renewed in the first lockdown
  • 14% lost their job

When asked about the impact Covid-19 and the lockdown had on their workload the response was varied. From those that felt there had been a positive effect, “In general, there is better online communication across the company, so lots of things get resolved faster”. To those that had experienced a “reduction in workload and a reduction in hours”.

 

How respondents felt about their employer’s handling of the pandemic:

  • 51.2% felt their employer met or exceeded their expectations in their handling of the Covid-19 pandemic

When asked to provide more detail, respondents who had been disappointed with their employer’s response explained there was “total panic” “lack of clear communication” or were critical of the volume or speed of furloughs. Those who were happy with their employer’s approach praised the “human approach” the “transparency” and proactivity of employers moving to home working from early March 2020. 

 

The impact on candidates’ future expectations:

 

 

 

We asked respondents to describe how their expectations had changed in the short term. Answers formed three categories; unchanged, desire for a safe and socially distanced work environment/to continue working from home and those who were more concerned about job security.

Job security was a strong theme for how respondents long term expectations of employers have changed too. 41.5% of respondents said they would be more concerned with an employer’s financial stability. The vast majority, 85.4%, now expect remote working to be an option, but only 26.8% expect roles to be 100% remote. Only 2.5% of respondents said there had been no change in their expectations.

 

What’s the takeaway?

Firstly, remote working must be available. Remote working is praised for the benefit to work-life balance, and we at Sentinel recommend it for access to international talent. During the pandemic, home-working provided the flexibility that kept businesses afloat. While the technical capability has long been available, culture has historically been an obstacle for many organisations. Some practices benefit from working in close physical proximity, but that can no longer be a requisite for success. When looking at prospective hires capacity for independent working must now be a top priority.

Looking ahead to 2021 employers should be prepared for the obvious question in interviews “how did the company manage the pandemic?”. The answer will tell a story of company culture, of how effectively you communicate, how transparent your decision making is and what prospective candidates can expect from you, in times of crisis. More than that, offering information about how you’ve handled this time and anything the business has decided to carry forward, is an opportunity to introduce candidates to the corporate values. In the current candidate saturated market, this can be a great opportunity to establish a cultural fit, on both sides.

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