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  • Publish Date: Posted almost 2 years ago
  • Author: Dean Bartle

Jonathan Moran, Director of Better Placed Tech, has revealed how the new division plans to double in size in 2022, as it expands into Leeds and Yorkshire after a successful 2021.

Better Placed Group was founded in 2001, and in November 2020 launched its tech division under the direction of Jonathan Moran, who it hired to lead the new business, part of the wider group.

Since then, the division has seen significant success, placing 53 tech professionals in new roles over the course of the last year. And its team has also grown - Moran brought on Ben Greensmith in March 2021, and Beth Thompson in September.

Moran told Prolific North: “It’s been a great first year… there are three of us now and we're looking to double in size in 2022.”

One of Better Placed Tech’s most recent developments has been the launch of its new Leeds office. Originally opening in Manchester, they have opened a new office to tackle the Yorkshire market based on Better Placed’s heritage in Leeds - “it made sense for us to have a tech offering over there.”

Greensmith is to lead the new Leeds operation, being the “hands-on” figure for Leeds and the rest of Yorkshire. Early successes include being named as a preferred supplier for tech at Sky TV.

Launching in the midst of a pandemic, the success of Better Placed Tech has been very much in line with the health of the regional sector itself.

“Q1 last year was a little bit slow,” said Jonathan. “We'd come out of Christmas and been put in this lockdown again, [so] businesses were naturally more nervous. It suddenly got to March-April and it was go-time; we were never so busy.”

On the whole, however, he acknowledges that tech was less affected than lots of industries, which has been a bonus for Better Placed.

It’s ultimately been a successful year-and-a-half for Better Placed Tech, which has helped create a “complementary skillset” within the wider group, said Jonathan.

Taking place before the launch of the tech division, the group’s April 2021 move to employee ownership has been “well received by everyone”, he added. With an employee on its board of trustees, the interests of staff can be represented directly.

The year ahead
Having seen success over the course of 2021, Moran said: “We're hoping quite significantly to ramp that growth up this year - certainly 40% growth on revenue.” This increase is set to contribute significantly in helping the group surpass £4 million in billings.

“We've now placed 19 people since January, so we're well on course for hitting our revenue targets in 2022.”

Despite this, it’s not plain sailing and though they’re keen to expand, Moran said - “ironically being a recruitment business, we're finding it hard to find and hire good people.

“If I could click my fingers and get three people in tomorrow, I would do so - we're ready to!”

Another of Better Placed Tech’s goals is to work with a more diverse client base. The division was launched in Manchester, but they have opened up a new market with the opening of the Leeds base. “We were very Manchester-centric in Year 1… We’re looking to diversify into Leeds and Yorkshire,” Moran added.
Having developed an extensive contact list in Manchester and got to know the local sector very well - Moran spent the majority of his career in and around the city - he is relishing the new challenge.

“It surprised us just how large the market was out there,” he said. “In Leeds, I'm learning again… it gives you new impetus.”

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The competition for tech talent

Being in the position he is, Jonathan can see which changes have happened recently in the tech sector, and what businesses need to do to attract the best technical talent.

In the “go-time” of Q2 last year, he said, there was suddenly a huge desire to hire as projects got going, leading to businesses being “desperate to hire… almost regardless of what the cost is.

“Salaries rose significantly, April right through to December last year,” Moran said, stating they saw examples of some salaries almost doubling upon moving.

But the SMEs that he has so much experience working with, and which make up a significant portion of the Northern tech sector, can’t keep up on salaries with the big tech players operating in or moving to the North. “Small to medium enterprises have felt the squeeze, because salaries have gone up and up,” he said.

“What some of the smarter companies are starting to do is to start to look at how they can modify the traditional working week.”

Whether that be simple flexible working or looking to introduce a four or four-and-a-half day week, there is now significant demand among tech talent for greater flexibility, which will help organisations no matter their size “make themselves competitive in a tough market.”

He said: “If businesses are very insistent on a rigid nine-to-five, five days in the office scenario, it gets very difficult to recruit for them.”

Junior talent “neglected”
Another consequence of the recent situation where salaries skyrocketed as digital businesses got back to work, Jonathan said some were “quite naive” in how they acted. They looked to only bring on talent at mid-level - “there wasn't a massive growth in senior developers, and there certainly wasn't junior.”

It led to businesses “almost neglecting” junior and graduate talent, as they weren’t willing to train people up from entry-level - instead desiring talent that could hit the ground running and be profitable almost immediately.

This seemed to be true across the board, at tech firms of all sizes, despite the fact that recruiting junior talent can be an exceptionally good way of acquiring a loyal employee - once they’ve been brought in and trained up.

Jonathan predicts, however, that this could also lead to serious consequences, saying: “There could be a bit of a black hole where you've not got the juniors coming through, and you're caught in this vicious cycle of rotating mid-level developers from other places.

“Further down the line are we going to get this black hole of mid-level people stepping into senior roles and no-one coming through at the other end?”

He also believes a greater focus on diversity and inclusion - which Better Placed has pledged its commitment to - will help tech businesses of all sizes, as well as improved tech education not only reserved for those heading to university.

“We still have this big skills gap,” said Moran. “I think that's going to start to close in the next five or six years.

“It won't just be the kids who are fortunate enough to go to university and study computer science, it'll also be kids from a whole diverse range of backgrounds who have been given that exposure from a very young age.”