The UK’s digital economy will be a major force for rebuilding productivity and encouraging growth, leading employers to scramble to find the specialist IT skills they need, Robert Half Technology has forecast.
The 2016 Salary Guide identified key trends that it believes will affect technology professionals this year. These are:
- Productivity. One of the paramount drivers of increased pay and demand for IT professionals will be the business quest to innovate, grow and improve productivity.
- Finding and retaining IT talent. IT professionals, including those contracting on project-based work as Umbrella Company Employees, are not always motivated by pay, and Robert Half believes employers must recognise that they are also strongly attracted by flexible working, new technologies and exciting projects.
- Pay increases. Of the top five roles three belonged to the technology category, with mobile applications developers, web developers and information security managers all on course to receive the highest pay rises as demand for their talents intensifies.
- The evolution of IT security. According to Gartner, traditional “perimeter” and rule-based security is evolving into “adaptive security architecture,” in which self-protection is integral to applications. Professionals capable of updating security in this direction and with skills in user and entity behavioural analytics will similarly be in huge demand as companies continue their endless fight against escalating and ever-more-sophisticated cyberattacks.
- Digital transformation. Digital transformation projects are mushrooming across all sectors as businesses seek to offer “anytime-anywhere” accessibility. Research and advisory company Gartner predicts a proliferating set of digitally connected endpoints, including wearable, mobile, consumer and home electronic devices. IT professionals capable of helping businesses tap the potential of mobile connectivity will see massive demand, although skills are already in short supply.
Robert Half Technology’s director, Neil Owen, said “Employers need to act decisively when meeting suitable candidates and offer a competitive salary and benefits package as skilled, talented IT professionals are often sought-after by multiple employers.”
However, CIOs could struggle to source and retain talented technology professionals. The Recruitment and Employment Confederation’s (REC’s) latest Report on Jobs confirms the trend seen in previous surveys indicating that the UK’s skills shortage is becoming critical.
A factor that is liable to exacerbate the struggle to find tech talent, however, is the proposed abolition of tax relief on travel and subsistence (T&S) expenses incurred by contracting IT professionals, who are typically prepared to travel far greater distances to their temporary workplaces than their permanent counterparts, incurring much greater costs in the process.
With demand for digital skills set to rocket in 2016, the loss of T&S tax relief will almost certainly undermine business efforts to innovate, grow and enhance their productivity. Many smaller businesses lacking the resources to employ IT professionals in-house on a permanent basis rely on IT contracts to fulfil business-critical projects such as those itemised above.
By surreptitiously altering the scope of “supervision, direction or control” (SDC) rules, HMRC has effectively re-designated independent Umbrella Company Employees as end-client employees, purely for tax purposes. From 6th April, when the rule changes take effect, these highly skilled (and highly sought-after) contracting professionals will be forced to either massively limit the businesses they serve to those in their immediate home locality or increase their pay rates by around 33 per cent.