SMEs lose out as staff wars intensify

By Sooraj Shah
22 May 2012 View Comments

At the end of 2011, 61 per cent of 1,366 IT professionals surveyed by recruitment website believed that there was an IT skills shortage in the UK.

Further reading

Dr James Lyne, director of technology strategy at IT security firm Sophos, told Computing last year: “It’s never been as difficult to hire people as it is today, both for ourselves and our customers.”

Kevin Streater, head of IT industry engagement at the Open University, said: “Over the last decade, there has been a huge decline in the number of students taking A-level or degree-level IT, so there’s no supply coming through the system to meet industry needs.”

With a shortage of fresh talent coming onto the job market, the industry has started to feed on itself.

Cloud service provider Rackspace’s CEO Lanham Napier told Computing that the IT skills gap had created a “talent war” among organisations.

“There’s a lot of poaching. Technology companies say, ‘Let’s go and target this company and hire their people,” he said.

Many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the IT industry agree, but are concerned that they are losing this war. Ambitious technical staff want to get onboard a start-up in order to establish themselves early in a promising venture, or to join large organisations to be part of an established name. In both cases, it’s the mid-range companies that suffer.

At a roundtable held by internet hosting company UKFast, Tash Whitmey, CEO of mid-sized digital marketing agency EHS 4D, said that workers in London are drawn to start-ups. “The young, talented, innovative people are interested in exciting start-ups, and so being in London, or in one of the tech hubs, and having all of these new opportunities on their doorstep really opens up possibilities for them,” she said.

The enterprise strikes back

Elizabeth Varley, co-founder of the workspace for technology entrepreneurs, TechHub, said that candidates will always leave SMEs because larger organisations can offer a bigger pay packet.

“Within these areas we have got the big companies that can pay the big salaries; they suck all of the talent from the entrepreneurial pool. The competition is fierce for the best people within tech hub areas like Silicon Roundabout,” she said.

HP’s account general manager, Maggie Morrison, told Computing that she believes larger organisations are attractive places to work for IT professionals because they have more of a presence in the industry.

“The larger organisations tend to make more noise in the marketplace and have higher-profile events because of their sheer scale and size,” Morrison said. “In addition, IT professionals want to have a recognised name on their CV.”

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