How to attract top-class tech contractors

Robert Half's Neil Owen explains what organisations can do to recruit contract employees that can form the backbone of digital transformation projects.

tech contractors

The rising emphasis on digitisation means that companies across all sectors are heavily focused on growing their technology talent pool. However, this demand for technology talent is driving up salaries and our Robert Half 2017 Salary Guide revealed that professionals skilled in business intelligence, agile project management, cloud and programming can expect to earn a premium.

What’s concerning for many businesses is that the situation risks getting worse before it gets better. More than half of respondents in a recent Tech Nation 2017 survey highlighted that many companies fear the skills shortage will be exacerbated post Brexit. With vacancies for digital roles outstripping the number of available candidates, organisations are increasingly looking to access talent from outside the UK by turning to oversees candidates. If the ability to access international talent becomes harder then it could drive salaries even higher and make the shortage of skills even more pronounced.

The combination of businesses increasingly embracing digital transformation but battling with a shortage of the right talent, means there has been a spike in demand for contract workers that can support strategic initiatives. As businesses have to adapt to the new realities of the labour market when looking for technology and digital talent, recent figures suggest that between 20 and 50 per cent of the UK workforce could be made up of freelancers by 2020.

Increasingly, we are seeing more people than ever choosing to work in contract positions. The latest UK employment figures from the Office of National Statistics reveal that one in seven workers are self-employed. Within the tech sector, 84% of recruitment bosses have seen an increase in demand for temporary or contract roles.

Against this backdrop, one question becomes increasingly important – what can organisations do to recruit contract employees that can form the backbone of digital transformation projects?

  • Carefully pose the challenge – Contract professionals are excited by the prospect of solving a challenge for the business with their specific skills sets. As the technology evolution continues to take shape, these professionals are eager to take on new and exciting challenges that will advance their abilities, offer them the opportunity to build their expertise with the latest technology and drive innovation. Organisations need to clearly communicate what the job will entail and be transparent about what is expected to ensure that temporary workers deliver specific results. Ensure someone takes responsibility for clearly communicating the job design and delivers clarity about the expected end-state.
  • Reward risk – Policies and procedures can sometimes construct unintended barriers to innovation. To gain the maximum value from contract staff, be willing to embrace an external perspective. Contractors are experts in their field so take their consultancy into account but balance it with your organisation’s risk appetite. Create a culture where a certain level of risk and innovation is embraced but be prepared to fail fast and pivot quickly if something is not working.
  • Show commitment – Specialist professionals have the best-practice knowledge and know the realistic timeframes for finding a solution to a specific challenge. In addition, contract professionals often have their pick of the best roles so offering a shorter than realistic contract length, doesn’t give professionals the confidence that you are serious about the role or entice them to commit to a project. Consider the length of the contract that you will be needing temporary support for. Contractors are often invaluable support and in high-demand so don’t assume that their stay can always be easily extended.  You don’t want to risk being surprised if you look to roll-over their contract and find they have secured a new assignment in the meantime.
  • Offer competitive daily rates – Interim professionals want the flexibility to be earning daily rates and are turned off by contracts that are only offering a fixed-term salary. Since most contractors operate as limited liability companies offering daily rates allows for the flexibility, financial premium and acknowledgement of their skills in a way that is beneficial for both parties.
  • Effectively plan for the integration of contractors with your existing team – Just as you prioritise the happiness and wellbeing of your permanent staff, consider the satisfaction of your contractors. Organisations looking to attract quality contractors for specific roles need to create a cohesive culture that brings all employees together as a team. Having clearly defined roles for both contract workers and permanent staff will help reduce resistance and allow everyone to understand their responsibilities. It also offers an opportunity for existing employees to learn new skills from an additional resource that is brought in with specific skill sets or knowledge. Highlight how temporary professionals can help support skill development and best-practice knowledge sharing with your existing permanent workforce over time. This can help ensure contract workers can integrate effectively with a wider team and contribute to success.

Hiring contract professionals requires speed

You might not always have the right people internally to reposition and transform your business and hiring new talent needs to happen relatively quickly. However, while contract professionals are often brought in to support specific projects and offer a degree of flexibility, their growing demand can often see them line up their next opportunity quickly. Many firms could be missing out on qualified, specialist contract professionals when they rely on elongated hiring processes. Working with a specialist recruitment consultant is one way to move with speed as they can identify the best approach to attracting, vetting and selecting the best contract professional for your next hire.

As the trend towards freelancing continues to evolve, it holds the potential to solve many HR issues currently faced by companies in the tech sector. Successful businesses will use this as an opportunity to not only meet demand and support strategic initiatives, but also to “up-skill” their existing workforce and bring about fresh thinking and positive change.

Neil Owen is a director at Robert Half Technology.

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