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The Growing European Software Development market

During my years in Software Development Recruitment, I have witnessed the growing European market for development services. It doesn’t take long recruiting in this market to see how the shortage of talent is pushing European companies towards outsourcing their development. In addition to offering cost savings, outsourcing allows these companies to stay focused on their core business. The most important driver of demand is digital transformation and automation, which has been accelerated by the current pandemic. Europe has a growing demand for development services. The combination of a considerable shortage of skilled developers and an increasing need for digital transformation and automation drives this growth. Software development requires specialist knowledge and in the era we live in, practically every company needs software in some form. This being said, most companies do not want/need to hire an in-house development team and because of this, development is the most outsourced IT service in the world. There is a large gap between the number of development jobs and the number of available developers. A google search later and I discovered that in 2014, the European Commission predicted a shortage of 900,000 IT professionals for 2020. In 2017, they adjusted this prediction to a shortage of 500,000. Although it may be smaller than initially estimated, the shortage is real: 53% of European companies report difficulties in recruiting IT specialists. Naturally then, you would expect the European developer population to grow, which it is, however it cannot keep up with the demand. In 2019, the number of developers in Europe increased by 7% to 6.1 million. At the same time, demand for IT skills in Western markets is expected to grow by more than 10% in 2021! This demand has been boosted by the awareness that the recent lockdown measures have created, highlighting the need for digital transformation and automation. To fill this void, many companies in Europe try to hire developers from abroad. Since this shortage affects most European countries, and through my conversations I have established that most European developers prefer jobs within their own country, companies regularly recruit talent from outside Europe. A more practical option, which provides more flexibility, is to outsource development tasks to offshore providers. The recent increase in remote working due to lockdowns may spur this on, as it blurs the distinction between in-house, nearshore and offshore teams. A major advantage of outsourcing development services is that European end-user companies do not need to hire in-house expertise if they outsource these activities. Development requires excellent knowledge, tools and security provisions that most European end-user companies do not have readily available. Outsourcing allows them to focus on their core business and gives them the flexibility to engage specialised developers as and when needed. This is particularly relevant during the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, as companies need the staff they retained to perform their core activities, which may already include additional tasks from colleagues that were let go or furloughed. In conclusion, it is evident to me that in this digital era, the supply cannot keep up with the demand. Every day I talk to more businesses that are exploring other ways to service their development requirements and I find it very exciting. If you keep fishing in the same ponds, however good the fish are, there are only so many of them. If you'd like to discuss current markets in software development further, please do not hesitate to contact me at matthew@consultancygroup.com.

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Reducing unconscious bias in recruitment

