If one lesson emerged from the wave of layoffs earlier this year, it's how critical technology talent has become across all kinds of industries.
While big tech cut scores of jobs, employers elsewhere soon snapped up the departing workers, especially those in high-demand categories. Despite some month-to-month increases, unemployment among IT roles over the last 18 months has consistently trailed the national unemployment rate, signaling ongoing market need.
As talent needs continue, CIOs have a role in attracting top-flight workers, especially as their organizations increase their reliance on digital systems. It's essentially part of the CIO remit.
"You're always looking to fill some spot in your portfolio of skill sets," said Sharon Mandell, CIO at Juniper Networks.
CIOs can boost their organization's ability to attract top technology talent by using up-to-date technologies in their IT stacks, establishing their brand as trustworthy employers and improving the employee experience to show how workers can find a sense of purpose by joining their company.
Bringing on talent is a key challenge for more than 3 in 5 IT leaders who say they struggle to backfill tech vacancies, according to a report from the IT Executives Council. Leaders cite inadequate compensation and a lack of career growth prospects as the top two factors driving IT talent attrition.
A modern IT estate can signal to employees that a company can help support career advancement, according to Martha Heller, CEO of executive recruitment firm Heller Search Associates.
"One thing CIOs can do is to decide to take some of their innovation budget and invest it in a new technology that will be attractive to the market," Heller said. "It's counterintuitive, but if we want talent, it's a pragmatic road we can take."
Trust and employee experience
Workers in high-demand job categories such as software development and IT project management know they can still find another job if they want it. Even those technologists hit by earlier layoff waves were reemployed within months.
As these technologists turn to the job market, employers who appear trustworthy have the upper hand, according to Julia Dhar, managing director and partner at Boston Consulting Group. This is especially true as workers look at how businesses use technologies like AI and their level of commitment to responsible use.
"The first thing you want to do is actually be sure that you can say confidently and with assurance that the organization has done the work in order to be worthy of trust," said Dhar.
Businesses can convey their trustworthiness and responsible use of AI through a publicly available code of conduct, helping potential candidates do their own due diligence on whether values align, Dhar said.
When looking for their next role, technologists value a sense of purpose, belonging and advancement.
"I think people want to come to a good company where they can, not only collect their paycheck, but they want to be able to grow and learn, and have their careers move on," said Mandell.
The digital environment workers interact with can reinforce belonging, according to Mandell. This can also support talent retention throughout the organization.
"The CIO can play multiple roles there," said Mandell. At Juniper, the executive works to "create a quality employee experience and make it so that, when they come, they're not fighting technology, but technology is helping welcome them into the organization."