How 2020 Has Changed Tech Hiring

Automation and robots. Prior to 2020, these were just about the only factors pundits could cite as potential disruptors of IT employment’s ever-rising trajectory. But that was a different time. Without the help of any robots, tech employment has dropped year-over-year by 2.52% as of June 2020—a loss of 134,700 IT workers—according to the TechServe Alliance IT employment index.

As the pandemic, protests and a presidential election unlike any before it shape daily life, it can feel like nothing will ever be the same. For tech employment, plenty has changed; but, there remain a few constants. Even some pesky ones we wish would change (skills gap). Here’s an opportunity to look at tech hiring and what’s ahead from both sides, starting with what’s changed.

What’s Changed?

The changes to the tech hiring marketplace go beyond the unemployment numbers and they begin with one important fact: work has left the office.

A Remote Revolution

Some of the biggest changes in tech hiring in 2020 are all about location. A great deal of work is remote now and could remain so for quite some time. A few Mojo Trek clients anticipate that the employees they’ve hired will report to the office once they re-open. Others have declared that workers can stay remote permanently.

In some cases, the remote work option has become an incentive. One multinational Mojo Trek client in the quick service restaurant (QSR) industry decided that their IT consultants could work from home indefinitely. Both the quality and the number of candidates applying to those roles surged with that announcement. For candidates, the work-from-home option offers sought-after flexibility and eases safety concerns. For hiring managers, it removed geographic limitations so that cream-of-the-crop tech talent from anywhere across the nation can apply. 

A Talent Migration in the Making

As industry powerhouses like Twitter, Square and Facebook make remote work a long-term (even permanent) option, many tech professionals are leaving high cost, highly populated regions like Silicon Valley and NYC. Going forward, businesses will struggle to make the case that a remote workforce is too hard to manage. In fact, full-time remote work options may become the new, ultimate hiring perk, allowing tech workers to forego high costs of living to work where they want to live.

Employees should expect changes too. Those who choose to work farther away from their employer’s hub could see compensation adjustments. Facebook, for example, announced in May that it will “localize” employee compensation based on where workers live.

An Easy Poaching Phase

Widespread layoffs have added more available tech talent to the job market. While the surge of job seekers means more candidates, it also signals increased opportunities to poach passive talent. Workers inside organizations that are downsizing are often nervous and unhappy. Businesses looking to poach highly skilled workers can use this moment to target talent from organizations where layoffs and furloughs are affecting job satisfaction.

Action Wanted on Diversity

2020’s historic racial justice movement has forced businesses to take a hard look at their own actions around diversity and inclusion. Many potential hires will want to see evidence of steps taken to expand diversity, reduce inequity and increase opportunities for diverse employees.

Take for example the current wage gap, which, according to Hired.com’s 2020 State of Salaries report, shows black technology candidates receiving salary offers averaging $10,000 less than those offered to white candidates. Job seekers are going to start asking how employers are working to fix gaps in pay, representation and promotions. Businesses should be ready with answers. According to a June 2020 survey from The Manifest, 70% of job seekers want to work for a company that demonstrates a commitment to diversity and inclusion. The key message there is “demonstrates.” Job seekers don’t want words. They want action.

What’s Stayed the Same

Despite all these changes, the tech hiring remains constant in two key areas.

Skill Demands Haven’t Changed

In its 2019 Tech Trends report, Deloitte Insights revealed the technology trends most likely to shape the businesses over the next five years. The trends they focused on, from analytics and cloud to digital reality (AR/VR), cognitive technologies and cyber risk, still apply to the work technology professionals are doing now. Businesses are still competing for engineers and analysts who can help them thrive in the cloud. The surge in remote work and virtual events has only underscored the value of experts who can support cloud-based services, from streaming solutions to cloud products. Businesses still need data scientists and analysts who can help businesses better understand, visualize and leverage large data sets while tapping into for a growing number of specialists with machine learning skills who can help them take automation to the next level.

The Battle for Top Talent Continues

The shocking unemployment numbers have not changed the fact that businesses are still battling for a small number of highly skilled technology professionals. The new restrictions on H1-B and other work visas underscore the challenge with industry giants like Google and Facebook decrying this new barricade to leveraging foreign talent. For years, the tech sector has battled fiercely for a finite number of highly skilled experts. That battle appears to be intensifying despite widespread layoffs and record-breaking unemployment.

Until the U.S. begins to produce more graduates with advanced STEM degrees and experience, count on the tech sector to remain a powerful place of opportunity for those with the ambition to chase and master emerging skills. Change may be a constant, but the demand for skilled talent remains an equally powerful constant for the tech sector today and tomorrow.

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