How businesses can secure top Cloud talent amid fierce competition

The global Cloud market is set to reach $390bn by 2020, representing a compound annual growth rate of 17% since 2015. That opportunity – alongside the underlying Cloud architecture requirements of emerging technologies like mobile, cyber security, big data, the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G and blockchain – places Cloud skills at a premium. However, 38% of those involved in recruiting talent in Cloud have struggled to find the skills they need over the last 12 months.

It’s therefore not surprising to note that competition between the top four Cloud platforms – Amazon Web Services Cloud (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and IBM Cloud – is heating up. In fact, our latest Tech Cities Job Watch report reveals strong growth in both the permanent and contractor marketplaces, with demand for Cloud skills currently outstripping supply. The research also indicates that the two major established players in AWS Cloud and Microsoft Azure dominate much of the Cloud market, with Google Cloud and IBM Cloud set to disrupt the industry over the next few years.

Battle of the cloud platforms

AWS Cloud accounted for 54% of all UK Cloud roles in Q2 2018. This demand is particularly strong in security-conscious industries like financial services. It also has a well-established foothold in the public sector that is unlikely to diminish soon. The ability to create private Clouds with AWS is crucial for these two sectors; while the platform’s data warehousing capabilities are also helping attract interest from businesses looking to focus more on Big Data applications.

Microsoft Azure hasn’t yet reached the popularity of AWS but retains its position as the biggest challenger for market share with 41% of all UK Cloud roles advertised (Q2 2018). It remains the platform of choice in sectors like utilities and also has a strong presence in financial services , where it competes with AWS. However, permanent salaries for Microsoft Azure (£64,647) are below the Cloud average (£68,672).

Google Cloud only accounted for 4% of all UK Cloud roles advertised (Q2 2018). However, it looks poised to have a big impact on the Cloud status quo over the next five to 10 years. It commands the highest average salary (£71,701) of the four platforms and has generated real traction in dynamic industries like betting, gaming and media, which crave the agility it provides to run their operations more nimbly. There is also a large talent supply in short-term contractor support, and this is growing.

With only 1% of all UK Cloud roles advertised (Q2 2018), IBM Cloud doesn’t hold the market share of AWS and Microsoft Azure yet. But it could also be a major disruptor in the market over the next few years. The tech giant has focused much of its development in Cloud around IoT. Its collaboration with VMware in particular shows that this is where it sees the opportunity in the market.

For employers looking to attract and retain top Cloud talent in their businesses, here are five tips to consider: 

  • Don't penny-pinch

Businesses must be willing to offer attractive remuneration packages. Whether permanent Cloud platform specialists or short-term contractors, organisations need to consider the impact of small savings on recruitment costs against their Cloud needs. Efforts to save on a pay packet may hamper an organisation’s ability to secure individuals that can drive substantial business value

  • Offer challenging work

Not all Cloud experts are motivated by money alone. Contractors will also be attracted to organisations that provide them with an opportunity to upgrade their existing skillsets. Cloud projects that focus on emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things and Edge Computing will most appeal to talent. 

  • Cross train staff

When expert contractors are brought in, employers need to make sure that their knowledge is disseminated throughout the business to upskill the existing workforce. There are several transferable skills, including SQL and MySQL, software quality assurance and project management. 

  • Complement permanent staff with contractor support

Businesses need to get the balance right between having a permanent IT skillset (whether in-house or retained with an outsourcer) and employing short-term experts who can offer support for transformation or consolidation projects. 

  • Embrace diversity

According to Microsoft, 80% percent of IT roles in the UK are occupied by males. However, research has shown that gender balanced teams adhere better to project schedules, incur lower costs and achieve higher performance ratings. Addressing this imbalance will help to fix the Cloud skills bottleneck and in turn improve the overall economy. 

As Cloud adoption increases, so too will competition for individuals with this skillset. With this in mind, it’s important that organisations think long-term about how they will secure the Cloud skills their business needs. Businesses should keep in mind that in the digital age, their organisations are only as resilient as the technology upon which they depend, and their technology is only as good as the talent that builds, integrates and maintains it. This makes the acquisition of Cloud skills a strategically important matter. 

Martin Ewings is director of specialist markets at Experis.