Hiring tech teams

With demand for tech talent in the UK rapidly outpacing supply, you need to act quick to assemble a crack tech team for your business. Here's how...

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Given the UK is such a hotbed for technology, hiring tech teams can put exceptional strain on your recruitment process, whether you need to hire php developers or software developers.

But keeping them can be an even greater challenge. The best people are always in high demand so there’s a constant risk that another firm will come along and poach them.

Nevertheless, there’s more and more tech talent emerging all the time. You just need to know where to look and what to offer.

Whether it’s giving your tech talent the chance to take ownership of their own projects, providing the right culture or simply making it an enjoyable place to work, companies must do all they can to keep the bright tech sparks that they hire.

Here’s how your start-up can attract (and retain) the best tech teams.

The UK is home to 38% of the continent’s unicorns and secured more venture capital in 2017 than Germany, France, and Sweden combined thanks to its thriving digital sector.


In this article we cover:

Tech talent shortage

The digital skills gap in the UK has been well documented. A 2017 Tech Nation survey found that finding skilled workers was the number one challenge facing tech businesses in the UK, according to more than 50% of respondents.

According to Pete Smith, founder of Silicon Milkroundabout, software developers are fast becoming the most sought-after people in the economy. He says: “There aren’t even enough software developers in Silicon Valley.

“That’s already happened. We’ll be in a similar situation in the UK within two years, because the amount of software that is being written – that will need to be maintained – is growing exponentially.”

Research from The Open University’s 2018 Business Barometer found that the majority of organisations in the UK (91%) struggled to find workers with the right skills over the past 12 months.

Cost of developers

This talent shortage, as well as increasing demand, have combined to increase the cost of making tech hires, which can be a real issue for a business of limited means.

The 2018 Business Barometer found that UK businesses spent an average of £6.3bn on temporary workers, recruitment fees, increasing offered salaries and training.

The government’s National Careers Service offers benchmark figures for the average yearly salary of developers. The below will give you an idea of how much you should expect to offer in the current market with the range dependent on the candidates skill and experience.

According to payscale, the current average salary of a software developer in the UK is £30,700.

What about the view from inside a tech start-up?

Piers Moore-Ede from financial technology firm Company Debt, who has been running tech teams for many years, says:

“Obviously, the roles differ depending on what kind of firm you’re running. My main experience is with websites and software so I’ll base my recommendations on that.”

According to him, the key roles within a team are:

  • Usability researcher – role is to organise and moderate UX research studies, analyse data and produce research findings into actionable recommendations. (salary range = £35,000 to £80,000)
  • Interaction designer – Iterating design prototypes and refining user experience. (salary range = £30,000 to £60,000)
  • Visual designer – this is obviously a core role. You need someone with the talent to create visuals that tell a powerful story. (salary range = £30,000 to £60,000)
  • Frontend developers – convert data into a graphical interface that users can interact with. (salary range = £30,000 to £70,000)
  • Backend developers – builds and maintains the technology responsible for a website’s server, application and database. (salary range = £30,000 to £70,000)
  • DevOps engineer – this is a critical role requiring skills in coding or scripting, process re-engineering, communicating and collaborating with others. (salary range = £40,000 to £80,000)
  • Data scientist – ensures data quality through the processes of sourcing, collecting, normalising, transforming and aligning/mapping through all stages of data acquisition. (salary range = £30,000 to £65,000)

Finding the right people

The ideal people for roles at your company could be hiding anywhere, so you have to cast your net wide and recruit from numerous sources to draw a large pool of candidates.

This means going beyond the online world and exploring the fertile grounds of universities, graduate fairs and events nationwide.

For example: Siliconmilkroundabout organises a free annual meet-up of tech companies and tech talent in central London. Some of the UK’s biggest brands are in attendance including the BBC, Citymapper, and ASOS, as well as more than 3,500 attendees.

And don’t forget: you should also never underestimate the value of recommendations from current employees and your wider community.

According to Moore-Ede:

“It’s obvious enough to say that start-ups live and die by the people that bring them to life. They have to share in the company vision. I look for people who are:

  • Agile
  • Multi-faceted
  • Positive individuals

“In a tech start-up there is an obvious shift in personalities as you move from the more creative roles to the more analytical. The main thing is to give everyone permission to be themselves, because when everyone is empowered to work according to their strengths, the magic happens.”

