IT, AI, WFH and SSCs – an overview of Poland’s tech labour market
Łukasz Grzeszczyk, executive director for CEE, Hays
How is demand for IT skills in Poland today – and what factors are shaping demand and supply? Łukasz Grzeszczyk, executive director for CEE at Hays, specialising in IT, investor consulting, and talent location strategies, talks to the BPCC’s Michael Dembinski about recruiting high-end IT specialists and the trends that are shaping the Polish market.
Please tell us how you see the current state of supply and demand for talent in the IT industry in Poland right now, and what new recruitment-market trends you foresee in the near future?
Our observations show that there’s still a demand for IT talent. However, it’s lower than in previous years. There has been an increase in the availability of candidates actively seeking employment in the past months. This is due to a slump in the Polish and global IT markets, leading to layoffs in the tech industry and greater caution on the part of employers. Decisions to launch the recruitment process are now made more slowly, resulting in fewer job offers and longer search duration for candidates.
As an organisation that works closely with investors, we are also seeing a trend of reviewing initial projections for IT recruitment projects. Investors are scrutinising whether the planned scale of technology and digitalisation projects align with the current economic conditions and reflect their business needs and capabilities. This often results in adjustments to the scale of recruitment. For example, an employer might have planned to build a team of 90 people, but now they realise that 45 employees are sufficient for current business needs.
Another emerging trend is that IT specialists find organisations operating primarily on technological skills and just entering the Polish market particularly attractive. According to many candidates, working for such organisations guarantees employment stability, as such businesses will grow and the risk of layoffs resulting from overstaffing is virtually non-existent.
In summary, recruitment processes are ongoing and IT professionals and experts still have numerous employment prospects. However, comparing the trends seen in 2021 and 2022, when there was a real recruitment boom in the market, we are seeing a slowdown.
What are the main things your clients are looking for from candidates – to what extent has this changed as a result of the pandemic, technological evolution and market trends?
Employers are seeking candidates with expert skills, particularly experienced specialists who can immediately contribute to assigned projects. This is a shift from the situation a year, 18 months ago when many job offers on the Polish market were targeted at candidates with limited work experience.
For senior specialists, candidates are expected to possess significant experience and readiness to engage in projects from the outset. In the case of junior recruits, insight, curiosity, willingness to learn, and commitment come first. In other words – the potential to grow.
I feel that, in terms of the demand for specific IT skills, the pandemic had little long-term impact. Of course, there were periods when businesses had to quickly adapt their technology infrastructure for remote work, leading to searches for first and second line support staff, IT infrastructure specialists, and cloud engineers. However, looking back from the vantage point of 2023, it seems that while this period accelerated the digital transformation and increased the overall demand for IT talent, the most sought-after tech skills in Poland remain relatively unchanged – software developers, security experts, AI and data science are invariably of greatest interest to employers.
Poland has built up a strong global position as a location for shared services and business process outsourcing. Over the years, the types of services outsources to Poland have become increasingly sophisticated. To what extent has the migration of shared services to Poland been driven by IT and by perceived availability of IT skills?
Indeed, business service centres in Poland have progressively evolved to handle more complex tasks over the years. Initially created for simple administrative functions, these centres have shifted their focus to processes of significant importance to global businesses. This is a trend we have been observing for about five years and it applies to various areas of specialisation – not just technology.
Poland’s extensive pool of technological talent in the CEE region, combined with a favourable quality-to-price ratio, is attracting substantial investment projects. Foreign investors are drawn by three key factors: quality, availability, and salaries.
While the cost advantage of the Polish market is no longer as pronounced, our undeniable advantage remains the availability of specialised candidates with excellent skills and language abilities. Investors know that by choosing Poland, they will find exactly the people they need. As a country, we are seen as a trusted and experienced partner in setting up service centres and IT hubs. We have such a reputation in the US, the UK, the German-speaking and Nordic countries. We are also gaining increasing recognition in Asia, including China, South Korea and Japan.
It is worth noting that while some time ago we were competing for investments with other CEE countries, now our competitors are most often Spain, Portugal, countries from Asia and South America.
The return to the office is now very much under way. Is it the same for IT, or are IT specialists more likely to want to work from home? How does this factor in during the recruitment process – is working from the office seen as a deal-breaker by potential recruits?
People working in the IT sector are undeniably more remote-oriented than the general labour market. Over the course of a year, however, there has been a noticeable trend among employers who are actively seeking to increase the proportion of office-based work from their tech teams. This has very often been met with dissatisfaction from workers.
Organisations that took a more rigid stance and adhered to hybrid working arrangements often experienced a turnover of around 15-20% of their IT staff. Still, in most cases, they have managed to find new employees who accept the hybrid model. Undeniably, an advantage for employers has been the slowdown in the IT recruitment market. After all, the negotiating position of candidates – including their stance on working model – is somewhat weaker than it was two years ago.