Following our successful webinar with Hayley Barnard of MIX Diversity on unconscious bias within the recruitment process, we thought it would be useful to share some of the wisdom we learned from the event with you. Unconscious bias refers to ingrained beliefs, attitudes or perceptions, positive or negative, towards certain groups of people that exist outside of our conscious awareness. While we may be aware of some of our own biases, others are often acquired stereotypes we have unwittingly taken on throughout our lives. They provoke automatic responses that often don’t even reflect what we actually think or feel, even though they can influence our behaviour, body language and conversations. It is important that we identify our biases in order to challenge any potentially discriminatory beliefs and prevent biased outcomes from our subconscious decisions, including those we make when it comes to hiring. Unchecked, unconscious bias in recruitment can result in an almost total lack of diversity within organisations, especially in more senior positions, when minority groups get discriminated against during the hiring process. Without diversity within teams and within the leadership of a company, businesses miss out on a rich range of ideas and perspectives from talented individuals who have been overlooked, which in turn affects innovation and ultimately growth. During the hiring process, unconscious bias happens when you form an opinion about candidates based solely on first impressions or on criteria from a CV that is irrelevant to the position, such as their name, where they are from or a photo. Hiring managers will often use the phrase “gut feeling” about a candidate, and positive or negative, that feeling will inform the ultimate hiring decision if nothing is done about it. So, what can we do? Aside from unconscious bias training and raising better awareness internally, and before we address actual recruiting process steps that can be improved, it’s important to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of where our talent pipeline begins. Diversifying the whole hiring process will achieve better results than just concentrating on the final selection stages. Ensuring that we are considering and successfully reaching typically overlooked and untapped talent pools is crucial: endlessly fishing in the same pond delivers the same type of fish. Bias against education or background, or people who have taken extended career breaks or made radical career changes, hugely limits the candidate pool. Once we are offering an equal opportunity to everyone with the relevant skills sets, then there are plenty of other stages in the recruitment process that can be adjusted to ensure we don’t miss out on talent: Job descriptions: The language used in job ads needs close consideration. There are masculine-sounding adjectives that will subconsciously attract men and put off women. “Assertive”, “competitive”, even “build” instead of “create” have all been proven to result in fewer female candidates. There is software that can help write more gender-neutral descriptions. CVs: Redacting certain information from CVs, such as age, education and names, helps remove bias. Comparing CVs – holding one up as the ideal that others need to meet – also increases bias. Try to look past the halo effect (one impressive thing) or horns effect (one negative incident) on a CV and concentrate on skills and experience AI, taking the human angle out of the process, can help remove identifiable candidate data from a CV and ensure that everyone who meets the criteria is considered Interviews: Ensure you have a diverse interview panel in terms of gender, age and ethnicity if possible The gender pay gap is still very real, so don’t ask about salary history Don’t ask questions related to company culture as this will sacrifice inclusivity when you subconsciously look for something that will fit Please keep an eye out for more of our diversity and inclusion events in the coming months. If you would like more information on how to minimise bias in your recruitment process, contact us today.

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The Next Normal: Are we ready for hybrid working?

In a year like no other, 2020 saw the workplace react impressively to remote working, then its more permanent sibling, the working-from-home model, which soon became known as “the new normal”. Now, as vaccine confidence enables offices to tentatively reopen, we’re faced with “the next normal” in the form of hybrid working. Hybrid working is a model where some or all employees return to the workplace some of the time, continuing to work from home for the rest of the week. It is an attempt to revive workplace culture, structure and social elements while retaining the independence, flexibility and satisfaction that most employees have enjoyed over the last year. There are no typical rules to a hybrid working policy, it will be different for almost every organisation, but it does challenge every company to think about its workspace, employees and culture, and adopting the right approach to “the next normal” will be critical for attracting and retaining talent. Businesses worldwide are split on how to proceed. Many of the tech giants committed some time ago to their employees having the option to permanently work remotely, whereas the Goldman Sachs leadership have publicly shown their disdain for remote work recently, encouraging its employees back to the office. The issue with either stance is employee satisfaction. A Gartner survey found that 70% of us want to retain some kind of remote working option. However, a full-time remote setup doesn’t help those employees for whom that isn’t attractive and who are desperate to get back to the workplace. So, how do companies decide what to do? The pros and cons are a reasonable place to start. The pros of hybrid working: The most important positive of a hybrid working model is that it enables organisations to incorporate social distancing and retain a safe workplace, minimizing the risk of infection among employees, given the virus is still with us. This health and safety angle has to come first. For employees, the flexibility and better work/life balance brings obvious job satisfaction, and an option to return to the office will help with collaboration, relationships and mitigate any feelings of isolation. For employers the pros of hybrid working include:  • Downsizing permanent larger office space is a direct cost saving • Smaller collaboration hub offices are more flexible but deliver the same workplace environment to employees • Remote working has brought about a new direct channel of communication between leaders and employees that can be adopted and improved upon • Hybrid working enables the digital transformation journey that many companies were forced into to be finished correctly, ahead of any original schedule • It permanently removes the traditional barriers to flexible working, such as line-of-sight management • It fosters employee attraction and retention – surveys show that candidates will actively choose employers that offer a better work/life balance and that employees will move if there is an option of increased flexibility elsewhere • A wider talent pool to recruit from: remote job postings on LinkedIn increased fivefold last year and the option to work remotely brings a huge new candidate profile into the market  • It makes recruiting, interviewing and onboarding easier again  And the arguments against hybrid working: • Remote working encourages a silo mentality among teams, and makes for difficult collaboration and innovation  • Digital exhaustion has recently become a genuine issue, with frequent online meetings held in place of a brief face-to-face interaction • Teams are harder to manage in terms of who is in today, who isn’t, and individual morale • IT becomes more complicated and expensive – with the added headache of cybersecurity becoming a growing problem for remote working • Will presenteeism raise its head again? Will those who choose to come in more often be favoured, in terms of promotions and bonuses? • For those who don’t come back, will there be FOMO, or alienation from a team? How can employers recreate “watercooler moments” and banter? • Engagement will be a real challenge, particularly with Gen Z employees who have only just entered the workplace Companies are going to need to listen to their employees as they form their hybrid working plans. There will be those who never want to return to the office and those who can’t wait. Managing those differing expectations and adopting a policy that gets the best out of all parties will be a challenge, but those organisations who do it well could gain a significant competitive edge.

