Tapping into top tech talent: Is the UK struggling with internal openness?

With Brexit not far off, how can business leaders ensure the UK continues to retain and attract top talent? Adecco's Federico Vione explores.

The latest Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI) ranks the UK as third in the world for talent competitiveness, with London and Cardiff both ranking highly overall in terms of global talent competitiveness(16th and 11th respectively).  However, whilst the UK clearly practises strong external openness, according to the report, it only ranks 23rd globally when it comes to internal openness. The UK also fails to feature in the top ten for its ability to enable, retain or utilise skills. This begs the question – with Brexit not far off, what do business leaders need to be aware of to ensure that the UK continues to retain and attract top talent?

The impact of Brexit

Whilst the impact of Brexit is, as of yet, unknown, it is likely to have a significant impact on the UK’s talent pool.  Organisations need to be prepared to both maintain the UK’s reputation as a top spot for talent, as well as nurturing talent already based in the UK.

Now, multi-national companies are much more likely to move their operations to where talented individuals are based, rather than the other way around. With several large companies having already pulled their business from London following the vote to leave (Microsoft, Vodafone and HSBC, to name but a few), the UK needs to ensure that it is still doing enough to a) attract talent, but also b) prevent skilled workers from leaving to go and work in other countries. As talent shortages continue to be prominent, more focus needs to be placed on employee retention, which needs to come to the forefront for the UK as a whole. Organisations must be mindful of what motivates the workers within their walls.

Whilst flexible labour markets and external openness are just some of the factors that help the UK outperform many of its peers externally, it continues to lag behind in areas such as vocational training. As a nation, the UK must focus on more policies to support the younger generation in the workplace, such as offering work-based training opportunities to help youngsters develop their employability and gain the required skills. The recent implementation of the Apprenticeship Levy is a step in the right direction, but employers need to be doing more to fully embrace the change.

The impact of tech on the labour market

There’s no doubt that technology is having a highly disruptive impact on labour markets. Countries that are equipped to harness this disruptive power will be best placed to attract talent in the coming years.

The good news is that the UK is already well-positioned to both adapt to, and reap advantages of, the ongoing technology revolution. The UK performs well across variables that determine a country’s talent readiness for technology – educational systems, employment and protection policies, stakeholder connectedness, and technology competencies – illustrating its preparedness to adapt to and benefit from technological changes.

The fact that the UK was the first European country to introduce coding and computational logic into the school curriculum, and the ongoing investment in London’s Silicon Roundabout as well as other key regions, has also made the UK a great tech nation. But the UK has to make sure that everyone across the labour market can benefit.

While there is no doubt that the UK is still a top destination for talent, we do not yet know the full effect of the UK leaving the EU. Now that Article 50 has been triggered and the UK has formally begun its process of exiting the European Union, policy makers and business leaders are facing a number of challenges and considerations that will impact the UK’s spot as a talent magnet. To make a success of Brexit, it’s important that the government pursues a strategy that protects the country’s ability to attract investment and top talent, as Brexit further widens the divide between the talent the UK has, and the talent the UK needs.

Federico Vione is the regional head, North America, UK & Ireland, of Adecco and Pontoon.

Praseeda Nair

Kellen Rempel

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.

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