This is the fourth in a series of interviews in which a selection of HR leaders across a variety of sectors share their thoughts on the impact of past and anticipated future changes on their world of work. 

Barry Hoffman is Group HR Director Computacenter

Barry Hoffman is Group HR Director Computacenter

This month Barry Hoffman, Group HR Director at Computacenter talks to us about….

…his role at Computacenter

I am the lead HR for Computacenter Group. We have 200 people working in HR across the world, responsible for 15,000 employees. I deal with a full range of day to day operational matters, including staff representative bodies, executive remuneration, pensions, reward and resourcing and talent management.

…changes in the workplace

Computacenter has changed enormously in recent years. When I joined in 2008 it was a multi-domestic IT services company and it now has a global reach and presence. A key focus for us now is on international mobility - travel between our international offices is essential to our succession planning. Being able to second employees to other offices enables us to successfully plan the career development of our employees and allows them to obtain valuable experience in other jurisdictions. This internal cross-border mobility also helps to build and develop strong internal leadership.

We recognise that Computacenter needs to be more consistent in its approach and look and feel the same in each jurisdiction and we are working hard to achieve this. We use the same systems, processes and training across the group and this helps to achieve consistency for both clients and employees.

…technology and the IT industry

There have been two key developments in the last 5-10 years:

1.     The explosion of internet information – the digitalisation of information means that it is immediately available at your fingertips. Everything is cheaper and easier to access.

2.     In the workplace people are expecting the same kind of technology that they have at home - quicker, faster, cheaper, more instant and more digital. Expectations are higher because of people’s consumer experience. Many employers have a technology legacy which makes this expectation difficult to manage. For safety and security (not to mention practical and financial) reasons new technology cannot easily be introduced to the workplace overnight.

…starting a career in the IT industry in 5 years’ time

This sector is no different from any other. We are looking for confident, articulate, cogent, persuasive people with good interpersonal skills and an ability to build relationships. We need people who are able to adapt quickly and deal with change. An interest in technology is also helpful.

The apprentices and graduates we see today are part of the digital generation; IT comes naturally. It’s therefore crucial that applicants focus on developing and being able to demonstrate other skills, for example, to maintain employability.

…skills gaps over the next 10-15 years

The IT industry is incredibly fast moving compared with other industries and predicting the technology of the future is not that easy. It’s quite possible that the skills we need in 18 months’ time don’t even exist yet, because the technology hasn’t been invented. Pokémon GO is a prime example of technology that wasn’t anticipated a few years ago.

As predicting the technology of the future is becoming increasingly difficult, our focus will be more on consulting, skills and project management and having the right people in place to support this.

Generally speaking, future skills gaps in this industry can be addressed now (as far as this is possible) by good education in schools and universities in science, technology, engineering and maths. We have been working with schools to offer work experience and discuss plans for improving students’ educational employability curriculum. We also focus on university outreach, and have recently provided support to Greenwich University by sponsoring a networking competition, and have assisted Hertfordshire University with a mock assessment day simulation. We believe that equipping students with the skills that will assist their future employability is essential.

…demographic changes in the workforce

We work hard to balance inequality and address the underrepresentation of women. We, and the industry generally, need to work harder to encourage women to join the industry, particularly in graduate roles.

The IT sector is no different to any other sector when it comes to working flexibly. Traditionally ‘flexible working’ meant working from home, but this is not the case anymore. Today working flexibly means delivering work ‘just in time’ and essentially working when you need to. Employees have the kit to work wherever they want, when they want, and this approach means that people can do what they have to do but also take family time. Having the right equipment at the right time had led to this shift.

There are always new generations joining the workforce with new outlooks. Our graduate programmes, industrial placement and associate programmes, and the recruitment of apprentices has enabled us to continue to introduce new talent to our business.

However we are also seeing the older generation remaining in the workplace for longer. This is positive for the economy and also is likely to increase the number of people having portfolio careers.  

 …suggested regulatory or policy changes

Pensions need to be simplified. At the moment the complexity around pensions is confusing and this has an impact on the workforce at both ends of the demographic spectrum.

The government also needs to focus on increasing the amount of technology taught in schools. Additionally, encouraging children to learn other languages would assist in their future mobility in the global economy. 


If you are a HRD and would like to share your own thoughts on the future of work in your industry, please do get in touch here