Editor’s note: The following is a guest post from Andy Rowsell-Jones, distinguished VP analyst at Gartner, Inc.
In a recent Gartner poll, CIOs identified talent as their top challenge in 2022, with 60% of respondents placing it among their top three concerns. This is no surprise: a record number of people have quit their jobs for better pay and better work-life balance, and IT staff are more likely to quit their jobs than in any other function.
Simultaneously, CEOs and boards of directors want to accelerate digital transformation, increasing the demand for digital skills. In a massively competitive talent marketplace, CIOs must use new methods to attract and retain talent, or they will not be able to do their part to achieve business objectives.
The race for talent is urgent, but short-term fixes that bring bodies through the door will not do the job. Here are the ways that CIOs can act now to respond to talent challenges and prepare their enterprise for long-term success.
Create an environment that retains top talent
IT staff, especially those with the most valuable skills, will leave quickly unless CIOs create conditions that will induce people to stay. Acquiring the right talent will not solve the business-delivery problem without also changing the way the IT organization thinks and works.
CIOs must implement flexible, human-centric work design to develop an environment that retains workers. Consider drivers beyond compensation, such as work-life balance, respect and manager quality, which have become extremely important in the work environment.
Technology executives can foster a human-centric environment by focusing on three key areas:
- Hybrid work: The urgency of supporting hybrid work has faded as the pandemic eases and offices reopen. However, rigid hybrid work designs, such as “everyone must come into the office on Wednesdays and Thursdays” will drive workers away. Focus on designing workflows, business processes and space utilization around human needs — physical, cognitive, emotional — rather than expecting workers to conform to legacy processes or locations.
- Culture: Only 8% of CIOs list culture as a top challenge. Digital talent must find the culture of the IT organization and the enterprise to be suited to their personal and professional goals, or they will not stay. Gartner research has shown that CIOs who establish a strong sense of purpose at the department, team and individual level can build a more positive culture and promote greater business success.
- Agility: Many IT organizations have implemented agile development methods, but agile thinking must extend to the wider enterprise for maximum business impact. Having one way of working inside IT and a different way outside IT will frustrate digital talent. CIOs should partner with stakeholders across the enterprise to scale agility by modeling agile values, such as a growth mindset and community compounding.
Ask IT and business peers for help with IT talent challenges
While CIOs see talent as a top concern, Gartner’s poll found that they are not asking for help from peers to overcome talent and hybrid work challenges.
Instead, IT leaders tend to rely on colleagues to help with more conventional aspects of their role, such as being more strategic or optimizing the IT operating model.
Executives may avoid asking for help with talent challenges due to fear of competition for top talent, or an assumption that there’s no point in asking since nobody has cracked the problem. Or, they may not want to appear deficient by asking for advice on issues they don’t know how to tackle themselves.
The smartest people in the room ask for help and take it.
CIOs should rely on IT and business peers for help with IT talent challenges, but go beyond the usual “where, how much and how?” conversations. Take a more strategic approach by anticipating future skills needs based on the enterprise’s goals and direction.
Develop a better understanding of the enterprise’s drivers to anticipate future skills needs. Read public statements by the board of directors and the CEO, and ask the CEO and other business executives to review the enterprise’s goals and strategy. Use these insights to reset priorities for the IT organization.
Anticipate future resource needs by using scenario planning to create plausible directions for the enterprise and the strategy that the IT organization should adopt in each scenario. Develop a set of indicators that would show when a particular scenario is emerging and review it quarterly.
Finally, increase your personal business skills by asking fellow business leaders you trust to become advisors who can coach you in expanding the use and conduct of fusion teams, and even citizen developers, in your organization. Prepare for the priorities of the future by giving more attention to business-related challenges today.
Even if some of these challenges do not seem pressing now, you will get a head start on solving them when they become urgent in the future, while honing your business skills along the way.
How CIOs respond to talent challenges now will impact the future of the IT organization and the enterprise as a whole. Through a creative, human-centric, agile approach, CIOs can win the war for talent and be positioned to meet ambitious digital business goals in 2022 and beyond.