Being a start-up can be advantageous when looking to hire talent. People relish the chance to be part of a company on the rise, with a better culture than some large corporates, as well as the opportunity to be agile and innovative, and the ability to have a real impact on the product.

But what if you don’t have the resources to hire full-time tech staff…?

Using freelancers/outsourcing

Having a full in-house team can be unachievable for start-ups, who end up competing with the big brands but don’t have the resources necessary to pay high salaries.

Fortunately, technology has untethered employees from their desks and offices and it’s now possible to have a company consisting entirely of people from around the globe who’ve never met.

Remote workers can be highly affordable, either on a temporary or freelance contract. This means you’re not restricted to the talent in your local area and can search for the best people the world over.

Using tech freelancers or outsourcing development tasks can help you to access their skills without committing to hiring a full-time employee.

Click here for everything you need to know on hiring tech teams.

Hire a freelance developer

There are plenty of resources online offering access to freelance developers.

Platforms like People Per Hour can help you to hire software developers on a temporary basis for particular jobs. Prices can range from around £8 per hour to £60 per hour.

UpWork also enables you to connect and collaborate with freelancers operating in a huge variety of skills including web and software development, e-commerce development and mobile development.

If you really want to know you’re hiring the cream of the crop, check out Toptal Development, which claims to only feature the top 3% of freelance developers.

Growing and maintaining your team

Enticing tech talent into your start-up is one thing (be that full-time staff or freelancers), but growing your team and keeping them motivated is a different thing. So what can you do to keep your developers happy?

  • Attract talent with talent – hire inspirational and industry experts that other developers admire and are keen to learn from
  • Keep the work interesting – providing people with an operational area of responsibility can also be highly effective. You don’t want to overload busy people with too much extra work but, for example, giving one of the development team a role on a marketing project will make people feel valued and like they are contributing to other areas of the business.
  • Provide opportunities to train and gain new skills – for example, a day a week where developers have the freedom to work on whatever part of the product they like, or a project that will benefit the developer community as a whole
  • Involve them in the company – Engagement is mostly about open communication across the company. The boss should update regularly on company progress and acknowledge individual contributions where appropriate. Employees should also have a platform to get their views across, so everyone feels like they’re part of the team and moving in the same direction.
  • And finally…  don’t underestimate the little things that will keep your team happy – company benefits, company clubs and free food!

Moore-Ede says: “Since smaller teams are demonstrably more productive than larger ones, this is the key problem when scaling. Maintaining communication and avoiding too much lag before decisions can be made are other issues.”

Small business payroll services for tech teams

One thing that will ensure you keep your tech talent happy is to pay them promptly for their hard work.

To help you with this, you should invest in small business payroll services.

Payroll service providers can help you deal with the administrative burden of tasks by automatically applying national insurance deductions to an employee’s salary, dealing with documentation, and filing your tax return with HMRC.

Others may even incorporate holiday and sickness day tracking.

Below we compare some of the most popular payroll service providers.


Moneysoft Payroll Solutions

    HMRC-recognised for PAYE, automatic calcuation of tax and national insurance, auto-enrolment and workplace pensions ready

Payroll Manager 20: £68

Payroll Manager 100: £136

Payroll Manager 250: £204

Learn more about payroll solutions here.

Next steps

Tech teams are becoming one of the most important elements in any operation and there are very few companies that don’t incorporate a degree of digitisation.

Although it can be competitive, if you’re prepared to get out into the real world to find key talent and make the enticing offer of working for a dynamic and high-potential start-up you shouldn’t have any trouble hiring tech teams.

ProviderFeaturesCost (per month)
Sage Payroll Solutions
    HMRC-recognised Cloud-based payroll software that can automate payroll processes like payslips and tax calculations
Payroll: £3

Sage50cloud Payroll: £23

Sage 50 P11D: From £198

SAP Payroll Solutions
    Real-time payroll monitoring, global processes and local best practices, legal compliance
Standard: Contact for pricing
    Payroll preview and processing, payroll contract, auto-enrolment, employee self-service, legislative & product upgrades
Contact for prices
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