UK IT hiring trends to watch 2020

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As the UK finally has some clarity over its relationship with the EU following the 2019 general election we can, perhaps, look forward to some more certainty in overwhelmingly uncertain times. That includes an IT hiring landscape which tends to be pretty resilient to macro factors like Brexit.

"As a whole, Brexit played more of a role in slowing down recruitment across the technology market throughout 2019 when compared to recent years," says Angela Lewis, a technology specialist at recruitment agency Morgan McKinley. "It is hard to predict whether things will pick up again as we progress through 2020 – we hope that with more Brexit clarity, a greater level of confidence will be restored."

Here's what we expect to see from the UK's IT jobs market in 2020, including salary trends, the skills to have within your teams and how to make the most of a buoyant sector.

Salaries continue to rise

As the well-documented digital skills gap shows no sign of closing, IT professionals in Britain can expect their salaries to continue to rise.

Read next: 2020 IT salary expectations

Research published in January by jobs board CV-Library showed that UK IT salaries continue to buck the national trend by growing 2.8 percent in the final few months of 2019. The report looked at jobs data for Q4 2019 and found that the number of job applications in the IT sector rose by 38 percent.

CV-Library CEO Lee Biggins said: "It’s clear that companies in the IT sector are refusing to be held back by the recent political turbulence. But this only means that competition for top talent will intensify. With salaries on the rise across the industry, you might want to consider providing more than just a good wage to new employees.

"By offering flexible working, company benefits and career development opportunities, you’ll ensure that your company will attract the best candidates around. With such fantastic growth in the market, now is the perfect time to think about establishing the best packages and pushing forward with your recruitment efforts."

Enterprise architects are the best-paid roles outside of the C-suite

Enterprise architects have quickly risen to the top of many salary tables in recent years, often coming out as the best paid job outside of the C-level.

"Over the second half of 2019, there was noticeable growth in the number of architecture roles, mainly at the £80,000+ level. Clients looked for strategic individuals – for example, an infrastructure architect with an enterprise architect mindset," Angela Lewis at Morgan McKinley explained.

Glassdoor data showed enterprise architects as the best paid role in its top jobs list – which is measured by its own scoring system – paying on average of £75,209. Data from recruiter Robert Half pegged the figure even higher at between £122,000-£140,000.

Elsewhere, Robert Half's 2020 Salary Guide notes that the UK IT sector can expect growing demand for project managers, infrastructure architects and system administrators, whilst business intelligence, IT management and IT security roles remain the hardest for CIOs and IT leaders to find skilled candidates to fill.

Data scientist pay has also levelled off a tad after being one of the hottest roles for the past few years, with Robert Half reporting an average of £70,000-£85,000, down from £77,500-£116,250 last year.

Similarly Morgan McKinley predicts that Devops Engineer, Cloud Architect and Data Scientist will be the hottest roles in 2020.

Blockchain is the hottest new skill of 2020

As you start the new year assessing any skills gaps within your teams it can be useful to get a feel for what the hottest new proficiencies are to stay one step ahead of the competition.

LinkedIn analysed its global network to find the top 15 most in-demand skills worth learning in 2020 in January, broken out into soft and hard skills.

Somewhat surprisingly, blockchain skills topped the list, with LinkedIn identifying that "the small supply of professionals who have this skill are in high demand". This could mark the height of a hype cycle for the distributed ledger technology, but also could signal a broadening interest beyond cryptocurrencies.

Cloud computing skills were down one place from last year in second with analytics and AI skills coming in third and fourth places and UX design in fifth, in what was a very technology-heavy top five. Creativity, collaboration, persuasion, and emotional intelligence topped the list of soft skills.

AI and data protection roles most in demand

Analysis by LinkedIn on all of its members with a public profile and a full-time position within the UK during the past five years showed that technology roles continue to prove the fastest-growing in the country.

Artificial intelligence expertise was the most in-demand skill as more and more organisations look to tap into advanced data analysis techniques.

This was followed by data protection officers as organisations seek protection following the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Next on the list was robotics engineers, site reliability engineers and customer success specialists.

Mariano Mamertino, senior economist at LinkedIn, commented: “It’s no surprise that artificial intelligence and data protection roles are growing throughout the UK. As technology continues to advance at a pace, artificial intelligence specialists will become even more crucial across multiple roles and sectors. Today, there is 18x more talent employed in this role in the UK than in 2015.