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Danger: counteroffer ahead

The drastic changes in the workplace since the global pandemic have shifted the focus on how we view work, flexibility and work/life balance. Despite being initially forced to work from home, the majority of employees have proven that productivity and communication can be maintained working remotely. As such, they now want to retain the option to continue either remotely or in a hybrid working model – so much so, that many will consider changing jobs for it. Nothing to worry about there from a recruiter’s point of view, of course, until you factor in a renewed emphasis on retention for employers that will see the rise of the counteroffer in a last-minute bid to hang onto key talent.    A counteroffer is widely regarded as a weak tactic. From an employer’s point of view, an unexpected resignation can feel like a real kick in the teeth after potentially significant investment in the training and development of an individual. The majority of the time, compensation is cited as one of the reasons to leave, but it’s rarely the genuine root cause. Top performers don’t quit to get a pay rise, so counteroffering is usually a waste of time. The very best talent wants to stretch themselves, take on more responsibility, and advance their careers – and if an employer hasn’t allowed them to do this, then it’s already too late.    At the moment of resignation, an employee must have been interviewing, often with direct competitors in the same space for weeks, if not months. That means they’ve met other people, bonded, possibly met their future teams, and been through an offer and negotiation process. And all that time, they didn’t feel that they had a strong enough relationship with their current employer to discuss contracts, compensation or any other reason to leave. Even if they do fold and accept a counteroffer, there’s no guarantee that they won’t leave anyway a few months later (almost 90% leave within a year).    From the employee angle, a counteroffer is an unpleasant situation to be put in. If compensation was mentioned as part of any resignation discussions, it can be uncomfortable to follow up with new (or the real) reasons in the face of the counteroffer. Accepting the offer is a particularly bad idea. A resignation letter, even if rescinded, will have effectively signalled an intent to leave. The farce of accepting a counteroffer may play out with handshakes and smiles all round, but the reality is that the employer now knows who they’re dealing with and can start the process of finding a replacement or transitioning the role elsewhere. Word travels fast, both internally and externally, and an employee’s reputation can be damaged by interviewing elsewhere then ultimately accepting a counteroffer.    As recruiters, we have plenty of experience in helping our candidates navigate the counteroffer and we will no doubt be reiterating these points to them in the near future:   • Anticipate a counteroffer: it happens all the time, so don’t be thrown off course • Don’t be flattered: any salary increase offered is a fraction of the cost of recruiting and training a new hire • Don’t think any problems are solved: the employer is merely buying time to replace you now that they know you want to leave • Remember why you’re in this position: it was never just about the money • Talk to your recruitment consultant: you need someone in your corner throughout the resignation process      

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Consumerism Is Dead: Long Live Consumerism

