How Covid has shaken up IT channel job market

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How Covid has shaken up IT channel job market

Marc Sumner, CEO of channel recruitment agency Robertson Sumner, reflects on how Covid has impacted the channel jobs market over the past 12 months.

Throughout 2020 we have all had to adapt and change at speed. Businesses were expected to enable their teams to work from home with very limited notice from the government. Some businesses were well prepared and were able to ‘flick the switch’ allowing their staff to start working from home seamlessly right from the start of the imposed lockdown. But the vast majority of UK plc were not.  After nearly a year of operating through a series of lockdowns, what was the impact on the job market within the IT channel?

Despite an initial dip in hiring between March and May 2020, demand has bounced back strongly to pre-Covid levels. Technology is one of the markets that helped UK plc respond to the challenges of enabling people to work in a more collaborative way despite the restrictions of travelling and running traditional events. The IT channel has needed to double down on both technical and sales staff to present the most suitable solutions to their customers.

Companies became adept at hiring and onboarding remotely. This has freed up many organisations from the restrictions usually associated with hiring people who live within a commutable distance of an office base. In some cases, skills shortages have become a thing of the past with hiring managers realising that a person’s location is no barrier to their suitability for the organisation. Some 76 per cent of clients surveyed at the end of 2020 are now willing to hire somebody remotely for a traditionally ‘office based’ role, expanding the ‘talent-pool’ available to choose from.

Hiring managers and recruiters in the IT channel were forced to review their interview and assessment techniques to adapt to the lockdown restrictions. To minimise the risk of making bad decisions many organisations added skills or psychometric testing to the recruitment process. Some even started developing a ‘score-card’ based approach to their hiring taking away some of the ‘gut-feel’ out of the process. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues as the restrictions are eased.

There was a big rise in the way we consume our jobs-based training, with 90 per cent taking place online during 2020. On-boarding remotely also became the norm. Most channel leaders and many employees that I have spoken to have expressed a desire to return to a mix of online and traditional face to face on-boarding and training when practical.

Despite the lockdown being designed to physically keep people and teams apart, it has demonstrated how important working more collaboratively is to achieve a positive outcome. In the IT channel, businesses who are ‘competitors’ in the traditional sense have in some instances formed unlikely alliances to help deliver solutions to their customers. This level of creativity could go a long way to helping foster long-term growth and help deliver job opportunities that fall out of these joint ventures.

To conclude, it is still very early days to predict the medium/long term impact of Covid on the job market within the IT channel. However, the early signs are that the adoption of technology is still key in helping the country return to some sort of normality and therefore the opportunity for job growth is very realistic in 2021.

Marc Sumner is managing director of channel recruitment outfit Robertson Sumner. This article featured in the recent CRN Staff and Salaries Report 2021.