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Three ways CIOs can help alleviate the effects of persisting labour shortages

With discussion around the phenomenon known as the Great Resignation continuing to mount across the globe, retaining talent has become a cause of concern for businesses across all major industries.

While it’s difficult to determine the extent to which this pattern can be observed in Australia, recent stats from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that job vacancies in the quarter to November 2021 grew by nearly 20 per cent – partially as a result of labour shortages across the country.

The openings are particularly apparent in the tech industry, with a recent report indicating Australia requires an extra 60,000 ICT workers yearly to keep up with labour demands. This is an especially concerning statistic given there are only 7,000 domestic IT graduates each year. 

As a result, retaining talent has become more important than ever. It would be a mistake, though, for CIOs to simply wring their hands of this challenge and look to others in the C-suite, like the CEO or the chief human resources officer, to address the concern. 

The fact is that CIOs themselves can take an active role in creating a positive environment that breeds loyalty. There’s much they can do to help people feel they have what they need to do a great job and put their strongest skills to work, both within their own organisation and across the company. 

Here are three suggested steps to take:

Provide employees with a frictionless technology experience

According to a recent Salesforce study, people dissatisfied with their work technology are twice more likely to feel burnt out and half as likely to say they’re happy with their work. And those who are dissatisfied with the technology are twice more likely to plan to leave their job in the next year and less than half as likely to recommend their employer to others.

Furthermore, a troubling disconnect exists in many companies. A PwC report found that “while 92 per cent of C-suite execs say they’re satisfied with the technology experience their company provides for making progress on their most important work, only 68 per cent of staff agree.”

Solving this feels like low-hanging fruit. CIOs should prioritise eliminating the technology issues that can frustrate and stifle employees. When someone is issued a new laptop, does everything work right away or does it fall on the employee to contact the help desk themselves multiple times? Are the company’s apps as easy to use on mobile devices as on a desktop? Are security protocols effective without hampering productivity?

Where internal technology is concerned, CIOs are wise to remember Richard Branson’s advice: “Clients do not come first, employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” Investing in technology infrastructure to ensure a quality employee experience should be seen as an essential priority rather than overhead – and CIOs should champion this idea to the rest of the C-suite.

Foster strategic skills in the IT organisation. 

CIOs are now expected not only to enable companies’ growth through technology but to play a front-and-centre role in helping craft the strategy. The reason is obvious: the digital transformation that has become so much more crucial in the post-pandemic world can’t happen without technical expertise.

According to IDC, “By 2023, 60 per cent of CIOs will be measured by their ability to co-create new business models and outcomes through extensive enterprise and ecosystem-wide collaboration.”

For people who work in IT, this represents an incredibly exciting opportunity. IT professionals have moved from techies behind the scenes to a core role in driving the business. CIOs need to be vocal evangelists about what this change means for every IT team member. When people understand the purpose of their work, they are far more likely to be all in… and to stay.

Advocate for tighter collaboration between IT and customer-facing departments.

Historically, sales and product people have been the ones to interact with customers at most companies, then they hand the requirements for products to IT. But the more modern approach is for tech leaders to have a seat at the table – if not meeting directly with customers, at least collaborating more closely with product, sales and marketing teams to truly produce what the market wants.

This closer connection to the customer also has the added benefit of feeding into a key aspect of employee satisfaction: a clear understanding of mission. It’s in our nature to want to grasp at a gut level why what we do is important and how it can help our own growth. If a CIO wants to keep a valued employee, cultivating a culture that constantly drives home the direct customer-focused mission of IT can go a long way.

By following these three suggestions, CIOs can make an impact in helping their companies attract and retain talent in an era where it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so. 

Sharon Mandell is Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Juniper Networks.

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Sharon Mandell

Sharon Mandell

Sharon Mandell is Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Juniper Networks.

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