The world of retail has been through a transformational decade with the rise of ecommerce, coupled with advances in payment tech, and the expansion of the digital giants. A number of household names have slowly disappeared over the years as a result. Then, 2020 saw a seismic shift in consumer behaviour as people the world over were forced to avoid the high street completely and switch to shopping online, as a result of a global pandemic.  Businesses that were already predominantly or solely digital have of course boomed. Ocado, for example, reported a 35% rise in sales to more than £2bn and enjoyed a tripled share price as shoppers avoided physical supermarkets. Within the same market sectors, direct competitors had vastly differing fortunes, depending on their digital capabilities. Primark, an established bricks and mortar high street brand with no real online presence suffered an estimated £1bn loss, compared to ASOS who enjoyed a 40% year-on-year increase. Paperchase went into administration and were forced to streamline by closing dozens of physical stores, whereas their online competitor Moonpig received a £1bn valuation. It’s no surprise then that retail organisations everywhere are embarking upon a digital transformation before it’s too late. So, what are their key priorities as they look to transform themselves into digital retailers and where do Finance teams fit in? Digital Transformation: Digital transformation sits firmly within the Finance team, with the last 12 months additionally adding remote working into the challenge. Not reverting to legacy systems and providing access to systems and data for Finance professionals working from home is essential but has also left a number of businesses susceptible to cybercrime. Cybersecurity:  Ramping up cybersecurity and its internal training, particularly in the wake of increased remote working, is a crucial element of digital transformation. With vast amounts of consumer data stored online, a cyberattack can paralyse a business and result in heavy fines and loss of reputation. Robust cybersecurity will mean the hackers will move on to easier targets. Data: Harvesting data and securing it is one thing, successfully using that data is another. The rise of the data analytics professional in Finance teams has been rapid as organisations look to get the most from their insight and drive their businesses forward, identifying opportunities, trends or issues that they can maximise or eradicate. One constructor in the Retail sector, for example, outperformed its competitors by spotting upcoming shortages in building materials in their long-range supply chain and bulk ordering accordingly. When others were forced to down tools, they were able to continue working. Central Warehousing: The demand for central warehousing is booming as companies look to meet the demands of their customers. Vast distribution centres in key, strategic locations are the only way to meet competitive delivery deadlines. Productivity: Companies who have adopted machine learning AI into their Finance functions as part of their digital transformations have not only seen a bump in productivity due to the repetitive, manual data entry tasks being automated, but have also seen an increase in employee satisfaction. With mundane, day-to-day tasks taken care of, Finance professionals are free to take on more meaningful, strategic work, which results in happier employees. These same companies are also therefore able to attract the top talent who want to work in an environment with the latest tech. Remote collaboration: While there was a difficult transition to remote working for many business leaders used to having their staff on hand, it has quickly become the norm for most of us. While Zoom fatigue can be an issue, those businesses who have concentrated on remote collaboration have prospered. Seeing leaders online, in their own homes and out of business attire, has levelled the playing field somewhat and given a louder voice to junior employees in many circumstances. Using video tech well, giving staff an equal chance to engage and make a difference, helps with overall productivity and corporate culture as well as employee engagement. To paraphrase McLaren’s F1 Production Director, “A virtual environment is not the same as being in the same room and that’s why it’s so important to encourage engagement and participation from everyone. What matters is every member of the team being real and feeling comfortable engaging from their own environment.” Purpose: Purpose has more meaning than ever. Employees genuinely buy in to their employer’s social agenda, and candidates today are focusing as much on an employer’s social purpose, such as an organisation’s stance on climate change or their intentions to be carbon neutral, as they are on their corporate agenda. Stating a purpose, such as Tesco’s ambition to use 100% renewable energy by 2030, needs buy-in of course, but no one will be more involved with how this commitment will be met than the Finance team, as they budget the project and align everything the business does to the agenda. If digitisation is a top priority, then it’s vital that businesses attract the right talent to drive the change and take them to the next level. Every decision a company makes, both commercial and social, is critical to their success, more so than ever before if they want to firstly survive in a digital age and secondly gain a competitive edge over the rest of the field. If you are embarking upon your digital transformation and would like to discuss specialist talent to help achieve your goals, contact us today.

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