The second part of the interview with the CEO of itMatch: “Direction - the future”

The second part of the interview with the CEO of itMatch: “Direction - the future” itMatch Blog Post

Published: April 10, 2024 by Bartosz Toporkiewicz

The second part of the interview with the CEO of itMatch: “Direction - the future”

Justyna: itMatch is not just a recruitment agency - I know that over the years you have specialized in audits of existing recruitment processes performed for our future clients. Is this a new product (or rather a service) that you would like to promote in particular in the near future?

Bartek: Well, that's what the market forces us to do - no doubt there's a need to maintain the competitive advantage we've already acquired, including in terms of hiring new employees. There is a crisis, and at the same time, everyone is hiring anyway. We have all the necessary competencies to reorganize and re-model recruitment processes, while preserving the specifics of a particular organization. There are a lot of mistakes that employers commit - one of them is to artificially lock in who, what and how are they looking for. People are limiting themselves to hiring “the best” instead of the most suitable candidates. Changing their attitudes is difficult for sure because for many years people came to Poland and to Krakow mainly due to lower wages. Quality was important, but it was rather a secondary goal. Now that Kraków is more than Warsaw, and often even than cities in the western part of Europe, quality is being talked about more and more, and companies are staying for it. Such a phenomenon gives rise to the need to implement changes in recruitment processes, because without this, the whole thing can simply fail, and more and more companies are aware of this.

Justyna: Lots of changes, even a little bit too much!  As I think about changes, I can't help but ask about the past year, which is inextricably connected to them. How do you assess 2023?

Bartek: There was certainly a lot of anxiety and fear of the future, but overall, it wasn't so bad. Business has shrunk slightly, although it's hard to pinpoint a consistent trend. The crisis has allowed companies with solid fundamentals to sustain themselves, but has made it difficult for weaker organizations to function. I've heard repeatedly that last year we didn't have a crisis, but only a correction that had to take place after a rapid, pandemic upturn. Who ever would have thought that as a recruitment agency we would be able to handle so many candidates per week? Who would have expected to make such a smooth transition to completely remote recruiting, thereby lowering the time-to-hire ratio? The ease and swiftness of recruiting certainly caused companies to overstaff during the pandemic - there were just a bit too many workers for real business needs. I think we are now facing a correction that is most likely coming to an end. Ultimately, we'll be back to pre-pandemic times.

Justyna: Has every industry had to deal with it in the past year? Because of your role in our company, you are close to managers and C level, what can you say about their attitudes?

Bartek: The crisis causes fear in everyone, but at the same time it was a period in which we had to face unpredictable changes. There were negotiations in the market about how much we would actually work per day or per week, but this was done indirectly. It is difficult to clearly define how each industry responded to the crisis, but there was a noticeable change in attitudes toward work and organization.

Justyna: Last year was also remembered for short contract notice periods, and we could also see a trend of a massive return to offices and a move away from remote work. Do you have any other observations about significant changes taking place in 2023?

Bartek: It's good that you bring up the topic of returning to offices. It's a topic that actually starts a lot of discussion, often much needed. I think the final thing we can say about the pandemic is that it has changed our approach to work organization a lot. We have learned that we don't so much want to work remotely, but simply want to work less. Many times I've talked to clients who, to put it mildly, are not happy that employees still haven't returned to full-time offices. At the same time, I don't know what would happen if we told everyone that, for example, from the first of February we are going back to offices for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Let's note that before the pandemic, practically no one spent the whole day to carry out their duties, no fooling. I think that nowadays, this time is more condensed, we simply work more efficiently in offices. We are seeing a tug-of-war between employers and employees - there is negotiation in the market about how much we will realistically work in a day or a week, but it is done not directly.Attempts to ask what you have at home and what you don't have at the office are unwarranted - rather, the question that needs to be answered is what all of this should be aimed at. I think it won't be long before we see more and more companies moving to a four-day work week, this has a chance to work and spread.

Justyna: And do you notice a financial readjustment? When remote work came along, candidates were willing to lower their salary expectations, treating this model of cooperation as a benefit; after all, they didn't have to commute to offices, which also costs money. Now we are back to stationary work, but on the other hand, you yourself talked about the occurrence of a correction or even a crisis. Financial expectations have begun to stabilize, but are they continuing to rise?

