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BrightBox Roundtable 2022 - Does location matter in tech staffing?

When it comes to sourcing skilled tech talent, location used to be everything. But is this still the case, and how are new, hybrid forms of nearshoring and offshoring changing the nature of geo-specific talent management?

In the new normal of remote-dominated enterprise management, and as shortages of talent plague the tech sector, employers across the tech industry are having to adapt quickly to ensure talent streams remain open.

Tech staffing issues have gone from outlier HR pain points to perennial business-hampering intrusions, specifically when it comes to sourcing the right level of talent on a consistent delivery basis - hence, the rise of nearshoring and offshoring product creation and development as a stopgap against missed deadlines.

So as tech staffing support goes through the post-pandemic wringer, what should employers expect from hiring, and do the old rules - of mostly urban, forward-thinking areas monopolising tech talent - still count?

Pain Point Prediction.

Predicting where and when the main talent shortfall pain points will strike dominated our roundtable. Kirk Winstanley, COO at BankiFi referred to periods of cyclical hiring within the tech sphere, which he sees as indicative of a new normal in hiring. As tech usage and adoption evolves and as digital transformation continues to advance, shortages will persist.

Indeed, this matches worst-case tech staffing models, with Korn Ferry noting that “85 million jobs could go unfilled because there aren't enough skilled people to take them”.

Further elements of tech workforce planning and retention - especially regarding the resilience of hybrid teams, core functionality, and of tasks lost in translation between global hybrid teams - were considered evergreen problems and cross-industry issues.

Should leadership, not just skills, be outsourced?

Questions were also asked about leadership, and the most effective forms of leadership as tech companies seek support via nearsourcing and outsourcing solutions. A variety of opinions were shared, such as how much leaders can, or should, invest in in-house leadership, or how companies could outsource operational direction to put decision making closer to out-of-office teams.

However, there was much cross-table agreement too, such as the majority of our guests stating that to ensure secure streams of talent, business leaders must focus squarely on the talent themselves - what they want, how they work, and how they work well - rather than leaning on legacy recruitment tactics that assume talent can only be sought from certain areas, via certain means, or for fixed roles.

Or, indeed, that leadership is only as effective as its proximate relation to development.

Specific skill sets are in high demand - but location still impacts on candidate expectations.

Our roundtable guests noted significant shortfalls in niche skill sets within tech - for example, python and react qualified engineers. Many of our roundtable members noted that they are less bothered about where engineers and developers live (with some stipulating they want to work in UK time zones), with the majority stating that skill requirement dominates hiring considerations.

However, when it comes to sales and marketing, centralised business operations are prioritised. This was because the nature of those teams - “outward-facing, extrovert, they bounce off each other” - demanded a considered office culture, with all the perks, dynamics and KPI management an office entails.

When location does play a part in tech solution delivery, the adaptability of recruitment services becomes a priority.

Kefirah Kang, Director of Professional Services at Finexos, noted that when she was tasked with helping pull together a start-up team in London, she wanted to keep the implementation team in-house, and very much London-based, but augmented with targeted tech outsourced support from India and China.

She realised the key to success was hybridity - offering implementation through tech talent in London for the majority of the contract, while outsourcing very select, defined aspects of the work to outsourced tech houses. This keeps direction and implementation hyper-focused at home while utilising offshore solutions and development from other markets - the best of both worlds.

How to design collaboration models.

Neville Roberts, Founder of Planixs, noted how “the tech recruitment (environment)….is the worst I’ve seen in 30 years”. Tech shortages are hitting fever pitch, and recruitment services are increasingly relied upon to guarantee basic business continuity, as well as contributing to growth strategy or scaling.

The majority of the roundtable agreed that difficult times call for unique measures - the most effective of which Kefirah called “adapted collaboration models”.

In summary, new collaboration models need to be created to benefit remote or outsourced teams but that can work to in-house and outsourced teams’ strengths.

In practice, this means:

  • Leaders should consider time zone turnaround,
  • Leaders need to consider coding skills necessity,
  • Ownership of product development needs to be cross-departmental and consistent,
  • Operational leadership and retention of staff is vital throughout the project lifecycle.

Naturally, collaboration means compromise - teams adapting workflows to take advantage of time differences, for example, was a major point raised.

A novel workaround that was proven to increase total team ownership of product implementation was by flipping the responsibilities of in-house and offshore teams, so every stakeholder takes personal responsibility for delivery, and has a more universal understanding of production.

In summary, tech business leaders must retrofit legacy recruitment strategy by injecting a bit of hybridity into the mix - nearshoring and offshoring has a prominent role to play in ensuring delivery of tech products, but location is not as important as delivery, trust, operational agility and outcomes.

About BrightBox Group

Since 2014, BrightBox Group has been partnering with clients across the UK and Europe, from scale-ups to multinationals and government agencies. No matter the client, we exceed expectations and never compromise our standards. We are wherever you are, always listening, always challenging, always supporting, and always delivering.


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