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MD Voices: Navigating the Manchester Tech Landscape - Challenges, Opportunities, and Success Stories

At Manchester Digital, we like to conduct interviews with our members to delve deeper into their areas of passion within the dynamic digital and technology landscape of Greater Manchester. This week we're speaking with The Candidate. 

What challenges do Manchester tech companies face today when recruiting talent?

A significant challenge faced by Tech companies looking to recruit is the competition with giant firms that can offer enticing packages, including high salaries, comprehensive benefits, and exposure to cutting-edge technology. These companies have the resources to attract talent by offering substantial compensation packages that can be difficult for smaller tech firms to match. Our advice here is to focus on building a strong and supportive culture, offering plenty of learning and growth opportunities, and providing flexible and remote working options where you can!

The reason for this is because the expectations around salaries and remote working have remained high among tech candidates, despite evolving business policies in other departments. While certain functions like marketing, HR, and finance may have returned to the office due to company policy, tech roles often require remote work options. Crafting a flexible working policy that aligns with the specific needs of tech positions is essential, as a one-size-fits-all approach may not be effective.

Furthermore, the tech job market has been impacted by redundancies from larger tech brands, resulting in an influx of candidates with elevated salary expectations. This situation adds to the challenge of finding talent that fits within a smaller tech company's budget.

Additionally, standing out in a competitive market can be difficult without a strong employer branding strategy. If tech companies don't actively champion their unique attributes as employers, potential candidates may not understand why they should choose them over other options. Effective employer branding can help companies differentiate themselves and attract the right talent by showcasing their company culture, values, and opportunities for growth.

Another significant hurdle is the sheer volume of applications, many of which may come from irrelevant or overseas candidates. This influx can clog the recruitment pipeline, making it more challenging to identify individuals who are genuinely qualified for the job. As a candidate, it’s really important to make yourself stand out from the crowd, and as a hiring manager, working with a recruiter to refine your search can save both time and money. Or alternatively, adding extra screening questions on your job adverts can help the right candidates filter through!

What type of roles are most in demand for Manchester tech companies?

First and foremost, developers play a pivotal role in the tech ecosystem of Manchester. This includes various types of developers such as fullstack, software, front-end, and backend developers. Their expertise is constantly in high demand as companies look to harness the power of technology to create websites, applications, and other digital solutions. In a rapidly evolving tech landscape, having skilled developers is essential for staying competitive and meeting the growing digital demands of businesses and consumers alike.

Project Managers are another crucial piece of the puzzle for tech companies in Manchester. These professionals are highly sought after because they provide the necessary structure and organization to coordinate complex projects effectively. In the fast-paced world of technology, where innovation is the name of the game, companies need proficient project managers to ensure projects are completed on time, within budget, and with the highest quality. Their role is especially important for maximizing return on investment and ensuring that tech projects align with business objectives.

In addition to developers and project managers, other roles that are in demand in the Manchester tech scene include data scientists and analysts. With the increasing emphasis on data-driven decision-making, companies are looking for professionals who can extract valuable insights from large datasets and apply them strategically to gain a competitive edge. Data professionals play a vital role in shaping business strategies, optimising operations, and enhancing customer experiences.

Lastly, UX/UI designers are also sought after in Manchester's tech industry. These designers are responsible for creating user-friendly and visually appealing interfaces for websites and applications. With user experience being a critical factor in retaining customers and ensuring product success, companies are keen to hire talented designers who can craft engaging and intuitive digital experiences.

How has Manchester cultivated a collaborative tech ecosystem, and can you recommend any networking/community events or organisations that help connect talent? 

Manchester has a history of building inclusive and diverse communities, and this is no different when it comes to the tech sector. No matter your interest, you’ll be able to find engaging and fun groups of like-minded individuals to geek out with! A few events we can recommend are:

Technically Speaking - for all things Data, Analytics, CRO, UX/UI, Product, Tech, and Dev, Technically Speaking is the meetup for you! There’s always some amazing food and drink options, innovative speakers, and a relaxed atmosphere. 

Manchester Tech Fest - This month, 100 carefully chosen speakers representing some of Manchester's most prominent tech companies are set to convene for a week of tech-focused events and social meet ups. Very much by the community, for the community, it’s definitely one you don’t want to miss! 

Tech Returners - This is a fantastic resource for those wanting to return to the world of tech, or upskill to snag the job of their dreams. 

What strategies have you seen successfully recruit and retain diverse tech talent in Manchester? 

The most important strategy is removing barriers to entry. This includes reevaluating traditional requirements such as university degrees, as many individuals from diverse backgrounds may not have had equal access to higher education or may have pursued alternative paths. By placing less emphasis on formal degrees and focusing on skills and competencies, tech companies can tap into a broader pool of talent. This not only increases diversity but also allows companies to benefit from a wider range of perspectives and experiences.

Companies can also look to create an inclusive recruitment process. This starts with ensuring that every step of the hiring process is designed to be inclusive and welcoming. For example, asking candidates about their preferred pronouns and whether they have any accessibility requirements, such as accommodations for physical disabilities or neurodivergent needs, demonstrates a commitment to inclusivity from the very beginning. This proactive approach not only helps to attract diverse candidates but also fosters a culture of respect and inclusion within the organisation.

Finally, implementing blind hiring practices can help reduce unconscious biases that may inadvertently exclude diverse candidates. Removing personally identifiable information such as names and addresses from resumes and applications allows recruiters and hiring managers to focus solely on the qualifications and skills of the candidates, promoting fairness in the selection process.

How can tech companies best communicate Manchester's unique value proposition to candidates outside the region? 

To properly communicate it, you need to be part of it. You need to be out in the community, attending events, following local media, news and trade publications, networking, talking to people, really consulting with network to understand what the draws are for people already in the industry in Manchester.  You can then go forward and communicate this to people outside the region, rather than just assuming what the draws are - you may be surprised! It’s not all Oasis and football!

How can recruiters tap into Manchester's student base to build an early talent pipeline? 

Events like Manchester Digital Talent Day are a brilliant opportunity for students to scope out potential employers, get advice on their CV, and speak directly to those working in the industry. For recruiters and hiring managers, this is a direct line to the next generation of talent! Also, a lot of students are looking for internships and apprenticeships, so even if you’re not looking to hire right away, offering work experience could be a great way to build up that talent pipeline.

Could you provide examples of Manchester tech startups that have achieved success in recent years?

As part of our sponsorship of Prolific North’s ‘Tech Companies to Watch’ list 2023, we caught up with some of Manchester’s thriving tech start ups to hear all about their success over the past 12 months. Highlights include Frame hitting their £1m milestone 9 months ahead of schedule, Financielle being Apple’s ‘App of the Day’, and FourJaw experiencing a revenue growth of more than 400% YOY and doubling the size of their team. Clearly the tech industry in the North is proving an incredible breeding ground for successful and ambitious startups.

Thank you!

To find out more about The Candidate click here.

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