How CIOs can answer the board’s questions on talent and recruitment
27 Oct 2022
The board can be the CIO’s best friend or worst nightmare. CIOs, especially those new to the role, have to reassure the board that they understand IT recruitment challenges.
The Chief Information Officer (CIO) holds more influence than ever in today’s boardroom. Technology plays a central role in every modern business goal, making the CIO’s counsel essential. And this has only continued since the Covid-19 pandemic, when the entire organisation relied on IT’s ability to pivot to home working, serving customers online and more. The CEO and board may steer the ship, but they rely on the CIO’s radar to know what’s coming.
That role is no less important when it comes to talent. CIOs are dealing with a talent shortage across a wide range of roles, so there is strong competition for the best talent. The CIO must be aware of how work and employment are changing and how that is affecting IT, because the board will expect them to have answers.
Gartner’s 2016 CIO Agenda Report found that “talent has now been recognized globally as the single biggest issue standing in the way of CIOs achieving their objectives”. And the pressure has only continued, demanding a shift in talent management practices.
People want to work more flexibly, rather than be tied to the office all the time. And potential recruits, particularly younger ones, want to feel valued by the organisation and to buy into its purpose. With talent scarce, many organisations are rethinking their approach and looking to share, rather than ‘own’, the best talent. CIOs need to collaborate with other executives to understand how these forces are playing out across the business and recommend that the board embrace them.
Of course, the board will be aware of the forces at play in talent management as well. They will have questions about talent recruitment and retention, and they will be interested in efforts to increase diversity and inclusion. CIOs should consider the following when putting together their answers.
How are you retaining and attracting tech talent?
As mentioned, IT talent is scarce. This isn’t only because of insufficient trained people coming into the industry but also because many workers are burnt out and leaving the industry, either temporarily or permanently. The pandemic made others reconsider their careers, with some taking early retirement and others seeking a change of sector.
This affects retention and recruitment. A recent Gartner study found that IT workers are more inclined to quit their jobs than non-IT employees; in fact they have a 10 percent lower intent to stay in their current role. They might want greater flexibility in terms of working hours or time working from home. Perhaps they don’t feel valued by the company or maybe their work has become too familiar and they need more of a challenge.
CIOs need a plan for keeping their staff committed. That could mean making the workplace more pleasant to be in or better equipped. It could mean acknowledging that, with today’s technology, it simply isn’t necessary to be in the office everyday. And it might require more communication so that staff feel their views are being listened to.
These efforts will also pay off in recruitment, by making the business more attractive to prospective employees. The most talented people know that they will be able to choose the company that is the right fit for them, so it makes sense to shape a workplace that prioritises employee needs.
How are cultivating the most diverse, equitable and inclusive tech team?
Most businesses are waking up to the fact that diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces are more rewarding for everyone to work in and more productive. Research has shown that businesses with above-average gender diversity and engagement outperform the average by up to 58 percent. Meanwhile, two thirds of potential employees say that workplace diversity is an important consideration when choosing a place to work.
There are other benefits too. In the UK, women make up 49 percent of the workforce but only 19 percent of tech workers. Similar diversity problems can be identified around race, with African Americans making up 4.9 percent of tech workers in the US, compared with 13 percent of the overall population. An industry facing a talent shortage should be actively recruiting from underrepresented groups.
Diversity brings different experiences and perspectives into a team. The wider the mix, the easier it is to challenge default assumptions and find new approaches to solving problems. This applies not just to racial and gender diversity but to sexual orientation, neurodiversity, social class, and even diversity of skillset.
Software developers, for example, are stereotyped as logical and methodical but lacking soft skills like communication and leadership. If that’s the case in your teams, then specifically recruiting people with different skill sets - perhaps from elsewhere in the business - can be a way to improve performance.
A new model of employment
In addition to the approaches described above, CIOs need to demonstrate to the board that they understand emerging recruitment solutions, including a new employment model known as elastic teams. These are private ‘talent clouds’ of IT staff, all of whom are vetted by the company managing the team to ensure that they meet a sufficient standard. These are often the same highly talented individuals who have been leaving permanent roles in search of greater flexibility.
By employing an elastic team CTOs can get on-demand access to the best talent, from anywhere in the world, whenever they need it. This shift in perspective must be communicated to the board: elastic teams allow businesses to share the best talent rather than stockpiling the best staff and seeking to ‘own’ them.
A company like Distributed handles all the management of the team and the admin for the developers, removing distractions from the freelance developers, and the company to focus on getting the job done.
The CIO that understands all of the above will have gone a long way toward keeping the board satisfied.