“Similarly, as data privacy concerns have grown, so has demand for talent to fill roles such as Data Protection Officer and Cyber Security Specialist. As we move into the second year of the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation, we can only expect these roles to increase."

The gender gap

Research by LinkedIn identified a clear gender gap when it came to some of the UK's most in-demand roles, the majority of which are related to technology.

Over 65 percent of the fastest growing emerging roles were held by men, with financial services (80 men to 20 women) and telecommunications (81 men to 19 women) showing the greatest imbalance.

According to 2019 research by the Office for National Statistics, information technology technicians have a gender pay gap of eight percent, and women hold only 28 percent of these jobs.

There are several practical ways to make your organisation more diverse and inclusive, including hiring with objectivity.

Jane Reddin, cofounder of the Talent Stack – a firm that focuses on building talent management toolkits for startups – explained: "Consider behaviours that show up when your team interviews a candidate, no matter where they're from, what their gender is, what their ethnic background is – so whatever diversity quota you're trying to hit, if you've got one, and then you'll deliver a fair and inclusive hiring process."

IT workers at risk of burnout

Research from CV-Library found four in 10 IT professionals in Britain admit to feelings of burnout, with nearly two thirds stating that work is the main contributing factor.

The study, which surveyed 2,000 UK IT professionals, also found that 42 percent of workers in the IT industry have trouble sleeping, suffer from ongoing worry and feel exhausted due to long hours (34 percent), high workloads (31 percent) and pressure from managers and colleagues (20 percent each).

Burnout in IT is an understudied phenomenon, and therefore practical advice to help avoid and mitigate its effects are thin on the ground.

That being said, taking regular breaksand switching off outside of office hours is a good first step. If that doesn't help then you need to get support if you are starting to feel burnt out and let your manager or someone in HR know how you are feeling.

Lee Biggins, founder and CEO of CV-Library, said: “While some professionals thrive on keeping busy, it shouldn’t get to a point where they’re taking work home with them, struggling to sleep or constantly feeling exhausted; and as an employer, you have a duty of care towards your team.

“Be sure to create an open channel of communication so employees know they can come to you with any concerns they may have about their workload. Nowadays, addressing mental health and prioritising the wellbeing of employees is crucial for organisations; particularly when it comes to attracting, recruiting and retaining the best workers.”

When advertising for roles it is also good practice to highlight any services you offer that support mental health in the workplace.

Workers are on the move

January has often been a moving month and 2020 should prove no different, with recruitment site Glassdoor seeing a 17 percent spike in job applications. Research by workplace accreditation body Investors in People also found that 24 percent of Brits will actively seek a new role in 2020.

Joseph Scott, a spokesperson from the TheKnowledgeAcademy.com commented: "It’s that time of the year where individuals are contemplating their careers and wondering if their job is giving them enough fulfilment.

"Given that most industries have now been revolutionised by technology, companies need employees who can comfortably use different digital tools, programmes and software to drive business performance as well as achieve set objectives. Those entering the job market need to be aware of this, as this research clearly shows that certain industries are more demanding of particular digital skills than others."

IR35 changes for contractors

It's important to be aware that the UK's IR35 tax rules are set to change this year. The law as it currently exists ensures that if a contractor is operating through a limited company, but is essentially working as an employee of the client, then the intermediary must make an extra payment to compensate for the additional tax and national insurance that would have been collected on an equivalent employee's wage.

From April 2020 the law will force medium to large sized companies to determine whether IR35 applies or not. If it does, the contractor will be placed onto its payroll and will deduct income tax and National Insurance before paying the contractor. It's a good idea, then, to check the status of your contractors and stay on the right side of HMRC.

"IR35 changes, unless they are delayed by the government, will likely play a role in 2020," Lewis at Morgan McKinley said. "With the changes due in April 2020, the recruitment of contractors could slow down and the focus will be on permanent hiring – a significant proportion of contractors across all areas of technology could switch to permanent roles.

"It’s important that any temporary professionals seriously consider how the changes will affect them and think about how they want to be paid after the implementation date – they may have to be flexible when it comes to opportunities."

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