For many IT professionals, hybrid working is not their preferred model, but they are willing to accept it if the other aspects of the job offer are competitive.
To what extent is cross-border full-remote IT work happening; is it becoming an established part of the landscape?
Cross-border, fully remote IT work is happening, but is not a predominant trend the Polish market. Businesses that are open to building international technology teams have usually already sourced the talent they need in Poland. I do not feel that there is substantial growth in the number of Polish experts working remotely for foreign entities.
On the other hand, we need to consider what is happening in Western Europe, specifically the ageing populations, the growing skills gap and the challenges in building teams in one location. Over time, this may result in an increase in the outflow of IT experts from the Polish market, as the secure jobs in foreign firms without relocating to another country.
However, I believe that a more likely scenario is companies changing their approach to their work organisation. Instead of building one large competency centre located in one city, more and more businesses will build smaller ones in multiple locations. For instance, instead of one centre with 100 FTEs, five centres with 20 FTEs will be created. This solution increases flexiblility, not only in terms of hiring but also operating costs. For example, smaller centres can even operate from co-working spaces.
AI has become a boardroom issue. Many firms are looking to see how they can leverage large language models to their competitive advantage. Has the appearance of Chat GPT led to a sudden surge in demand for AI specialists? How does this look in Poland? Are locally owned businesses also rolling out AI-led projects, or is the AI rush the preserve of multinational corporations?
Demand for artificial intelligence experts has been growing steadily in Poland for several years. Chat GPT has not caused any major changes within this trend. As an HR consultancy, we have a lot of conversations with employers and investors and one thing I can say is that organisations have concerns about the security of external, publicly available AI tools. This issue is being raised by various companies, small and large, Polish and foreign.
I think that before organisations decide to invest more in AI, it will be necessary to address these concerns so they can be confident that AI-based solutions are stable and secure. There is a chance that, once these doubts have been dispelled, investment in AI will take off and, with it, the demand for specialists in this field will increase. Today, however, it is difficult to forecast whether we will actually see a boom in job opportunities.
How are the latest developments in IT affecting the recruitment process itself? How far have you moved from the traditional model in which recruits respond to ads by sending CVs and motivation letters, selection of candidates and rounds of face-to-face interviews? To what extent is AI helping you find the right candidate for the job?
Automation is all about streamlining recruitment by reducing repetitive administrative tasks. This is already happening, as many of the time-consuming yet uncreative, tedious tasks in a recruiter’s job have been reduced, shortened, and optimised at Hays. This is a result of the technology tools and solutions available in our database, which is being upgraded and improved all the time. This automation is appreciated by both our employees and our candidates, for whom the application process is becoming simpler, more accessible and more attractive.
Over the past few years, the proportion of remote recruitment interviews has increased significantly, with face-to-face meetings usually reserved for second-stage recruitment talks or the candidate’s final interview with a prospective employer. The process of sourcing candidates has long relied on direct search and actively engaging with contacts on social media. In today’s job market, a specialist needs to be found, engaged – with interesting information, expertise, and a partner attitude – and convinced that we have an offer that can really change their working life for the better. Simply publishing a job advert and waiting for CVs is no longer enough. This is not how the modern job market for specialists and managers works.
That’s why we want our consultants not to waste time on tasks that can be successfully automated and to focus fully on establishing and nurturing relationships with top talent. Recruitment is still done for people and by people, and I don’t think this is going to change.
Are you seeing more foreign candidates in Poland applying for IT jobs? Is there pro-active recruitment being carried out abroad on behalf of companies based in Poland, or are IT specialists from Ukraine and Belarus – as well as from India and indeed from the EU – applying for IT jobs once they are present in Poland?
Currently, there isn’t a surge number of foreign nationals applying for IT jobs in Poland. Additionally, Poles who migrated to other countries do not necessarily return and apply here. Those who do return are few and usually driven by personal motivations.
Organisations based in Poland do look for IT talent abroad, for example in Portugal. However, this presents challenges because candidates living in Portugal do not necessarily want to relocate to Poland. So organisations very often have to adjust their strategy and consider setting up small, satellite offices abroad to supplement their operations in Poland. Sometimes this happens, sometimes not. After all, borderless working models require robust communication channels and solid infrastructure, and not every organisation wants to invest in such a solution.
As for IT specialists from Ukraine and Belarus, they are present in Poland but are not necessarily active participants in the Polish labour market. Some of those residing in the country apply for offers and actively look for a better job – they behave like any Polish IT specialist. After all, many Ukranian IT professionals emigrated to Poland long before the war in Ukraine. However, over the last few years, many Ukrainians and Belarusians have relocated to Poland with their employers, as part of the special Poland Business Harbour programme. Thus, their migration to Poland did not significantly contribute to the tech talent pool in Poland, and at the moment they are not very active in the labour market.