While the current situation and economic trends may seem grim, it is not all bad news for tech workers. It is true that people strategies in the sector may be impacted, but there are still plenty of opportunities for tech experts in the industry.
Here is what Ecosystm Analysts say about what’s next for technology workers.
Today, we are seeing two quite conflicting signals in the market: Tech vendors are laying off staff; and IT teams in businesses are struggling to hire the people they need.
At Ecosystm, we still expect a healthy growth in tech spend in 2023 and 2024 regardless of economic conditions. Businesses will be increasing their spend on security and data governance to limit their exposure to cyber-attacks; they will spend on automation to help teams grow productivity with current or lower headcount; they will continue their cloud investments to simplify their technology architectures, increase resilience, and to drive business agility. Security, cloud, data management and analytics, automation, and digital developers will all continue to see employment opportunities.
If this is the case, then why are tech vendors laying off headcount?
The slowdown in the American economy is a big reason. Tech providers that are laying of staff are heavily exposed to the American market.
Salesforce – 68% Americas
Facebook – 44% North America
Genesys – around 60% in North America
Much of the messaging that these providers are giving is it is not that business is performing poorly – it is that growth is slowing down from the fast pace that many were witnessing when digital strategies accelerated.
Some of these tech providers might also be using the opportunity to “trim the fat” from their business – using the opportunity to get rid of the 2-3% of staff or teams that are underperforming. Interestingly, many of the people that are being laid off are from in or around the sales organisation. In some cases, tech providers are trimming products or services from their business and associated product, marketing, and technical staff are also being laid off.
While the majority of the impact is being felt in North America, there are certainly some people being laid off in Asia Pacific too. Particularly in companies where the development is done in Asia (India, China, ASEAN, etc.), there will be some impact when products or services are discontinued.
While it is not all bad news for tech talent, there is undoubtedly some nervousness. So this is what you should think about:
Change your immediate priorities. Ecosystm research found that 40% of digital/IT talent were looking to change employers in 2023. Nearly 60% of them were also thinking of changes in terms of where they live and their career.
This may not be the right time to voluntarily change your job. Job profiles and industry requirements should guide your decision – by February 2023, a clearer image of the job market will emerge. Till then, upskill and get those certifications to stay relevant!
Be prepared for contract roles. With a huge pool of highly skilled technologists on the hunt for new opportunities, smaller technology providers and start-ups have a cause to celebrate. They have faced the challenge of getting the right talent largely because of their inability to match the remunerations offered by large tech firms.
These companies may still not be able to match the benefits offered by the large tech firms – but they provide opportunities to expand your portfolio, industry expertise, and experience in emerging technologies. This will see a change in job profiles. It is expected that more contractual roles will open up for the technology industry. You will have more opportunities to explore the option of working on short-term assignments and consulting projects – sometimes on multiple projects and with multiple clients at the same time.
Think about switching sides. The fact remains that digital and technology upgrades continue to be organisational priorities, across all industries. As organisations continue on their digital journeys, they have an immense potential to address their skills gap now with the availability of highly skilled talent. In a recently conducted Ecosystm roundtable, CIOs reported that new graduates have been demanding salaries as high as USD 200,000 per annum! Even banks and consultancies – typically the top paying businesses – have been finding it hard to afford these skills! These industries may well benefit from the layoffs.
Here is how vendors and their channel partners can bridge the gap:
Re-evaluating Certification Programs
The first step is to move to a case-based training model with the participant needing to respond to a situation rather than answering multiple-choice questions. We do not discount the usefulness of standard testing, but it needs to be mixed with evaluating the situational awareness and subjective understanding of the participant. This will require more detailed answers and case studies and will require a knowledgeable evaluator at the other end who will need more time than that required to assess MCQ answers. While AI tools are starting to address this, for now, this means a fairly large investment in resources.
While giving the tech talent – whether Sales or Delivery – a greater context of competitors’ strengths will give them a better chance to win deals, it has the potential to open up a host of issues that are best avoided. However, part of that knowledge can be provided as a general solution context – focusing on customer benefits in doing a certain transition and the kind of use cases that would be most appropriate for each transition. This will require, in most cases, a redesign of the curriculum.
Rethinking Partner Sales Support
A much bigger initiative by the vendors could be to set up sales support specialist groups within their own organisations that can be booked for customer meetings by channel partners. This has become easier now with most organisations being quite accustomed to video conferences and virtual meetings.
The set-up of such a “centre” will require careful planning, expertise, and investment in systems. Most vendors do have something like this for escalations and technical support, but few have a comprehensive program to assist with sales opportunities.
The resources at these centres should be highly specialised and well-paid. This will add cost. However, a group like this can pay for itself as long as more deals are converted. We do not recommend using gold-plated costs, but penny pinching, especially on the quality of resources and systems used here will be a classic case of penny wise, pound foolish. Success here will come from increasing revenue, not decreasing cost.
