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2022 predictions for tech hiring

It has certainly been an unpredictable couple of years for hiring across the board – what will 2022 bring to the high-tech and engineering sectors? 

In the past 20 months, the ongoing pandemic has accelerated the need for innovative technologies, and business ability to adapt more quickly to ever-changing conditions.

As a result, in 2022 many engineering and tech CEOs have four key priorities:

  • talent
  • growth
  • digitalisation
  • efficiency

These priorities for 2022 are against a backdrop of ongoing semiconductor shortages which look set to dominate the technology landscape as well as connected services, 5G, and the metaverse which the annual Consumer Electronic Show (CES) technology conference heard about this week.

Software and services are becoming increasingly linked to hardware for consumers, said Steve Koenig, vice-president of research at the Consumer Technology Association which hosts CES, with the average consumer paying for eight different online services. That number is likely undercounted, he said, with anecdotal evidence that younger users are adopting even more services.

“Our lives are increasingly defined by technology, and technology itself is increasingly defined by software and, by extension, services.” said Mr Koenig, pointing to connected fitness products such as Peloton as an example, along with streaming video services such as Disney+.

Here are the trends to watch out for…

Remote work in tech will continue

We know two things for sure: flexible and hybrid work is here to stay, and the talent landscape has fundamentally shifted. Remote work has created new job opportunities for some, offered more family time, and provided options on when to commute. But there are also challenges ahead. Teams have become more siloed during 2021 and digital exhaustion is real.

Many tech professionals will carry on working remotely in 2022, especially in the IT and software sectors. Though pressure exists from many businesses which desire a return to an “office-centric culture as a baseline.”

In a McKinsey report “the-future-of-work-after-covid-19” Anu Madgavkar, a partner, gave the example of an e-commerce company, where employees on the business development team “with rapid iterative types of cycles should be encouraged to spend more time together in physical spaces designed for interactions.” Meanwhile, people doing backend web development at that same e-commerce company “can spend much more time working on their own” from home. “Within a company and even within teams, there’s a gradation going on.” Madgavkar said.

Activities and job roles often reliant on being in person include, product architecture, electronic hardware development, hardware test and undertakings like creating a company culture, sales and negotiations, onboarding, coaching, and problem-solving, especially within interdisciplinary teams.

The IT and software sectors have adapted particularly well to hybrid and flexible working and have experienced much less pressure or need for employees to get back to the office. Virtual hiring, an area where the tech sector excels, will also continue, as some specialised tech professionals can work effectively from anywhere.

While it’s unclear how much office work will be done remotely, the prospects have dramatically changed pre-pandemic, when less than 5 percent of the workforce worked remotely.

Automation and robotics will soar

With the e-commerce boom accelerated by the pandemic, robotics and automation are also increasing rapidly, creating efficiencies in online ordering, deliveries, and manufacturing processes. This looks set to continue in 2022 and beyond, and companies will continue to hire aggressively to meet this demand. With talent at a premium, engineers and technical staff with transferable skills from other sectors could land permanent or contract roles in robotics integration, software development, programming, and machine maintenance.

Offshore recruitment will rise

The rise of remote working means there is no longer a need for companies to restrict their hiring to the UK, and 2022 will see employers looking to reduce costs by hiring from countries where salaries are lower.

Many companies had been actively relocating their business processes even before the spread of the pandemic. They did this to replenish talent, reduce costs and reach new markets in distant locations. Remote work successfully replaced office work in 2020 and boosted offshoring even more.

Many countries such as China, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam were the top outsourcing and offshoring locations in 2019. However, hardly any of them stood the pandemic test. Many Business Process Outsourcing companies in Asia were vulnerable during the pandemic and severely impacted.

On the other hand, Eastern European countries like Ukraine, Poland, and Hungary have seen increases in offshoring. These countries are attractive for foreign tech companies because of their proximity to Europe, availability of tech professionals, lower salaries, and similar working culture to the United States and Western Europe. Companies like Google, Apple, Samsung, Huawei, etc have set up R&D offices.

