Why tech talent is even harder to find in London

According to analysis firm Compass, London is home to between 3,000 and 5,000 active tech start-ups. Together, their combined valuation is £34 billion, making London one of the largest start-up ecosystems in the world. Companies House data also supports this – London had the highest number of tech start-ups in the UK in 2018 with 4,752 – a 14 per cent increase on the previous year. Thanks to London’s prominence as a global financial centre, many of these are FinTech start-ups.

It’s a rosy picture, but we still hear that finding technology talent and specifically hiring software developers is a challenge in the city of London. What these companies have in common is a desire to scale at speed with the changes demanded by the markets in which they operate and consumer demands. As digitally native businesses what they need to achieve that aim is a good supply of software development talent at all levels, and London is no different when it comes to finding that talent.

There are some key challenges for start-ups in London, not least the sheer amount of competition there is. It’s common knowledge that many of the things that drive software developers in their job roles are not the same as those that drive others. Salary isn’t the top requirement – more important to coders is the projects they get to work on and the challenge that brings to their jobs. They also consider company culture high on their list of priorities and autonomy in their roles. Unknown start-up brands with little or no brand recognition struggle to attract software developers who prefer the bright lights and promise of exciting development projects with bigger market players. And as much as salary might not be a key driver, no one ever turned down a bigger pay packet if other conditions were right, making it difficult to attract them away on that basis alone.

Senior hires are even harder to find as those with the greatest experience were learning their professions long before digitisation took hold. Education in software development is gaining traction now but has experienced years of under investment and will take many years to back-fill in terms of delivering experienced, trained computer scientists. The gap can’t simply be plugged with graduates – leaving a hole to fill. Senior developers are fought over, can choose the best roles in the most high-profile organisations and can name their price. That’s even more prevalent in as new roles and responsibilities also move up a gear. Software development teams require ‘agile coaches’, ‘software development managers’ and ‘DevOps’ personnel – relatively new disciplines where skills are still being developed.

Where start-ups find talent, they must retain it. Competition, company culture and the level of challenge in their work will define how long they stick around. Many of Godel’s clients talk about an employee lifecycle that involves developers undergoing a six-month on-boarding process, leading to 12-18 months tenure and then jumping ship to their next challenge somewhere else. The whole recruitment process begins again. On-boarding needs to be slicker, corporate culture stronger and the ability to work on exciting projects delivered to help that retention.

Plugging the gap

So how can these companies fill the gap without addressing the pitfalls of a constant flow of contractors? Nearshore partners are able to provide the skill sets required for rapid development – be that a move into a new market, or domination of existing ones. A nearshore partner like Godel can plug the gaps with speed and ease by providing teams of developers to complement in-house teams.

The nearshored partnership delivers many benefits:

• Instant access to a new pool of talent (in Godel’s case, Belarus) that can be retained over the long-term.
• Reduction of costly office space in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
• The ability to pass business as usual work to a nearshored team, leaving in-house developers more exciting projects to work on.
• Knowledge transfer – learning new things from each other.
• Tight knit teams – feeling part of a wider team makes for strong collaboration and a strong culture.