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There’s no denying it – 2023 has been a tough year.

Economic woes have dominated the news agenda; the phrase ‘cost of living crisis’ is everywhere. 

In our world, big clients looking at the economic situation put the brakes on their hiring plans, taking a cautious approach to budget commitments.

Interims, contractors and permanent job seekers have been nervous about the market, and relieved when we’ve found them roles.

But, 2023 is nearly over! 

And, dare we say it, but its looking like confidence is gradually coming back to breathe life into the 2024 hiring market.  

In demand in 2023 were….

The mid-section engine room of the market - those ‘doing’ roles based on delivery and output - have fared well this year. 

They include Data Analysts, Project Managers, Data Engineers and Business Analysts, who were needed to keep productivity going. And, for budget-conscious businesses, they’re less expensive to keep or hire.

Salaries in the first quarter of the year were on the rise for these middle level positions. Even candidates with limited experience were commanding big offers as supply struggled to keep up with demand. 

In the second quarter onwards, those salaries and rates became more stable because of less movement, and competition, in the market.

At the top end….

…it’s been tough.

At the CIO, IT Director, Head of Data level - those making strategic decisions and leading teams - we have seen very little movement in salaries, with redundancies more common.

This is an expensive bracket whose performance has to be judged over the long-term rather than having an immediate impact. For cautious businesses waiting for the economy to improve, long-term projects have just not been high on the priority list.

However, moving into the end of the year, more leadership roles are coming onto the market as companies focus on longer term strategic plans. At a time when costs and supply are favourable, clients are aiming to take advantage, beat the competition and secure leadership talent while they can.

Talk to David Pynor if you’d like to start your data and tech leadership search in this favourable market.

Technical people in non-technical roles!

In the latter half of 2023, there has been a drive towards hiring more technically skilled Project Managers and Business Analysts. Clients have had the luxury of finding people with that extra knowledge, whilst more traditional PMs and BAs who aren’t particularly technical have found it more difficult to find work.

This hybrid talent pool is growing as tech becomes more embedded into our lives and a greater number of people are training for data and technology focused careers. 

As businesses begin or continue their digital transformation journey, they learn that it’s the people who are crucial to its success, not the technology itself. 

Hiring people who have a deeper understanding of the technology, can communicate that, and get buy-in from the business to drive change, are invaluable. 

What do candidates want?

In spite of the tough market, in data and technology, contractors and job seekers are driving a hard bargain when it comes to working arrangements.

Post-covid, hybrid or fully remote is without doubt the preferred option mentioned when talking to candidates. But this may be at odds with employer preferences. 

In 2023, we have seen a shift from employers towards requiring a higher proportion of time in the office. Reasons include the positive impact on collaboration, business culture and sometimes productivity.

Although hybrid and remote working are critical to open up opportunities for some people such as parents, carers and those with disabilities, many clients want to reap the benefits of bringing teams together in person.

Well-being is another hot topic. Firms that offer enhanced benefits and perks related to health, mental health and well-being are preferred by both permanent job seekers and contractors alike.

How Boston Hale has been supporting customers in 2023?

As always, whatever the market conditions, the best talent will always be in demand. Excellent interims and candidates continue to receive multiple offers for jobs. 

Timeline management has been critical in 2023 to ensure that our clients are not missing out on their preferred candidates in this situation. Effective, honest, regular communication is essential to avoid mixed messages and maintain interest from the candidate. 

Recognising good candidates has proved yet again to be essential. No employer can afford a bad hire. The most successful sourcing channel continues to be people we’ve worked with before, who we know can deliver, or referrals from experienced candidates in our network, with the right commercial experience. When we do identify and bring on board new talent, they are rigorously referenced and validated.

We’re also more regularly delivering enhanced consultancy around clients' workforce plans. We’re having conversations about how employers should approach their needs, what the budget should be, changing who or how they usually recruit, adjusting priorities. 

I’m being asked to assess the feasibility – is this a unicorn hire or is it realistic? What do clients need to do to fill the need and produce the work required? It’s much more than taking a job spec and sending candidates for a position.

We are working with clients earlier in the hiring process, building a plan around their growth strategy and existing talent. Increasingly, we are involved in entire business or programme build-outs - for example to double the size of a tech department - taking on all the hiring for the project.

The advantages of this approach include a deeper understanding of the wider business goals and roadmap, our ability to fully invest in the process with the client, and our capability to communicate the scale of the opportunity to the candidate. We can put together a team who fits well together and complements each other, technically and culturally.

Looking ahead to 2024

As always, we don’t have a crystal ball! There are lots of unforeseen factors that will impact the data and technology recruitment landscape next year. For a start, 2024 will see a general election, and possibly the return of a Labour government after 13 years.

But here’s what I think:

Demand for data skill sets will remain stable or grow. There are still many companies that have yet to embrace the opportunities data provides. Those who’ve made investments will continue to need people to move projects forward.  

We will see less demand for traditional infrastructure roles as investment in the cloud continues.

As and when the economy starts to recover, we expect the status of long-term projects and investments to move from ‘pause’ to ‘full steam ahead’. Companies will want to bring in interims and contractors for instant impact, to support strategic projects and invest in growth.

One thing will remain unchanged – companies will always want good people. 

And we’ll be able to deliver them.


For more information on the Data & Technology jobs market, to register or to discuss your recruitment needs, contact David Pynor

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