There are currently 1.64 million digital and tech jobs in the UK. This sector is creating jobs twice as quickly as non-digital and tech sectors, however, the evidence suggests there are not enough domestic workers to fill the available vacancies.

A further problem for the tech sector is staff retention. Typically those working in the tech sector will change employers every 18 months to ensure they are part of the “next big thing” and involved in the latest technology.

With the uncertainties caused by Brexit compounding the problem and fewer people attracted to working in the UK, tech companies face a major skills and talent gap – in both attracting candidates and retaining their existing employees.

Despite measures announced by the Prime Minister in November 2017 to counteract this problem and boost investment in UK digital and tech growth, such as doubling the number of visas available to the brightest and best talent from around the world; investment of £21 million to expand Tech City UK into a nationwide network, “Tech Nation,” to accelerate the growth of the digital tech sector across the country and a new £20 million fund to help public services take advantage of UK expertise in innovative technologies like Artificial Intelligence, many organisations are still facing difficulties.

So what can employers do right now?

With a limited talent pool available within in the UK, employers will need to look outside the UK to fill vacancies. EU staff are a viable option, at least until the end of the Transition Period, but after that, the Government’s Immigration White Paper, expected to be published later today, will confirm that EU citizens will have to apply under the Tier 2 system along with all other International candidates. Tier 2 requires UK employers to register as a Licensed Sponsor and brings substantial additional recruitment costs and hurdles, such as a minimum salary level of £30,000. This creates extra difficulties for tech employers where the starting salary for many essential technical roles is much lower and additional red tape and slow recruitment processes will deter highly mobile tech talent.

Retaining staff

Therefore, it is more important than ever for employers to look after the employees that they already have. How can you stand out from your competitors?

  • Competitive salary and benefits are the minimum but remember Generation Z employees expect something more!
  • Invest in your staff and their career progression, coaching and mentoring are valuable tools to assist with this.
  • “Upskill” your staff by offering relevant training. Consider whether you can utilise the apprenticeship levy.
  • Consider your values and culture, these are of increasing importance for all employees.
  • Inclusivity and diversity are key - Analyse your gender and ethnicity pay gap and any barriers to progression and take steps to address these.
  • Register as a Licensed Sponsor, if you are not already, this will mean that you can employ international and, post-Brexit, EU talent.
  • If you are already a Licensed Sponsor, invest in compliance training. The sponsorship Licence comes with onerous reporting and recording obligations which, if breached, can result in the loss of the licence and all sponsored migrants.
  • Help existing staff with the EU settlement scheme, offer them surgeries and access to specialist business immigration professionals such as Boyes Turner’s Business Immigration team.