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2022 in review – Digital & Tech

Have you noticed any trends with regard to Technology and Digital hiring this year?

Well, mass layoffs of engineering teams across the technology industry received a lot of attention –most notably, perhaps, what happened at Twitter, which really put executive leadership in the limelight. But another overarching pattern is the hangover from COVID, when many companies originally came out of the pandemic tilting towards long-term flexible arrangements and championing the ability for staff to work remotely. Now, they seem increasingly anxious about workers not being on-site. More and more business leaders feel the need to have bodies on the ground to ensure efficient collaboration and instil team spirit, though in certain organisations this translates as rigidity and siloed thinking.

In most industries, we have seen a big jump in base salaries for Tech and Digital talent, particularly across digital, data, and engineering roles. This spike in pay began amid the pandemic and continued into H1 of 2022, though this seems to be levelling off as we head into 2023. Increases of up to 40% in base salaries are not sustainable long-term, not least in the face of a recession. Candidates are less choosy when the economic outlook is uncertain; this is a good thing for businesses, of course. That said, a focus on retention was actually this year’s most notable hiring pattern – one we expect to continue into next year.

What about executive talent – what have you seen in 2022?

There has definitely been a big push in digital leadership roles. Many Chief Information Officers want to improve their personal digital capability, as this area is seen as being more relevant and engaging now. The title of Chief Digital Officer is still evolving, and there isn’t a clear-cut path for candidates to reach it: we’ve seen people come in from roles in product and marketing, as well as tech. This can make hiring a challenge.

It is also worth noting that in some businesses, reaching a conclusion about the need to hire a CDO may be tricky internally. There can be all sorts of questions about where digital sits; where digital begins and where it ends; tech vs. commercial & marketing; and whether the CEO is happy to cede some frontend ground to a new digital hire. Ultimately, it’ll come down to the organisation’s leadership culture, and what they want to achieve (though it goes without saying that firms considering the implications of such decisions can always come to us for advice).

Which industries are you noticing this conversation happening most?

We are seeing this across the likes of Hospitality, Travel and Retail mainly which is not difficult to understand as it’s predominantly those consumer markets that will want to find the ideal operational structure. Much of the time the existence of a CDO within an organisation is driven largely by individual competency and capability at leadership level and essentially self-actualised.

Within aviation, it’s an urgent topic: many carriers wish to revamp their digital services but still need to compete with other sectors for tech talent. This is happening at a time when travel demand is close to where it was pre-COVID, but with staff numbers that are, broadly, still lower after a series of layoffs in the wake of the pandemic.

In terms of digital leadership in aviation, we’ve been hiring predominantly for Chief Digital Officer and Chief Data Officer positions. Airlines are pushing to maximise operational efficiency, and in some cases do not have the necessary digital talent to implement this. We’ve also seen more airlines actively hiring for Director of In-Flight Experience roles, as carriers look to enhance in-flight connectivity and entertainment.

Who owns ‘product’ is still a pertinent question. Smart stores and smart airports, incorporating as much frictionless experience as possible, are areas of increasing interest. Genomics, biometrics, and data are central to these developments. Automation, AI, and machine learning are big focuses for the consumer markets. Within airlines for example, this extends from check-in routines and retail spending all the way to electronic taxis that can pick up and drop passengers to the airport, which was nicely realised in Delta’s partnership with Joby Aviation. There was certainly a focus on innovation at this year’s World Aviation Festival, where in the previous year the industry seemed more concerned about how to attract talent.

What have you noticed about key trends within ‘Digital’?

For sure – in the retail & consumer sector, digital is physical. The pandemic pushed consumer behaviours online, with the death of bricks and mortar stores heralded in some quarters. What we’re finding now is that consumers still want to experience a brand physically. What I mean by digital being physical is that we’re seeing more attention on bringing web and app into the store experience, and on harnessing technology to drive a frictionless experience that consumers enjoy. Methods used to achieve this include IoT, biometrics, virtual and extended reality. Retailers and consumer brands are investigating how they can link online and store shopping in one seamless digital experience; we used to hear about ‘omnichannel’, but increasingly this is regarded as being just business strategy. Think about Amazon stores that scan your products and charge you automatically; that kind of frictionless shopping is receiving more and more attention.

What else have you noticed on the tech and innovation side?

There is still a desire to innovate, though companies don’t want to be seen as making too many left-field moves right now. We thought the Metaverse would be bigger, though it hasn’t really kicked on as we expected. Blockchain is still valuable, and its importance will only grow in the future – though this may be in a more positive, impactful way for society at large. Figures from areas as disparate as pharma, Edu-tech, and government are asking: can people get a better experience from blockchain than is currently the norm?

Do you have any predictions for next year?

There will be a consistent drive to hire into cloud computing. Many organisations have already transferred their systems to the cloud, though there will be some late movers. Edge computing continues to be central in driving efficiency within the cloud; there is still a rush to transform in this sphere that won’t quieten down exactly, but which will likely morph into something different.

More generally, I think 2023 will be a year of moving the needle for many companies – it’ll be about who can make small adjustments that have big impacts. This is especially relevant to operational questions, but also to automation; I spoke about this earlier in the context of aviation, but across sectors firms are keen to automate tasks that humans already perform, especially in areas like supply chain. Despite widespread reports of robots coming for your work, I think it’s more likely that certain parts of people’s roles will become automated rather than their jobs being replaced outright.

What advice would you give to digital and tech candidates next year?

Consider a move to a different sector. We’re seeing lots of cross-fertilisation of talent due to tech skills being easily transferable but make sure you join a business who are equipped to support you with that transition and feel comfortable taking you through some of the organisation’s idiosyncrasies and acronyms. Businesses are now more open to hiring from outside of their industry, and experience you’ve accrued in one area could make you stand out in another. However, if you are considering a change of scenery, just make sure you do your homework on your potential new employer as well, before accepting an offer Too often, we’ve seen candidates who’ve been enticed by high salaries leaving new roles after six months because the company culture and/or conditions weren’t a good fit. This won’t do you any favours in the long run, so be certain to carry out as much research as possible.

What about clients – what advice would you give to them?

More is not always more; don’t make hires just because you think you need to. Remember that people can develop in different ways. Rather than always looking to recruit, employers should consider how to nurture talent internally, too, particularly in the highly competitive tech market. Think about your learning and development offerings, as this will increase employee loyalty as well as bring on talent: ‘Build, don’t buy’.

When hiring, as well as retaining, employers should keep in mind that the market has shifted towards the candidate, so you will need to sell the opportunity to them. Make sure you present your employer brand clearly; not enough companies realise how important this is. In fact, I think the need to re-visit what the employer brand even is has certainly increased. You should be having conversations about what it means to work at your organisation and these conversations should not be limited to the HR and talent teams. Every part of the business needs to be aligned. If you do turn to the job market, you will need to pay above the going rate to secure the right talent. In the current tech climate, no good candidate should be out of a job – especially amid a recession. Putting out a job advert unfortunately will not secure you the best talent these days.

Thank you for reading!

Happy holidays to everyone in our network!

If you need advice with digital & tech executive search, whether as a candidate or as a client, please get in touch!


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