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Automation, adaptability and acceleration: Rebuilding the technology sector post-COVID

No industry was left untouched by the pandemic. Its suffocating presence forced us all to swim for our lives or risk sinking faster than we could have ever imagined. However, as Europe’s – and the world’s – economies begin their journeys on the road to recovery, digitisation will invariably be a key driver in stimulating growth. 

However, what is equally clear to see is that those businesses who were slow to adopt or placed themselves in containment mode until the proverbial storm has passed are already showing signs of falling far behind those who were quick to jump on the opportunities that lockdown provided. 

While an industry damaged by the ramifications of COVID-19, the technology sector’s broad scope for realignment and innovation has never been greater and the businesses that have, and still are, seizing opportunity by the horns are now reaping the rewards almost six months on.

So, what does the future look like for the tech sector?

 

Adaptability: Flexible working

The survivors of the pandemic are those that moved and flexed with every sharp peak and trough, the leaders that listened to feedback and implemented change, teams that banded together as a unit of strength and businesses that weren’t afraid to accept the ‘new normal’. 

As with many other industries, flexible working was one of the first changes to enter the tech sector with force. Research by Amsource found that only a few months into lockdown, three quarters of businesses had changed their working patterns as a direct consequence of coronavirus, with only 5 per cent of respondents saying that having people working from home had a detrimental effect on company culture. 

Post-pandemic, remote working will not only open up a much wider, more active talent pool which isn’t restricted by location, but it will also be a driving factor for many entry-level employees who now consider flexible working patterns or remote working to be a necessary employee offering.

 

Adaptability: Filling the skills gap

The past 12 months has seen a strong demand from CIOs for software developers, and this trend isn’t going to slow down post-COVID. This is partly because of the innovation and investment which many companies put into their software development initiatives during lockdown, as well as a foresight from many tech leaders who predict an upcoming shortfall in talent as COVID-19 restrictive measures are lifted further.

However, the skills needed from candidates will shift away from the pre-pandemic norm with softer skills, such as emotional intelligence and collaboration, needing to be equally balanced with harder skills, such as UX and cloud knowledge. Whilst experience is still key, those more human-focused skills will be the determining factor for longer-term employee retention, with leaders wanting to find more dynamic candidates who fit the company’s culture and ethos without any damaging friction. 

 

Automation: The creation of more tech roles

HR and tech, two traditionally very separate areas of the workplace are now kindling a new, much closer relationship post-COVID, both aligning to see how and where AI and automation could help HR efforts in tasks such as administration and assembly-line production. 

While automation is not as new as the hype would have you believe, its potential has never shone brighter than it does now, with a striking number of roles predicted to be created through the technology in the coming years. 

Indeed, speaking to ITPro magazine, I was keen to emphasize this very point. I told the reporter: “The automation of labour is not a new phenomenon despite the hype, but what is striking is the sheer number of new roles that are likely to be created in the coming years.” (read full article here). Research from Forrester points to an estimated 15 million new jobs entering the technology market over the coming decade as a direct result of automation and AI. 

But before we become very dystopian about it all, we need to try and dismiss the thoughts that robots are coming to take over our jobs. Instead, jobs will be created by technology and existing roles will change for the better. 

 

Acceleration: It’s time to up the ante

For the first time in a long time, we’re seeing a rise in the number of job vacancies in the sector and while in normal times this might be a worry for the industry, it is in fact an extremely positive sign. Companies are realising that it is time to move quickly and recover lost ground from months of uncertainty in order to retain market share - it’s time to build back those teams and fast. 

Not only will companies need to work hard to refill traditional roles, but now is the time to look forward and begin planning for those roles that will undoubtedly be born out of the COVID-19 crisis that perhaps haven’t been defined yet but will be profound for the future of tech. 
 

Any time of severe distress drives innovation and brings about change, and the current crisis will be no different. The last two years has seen technology advance at a speed and scale never seen before, and this will unquestionably be accelerated even further as will the range of new roles entering the tech space. 
 

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