The pandemic has changed the ratio of the cost of in-person workers versus software automation or offshore workers. At least for the next couple of years, most businesses will reduce the amount of office space which increases the incentive to offshore some activities.

The persistence of remote work will also have practical limits. One problem with offshoring is the difficulty of supervising distant workers, which requires more planning and structure. Managers may also have to shift their emphasis from how many hours their employees work to the results they are delivering.

AI will play a bigger role in recruitment

The use of AI and data analysis is far more suited to hiring in tech, where hard skills and knowledge are key, than, for example, in healthcare, where a candidate’s soft skills take on far more importance.

Manufacturing could be coming home

After the Global Economic Crisis in 2008, reshoring was a hot topic among the engineering and manufacturing communities. Twelve years on, similar conversations are happening, only this time the focus is on the global supply chain weaknesses highlighted during COVID, as well as shortages of materials and tariff concerns that have arisen due to Brexit. But the underlying concerns remain the same, flexibility and reactiveness of supply chains through reshoring versus cost reductions through offshoring.

With the unexpected spanner into the works of COVID-19 which has heightened the reshoring/offshoring debate; never had global supply chains simply halted and remained out of action for such a long time. This lack of supply and inability to respond to demand was crippling for engineering businesses that had no local options to fall back on.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the working conditions and business operations of most organisations. However, evidence suggests that the core priorities of businesses may shift even further in response to the Brexit transition, future trends in consumerism, and work preferences.

Post-Brexit supply chain issues stoked enthusiasm for bringing manufacturing back to the UK, and the pandemic heightened that desire. During the past decade, there has been pressure on procurement teams to reduce supply chains and maximise profitability. Before the pandemic, the globalisation of the supply networks had become the norm, with a bias towards China and other low-cost labour countries for the supply of parts and assemblies. According to the University of Warwick’s 2017 study ‘Realities of Reshoring: A UK Perspective‘, the most popular offshoring destinations were China (38%) and India (19%), with Vietnam, Poland, and the USA all following with an 8% share each.

However, when Covid restrictions were put in place back in 2020, production all but stopped in China – followed closely by India and other nations – and the movement of goods and materials became extremely challenging.

Those manufacturers with a solely offshore supply had very little control over production and often no local alternative as a backup. Therefore, manufacturing and distributing more products locally in the UK will make the economy more independent and resilient, rather than relying on potentially fragile overseas supply chains.

According to Make UK’s Executive Survey, 47% of manufacturers cited delays at customs as a key risk to their business in 2021. To succeed, UK manufacturers will need to produce competitively priced products, and industrial automation will play a key role in that, leading to a jobs boom in all associated industries. Technical recruitment experts are preparing for a surge in robotics recruitment in 2022.

Industry feedback has preferred the growing support for the idea that a local supply – whether re-shored, near-shored, dual sourced solution – could provide businesses with peace of mind over quality of parts and lead times, and a fail-safe for unforeseen downtime on offshore production lines. This may be at an increased cost, but with an effective model in place not only can some of those costs be mitigated, but they may prove to provide a better return in the long run.

There is no secret that the UK has an engineering skills gap – and whilst one of the proposed ways to counter the labour savings from offshore manufacture is through Industry 4.0 technologies within UK supply chains, the rolling out of the processes, systems, and subsequent data analysis requires a particular skillset, of which the UK currently has only a limited pool available.

Space, travel, and the next internet

One of the most dramatic developments is the new space race with China and Russia collaborating on a potential moon base. Private space companies SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic all sent civilians into space in 2021, and they are all promising a future of space tourism. Meanwhile, thousands of low Earth orbit satellites will be launched into the atmosphere in 2022. Their mission is to bring fast, reliable broadband internet at a reasonable price to every corner of the planet.

The changes sweeping across the engineering and tech sector will not slow down in 2022, even if the COVID-19 pandemic finally recedes to become endemic. Beyond the topics mentioned Redline Group's mission is to enable high-technology companies to build world-class teams through knowledge-led recruitment. We will continue to assist clients with challenges of talent acquisition as the shortage of specialist skills continue.

If you would like to find out more about how we can help your business, contact us today on 01582 450054 to start a conversation.


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