How should your Tech Talent strategy adapt to Covid, Brexit and IR35?

When it comes to ways of working, 2020 has been a massive shakedown; businesses had to adapt very fast. As a result, Technology companies and teams have been presented with a mix of opportunities, not to mention challenges.   

Hiring in Technology has become increasingly hard over recent years, driven by a skills shortage in the UK and increased numbers of opportunities in the Technology sector. Especially Software Engineers and Data Scientists. According to the Tech Nation Jobs and Skills report citing Adzuna 2020 data: ‘Digital tech is second in importance in the UK labour market in 2020 only to Healthcare. Digital tech roles have seen a 36% uptick from June to August. This means that whilst the UK is in a recession and still reeling from the pandemic, it is unlikely that Tech salaries will do anything apart from stay flat, or possibly still increase. 

With the sudden adoption of remote working, there are some really pertinent questions about longer term hiring strategies and how you might want to go about building your technology teams. 

What does a sustainable strategy look like and what are the things you need to consider?  To start answering that question, it’d be helpful to look at what has happened. 

What happened and what does that mean in relation to Tech Talent? 


The effects of Brexit were felt a while ago in terms of tech talent returning to the EU, or simply choosing not to come to the UK. It’s too soon to say, now that we have left the EU, what the further effects will be in terms of talent, but suffice to say, the damage has probably already been done. 


There is an opportunity to build more inclusive and diverse teams as a result of the remote working. This is a massive silver lining to the pandemic, in an industry that has really struggled to get to grips and make genuine progress, with Inclusion and Diversity:

  • Remote working offers more opportunities to people with disabilities and conditions, for whom commuting to and accessing an office, or working in an open plan office, was very hard for if not impossible. 
  • It also could have positive implications for people with caring responsibilities, wanting to return to work, but held back by the challenges of commuting and lack of flexibility. We may also see more people looking for job sharing / part-time opportunities as a result of these people re-entering the workforce. 
  • You can also hire internationally if you are really embracing remote work for the long term. However there are logistical challenges from an employment law and tax perspective that most early stage startups don’t want the headache of having to deal with. 

Opening up the opportunity to hire from a broader national geography is also helpful, both to businesses in the main Tech hubs where competition is high, as well as more rural locations where talent is sparse. This may well mean that salaries in the more rural areas end up being pushed up. 


In times of uncertainty, it is appealing to hire contractors. Especially if your business is having to pivot and navigate change on an almost daily basis, planning more than a few weeks ahead, let alone months and years, is tough. Contractors are not a popular option at the moment given the role out of IR35 to the private sector. The current trend has been for companies to hire on a FTC instead. 

For small businesses there is an exemption from IR35 if you fall under two or more of the following: 

  • Turnover – not more than £10.2 million
  • Balance sheet total – not more than 5.1 million
  • Number of employees – no more than 50

So if you are a small business and fall into the above, you could hire a contractor without the fear of being landed with a heavy tax bill. 

What would a sustainable hiring strategy look like? 

At this stage, it is really important to start thinking long-term about what your team and organisation is going to look like. If you are hiring permanent members they are likely to be with your business for at least the next two-to-three years; this is really worth bearing in mind when making hiring decisions now. 

A sustainable strategy for hiring and onboarding talent needs to take into consideration the following: 

  • A clear idea of how you want your team to return to work after the pandemic and a statement about that in job descriptions, as well as being reflected in contracts. 
  • A clear understanding of new skills and competencies you are looking for that will support your working practices and culture, if they have changed. This should be reflected in your hiring process and questions. Have you created new positions as a result, or eliminated ones you thought you needed? Revisit your hiring plan and sanity check it. 
  • A hiring process that is remote-friendly. 
  • Perm, contract, FTC? Do you really need to hire someone permanently or is a contractor, or FTC a better solution? 
  • People policies that support people who are juggling complex work/life balances at the moment for example; flexible working hours that allow people to manage homeschooling needs, carers leave, or additional leave policies that don’t eat into holiday allowances.
  • An onboarding process that is easy to navigate and remote-friendly, that enables people to connect and meet with as many people as possible. 
  • Are you people tools up-to-date, such as an HR system and org charts that enable people to digitally find information that they would normally be able to quickly ask a colleague in the office (you really don’t want to rely on slack/messaging chats to do this as it will become increasingly disruptive). 
  • Setting expectations of new hires has never been so important, during the hiring process and throughout onboarding. Missed information and miscommunication will result in making bad hires, or losing good people early on. 


This in itself is a topic deserving of a whole blog. It is really important if you want your hiring strategy to be sustainable, to carefully consider the question around variation of salary based on location. There is a long list of pros and cons for both varying, or keeping them the same no matter where your people are based. Don’t just adopt a policy because Facebook may have set a precedent. Most companies are not Facebook and cannot afford to be as experimental with such a policy. Take time to understand your team, your commercial needs as a business and what the right thing for you and your team is. Not what another company has decided to do.

So, where do we go from here?

Firstly, embrace the opportunity to be more inclusive in your hiring strategy. 

Secondly, we are in such uncharted territory, looking to other companies for answers might not be the safest bet, as every organisation has its own experiments and challenges going on. It is critical leaders spend time speaking to their teams and collecting feedback about how the new ‘normal’ is working for them and adapt accordingly where they have the space and resources to do so. This will enable businesses to make better judgements on how to formulate a hiring strategy that is going to work for them. Paying attention to your culture and team is key to getting it right, not just for the now but for the future of your business.


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