Bartek: We still live in consumerism, and practically everyone now feels that the more they earn, the more they have developed professionally.

I don't think the upward spiral can be stopped. Salaries in the tech industry are unlikely to stop rising.

Justyna: All right, but do you believe that the four-day work week is a new trend and perhaps, candidates will be willing to reduce their expectations due to more time off to simply work less.

Bartek: It seems to me that my predictions can always diverge from reality, only the labor market can verify different concepts. In my opinion, salaries should be adjusted in line with possible changes in the hourly dimension, which of course would be fair. However, let's take into account the specifics of the IT industry - over the past several years, I've heard from many recruiters from other market sectors that new technologies are simply incomparable to anything else. Salary dynamics, entry thresholds for new companies, candidate expectations and customer needs are by no means typical, no matter what market segment we compare them to. Artificial intelligence has created even more confusion in the market - new product companies are reporting a huge demand for new employees, and if we could find 10 companies that would cut wages with the introduction of the four-day work week, we would probably find 20 more that would keep rates the same. However, we would have to see if there would be enough candidates at all to fill the positions in so many organizations with fewer hours, because you have to remember that there are simply not enough specialists in many niches. It seems to me that the rate of increase in salaries will certainly not be as much as in the pandemic, but still positive.

Justyna: And how about the last year? Was the trend positive or negative?

Bartek: I think there was a moment of stagnation when layoffs were reaching Krakow, then we certainly saw real drops in quotas. But let's face it - there is not a lot of unemployment among programmers in our market. If a candidate reaches us and cannot find a job for a long time, then not one, but a whole series of warning lights come on for us. I haven't noticed decreases in salaries, at least in nominal terms, but you have to take inflation into account.

Justyna: From your perspective, have companies' requirements for candidates changed? Maybe something was troublesome for itMatch? I have the impression that the Employment Contract has become popular again, while B2B lost some popularity, but I could be wrong.

Bartek: There were a lot of layoffs last year, especially in the middle. This certainly increased interest in UoP  (employment contract) on the part of candidates, as for employers, I find it hard to determine. I think also the last quarter of 2023 showed that a large percentage of candidates prefer to earn a little less, but in return, have a sense of greater stability and security. Those employed on B2B contracts will be the first to lose their jobs, often without getting any severance pay, also having a much shorter notice period. At the same time, we are again seeing an increase in interest in our market from smaller companies from the United States, who are still looking for people to work remotely and are still willing to hire professionals on B2B contracts. This means that there is still a choice emerging between better-paid B2B and more secure employment contract work.

Justyna: There is a lot of talk now about a reversal of the economy, manifesting itself in a supposed return to a situation in which employers, not employees, dictate conditions in the market. Do you think this could be true? Have you observed this in the past year?

Bartek: We're certainly talking about the employer's market for entry-level positions and those that don't require a lot of experience or skills, although this phenomenon has been apparent for a long time. Contrary to what you might think, the entry threshold into the IT industry is not that low at all - you need to have the skills to get your first job and then keep it, which is becoming more difficult every year. When it comes to niche specialists and people with more experience, as well as those who are not actively looking for a new job, we continue to deal with the market of the employee. The special task man still gets many offers, so necessarily, he or she dictates the terms. Let's remember that we still have a shortage of workers in our market.

Justyna: Tell me, please, what was the most difficult thing for you last year? I mean both being an employer and in general, being the head of a company.

Bartek: Volatility, of course. The only sure thing in 2023 was change, practically on every level. Until now, itMatch had a backbone made up of customers who had been associated with us for a very long time, sometimes since the beginning of the company. Suddenly, we found that processes came to a halt, sometimes overnight, and demand for our services was declining. This was felt in a great many cases and created a sense of instability and insecurity for everyone in our industry. The media trumpeted this all the time, I won't count the headlines like "It's the end of the eldorado in Polish IT." However, it turned out that companies continue to recruit and we are not dealing with an apocalypse, although let's admit that the eldorado created by the pandemic is indeed over. We are back to the point before the pandemic, however, where you have to lean or climb for the fruit.