Clarifying Hiring Policies
Finally, vendors need to be clear about the policies of hiring staff from their channel partners. It is unlikely that this practice is going to stop. For one, if they don’t hire these talents, their competitors might. And channel partners often attract more talent if they are able to hold out the carrot, that the employee can eventually get employed by the vendor.
However, there should be clearer policies, such as only hiring those who have spent a minimum specified time with the partner; providing a longer than normal off-ramp period; seconding the talent to the channel partner for a period during which the employee gets additional training on the vendor’s solutions while working for the channel partner. Incentivising channel partners for providing successful candidates might also be a good idea.
Having bad policies, an attitude of poaching or not cooperating just leads to the channel partners underinvesting in people which harms the vendor as well as the channel. Innovative strategies here can deliver a solution where the channel partner is able to attract better talent and manage the talent while they are in their formative stages. Essentially, they are rewarded for incubating talent. The best talent eventually “graduate” to working for the vendor. This will be a true win-win for both.
Making Upskilling a Norm
The leadership of channel partner organisations need to embrace upskilling of their teams. Employees need technological capability building as well as certification.
Upskilling is a slower burn process than some of the steps discussed earlier, but for partners, this is the key. Partners will need help to put together a full program that nurtures employees at different levels of experience and capability and builds them up with a step-by-step approach. This is actually the job of a full-fledged Learning and Development organisation. Very few partners today either invest in such an organisation or have the ability to work this into their HR practices.
Finding an outsourced partner who can help to design and implement such a program might be the way to go. There is also an opportunity here for multiple channel partners to coordinate and engage one agency, in effect paying to hire an outsider as a joint Chief Learning Officer for all their companies.
In an exploding market where the skill of the employee can land the extra contracts, reel in the customers, whose lifetime value can be enormous, upskilling is vital – it is not really a choice.
There is a need to do things differently and to invest a lot more in talent. In a growing market, channel partners are getting by as revenue is moving upwards anyway. A smart step-by-step investment approach, however, can dramatically change this growth trajectory. That will alter the fortunes of the vendors too. Maintaining the status quo and not spending more on tech talent is actually a poison pill – the market growth is just hiding that fact.
Even before the pandemic, there was a shift of business focus on the Asian and Southeast Asian economies, that has led global companies and investors to flock to Singapore as a regional hub. Many of these companies are technology providers and as Singapore looks well-positioned to recover from the pandemic, these companies find themselves delivering on multiple transformation projects across industries. This has led to an increased demand for tech experts, The growing demand, combined with travel restrictions and a focus on ensuring Singaporeans are a priority for employment opportunities, has made the tech community anxious about the talent availability and the possibility of a talent crunch.
Ecosystm Principal Advisor Ravi Bhogaraju says, “Tech talent crunch is very palpable in the Singapore market today. The primary drivers of the crunch have been the change in the immigration policies due to the COVID-19 disruption followed by the huge increase in the demand for technology skills in the last 12-18 months. This gap will continue to rise over the next years as more technology firms expand or set up their base in Singapore.”
Singapore’s Tech.Pass visa program is another initiative to invite qualified individuals to work and operate in Singapore. It supports the entry of up to 500 proven founders, leaders and experts from top tech companies into Singapore.
Bhogaraju says, “The skills gap needs to be bridged with talent that is ready to step up and take on the new roles. To that end we see that the Singapore Government is making the right investments in the Skills Future program. There are a few pillars currently in play that are addressing different elements of the talent skilling initiatives. The key pillars are talent reskilling, experiential training, work-learn programs, and implementing new education curriculum. These are well designed in line with the skills frameworks and are meant to address the skills development for mid-career professionals to students in polytechnics and university programs.”
Tech Companies Need a Long-term View
However, Bhogaraju notes, “That’s only one side of the equation – the other element of the partnership is the companies that need these skills and how they are thinking of approaching the skills they need. Here there are some good examples of public private partnerships to help bridge the skills. However, in many cases the companies are still struggling to fill the positions – and that is because they use an age-old strategy of ‘let’s attract the talent’ to come work for us. In a time when there is limited talent in the pool – this strategy will only result in spinning wheels and expending energy.”
“Companies need to fundamentally rethink their talent pooling and development strategies to be able to deliver good quality talent. They need to develop a strategy that focuses on reskilling, finding new talent pools, leveraging the gig economy and developing their existing talents into adjoining pools to be able to fill these gaps effectively.”
As the nature of work transforms, many professionals will be challenged to learn new skills to address the skills gaps. Create your free account on Ecosystm Platform to access research, data and insights on the emerging technologies, the supply of skills and the demand for tech talent to address the mismatch.