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How to attract, retain and cultivate a new breed of IT professional

By Simon Horrocks, Regional Vice President ANZ, AppDynamics

The technology skills gap is impacting Australian organisations across almost every industry, with businesses struggling to find the right talent to drive innovation, whether that be in cloud, data analytics, or other emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI).

According to the Australian Computer Society (ACS), an additional 200,000 technology workers are needed for Australia to be considered a global digital leader by 2023. To meet Australia’s current demand, at least 100,000 additional technology professionals are required.

In addition to the talent shortage, another issue stifling innovation is the prevalence of outdated tools and legacy IT infrastructure. Alarmingly, a recent AppDynamics study showed that almost half of Australian IT leaders see themselves and their organisations as lagging more than five years behind in technology.

IT leaders and the C-suite cannot afford to rely on outdated legacy systems and software, or neglect the human element of their technology strategies – their employees. It is time for Australian businesses to make a more concerted effort to attract and retain ‘Agents of Transformation’: those elite technologists who possess the technical skills, ambition and vision required to change internal processes and accelerate business outcomes. The best leaders are already focusing on three key areas to attract and cultivate these technologists of the future.

1.    Invest in people

Digital transformation starts by having the right people with the right technical skills and attributes, working in an environment that fosters and encourages innovation. If Australian businesses are to remain competitive over the next ten years, organisations will require the majority of their teams to act as ‘Agents of Transformation’, creating an advanced technology ecosystem. These individuals are uniquely capable of driving and supporting business outcomes, while simultaneously pushing the C-suite to adopt new technologies and processes. Today however, only four percent of Australian technologists meet this description.

Without the right people, effective digital transformation cannot take place and the potential implications are far-ranging, and can include an inability to complete innovation projects, financial loss, and difficulties recruiting new talent. Moving quickly to identify and nurture this talent base is critical. In order to attract the right technology talent, Australian business leaders must also allow their IT teams to tackle meaningful business problems, offer clear career progression, and encourage technologists to take a more holistic view of what they are doing and how their work is contributing to the overall business.

2.    Break down barriers

Once Agents of Transformation have been identified within an organisation, job satisfaction becomes essential to retaining them. Around half of Australian technologists report feeling overlooked by their organisation, with almost 50 percent likely to look for another job in the next two years. Australian businesses must encourage technologists to develop their skills and experiment during their careers, offering them opportunities to leave a lasting and positive legacy.

Unsurprisingly, the first step in digital transformation is dismantling barriers to experimentation and innovation. This means creating a more open dialogue between the IT teams and business leadership, and breaking down any silos that may exist within an organisation.

Instead of spending their valuable time ‘keeping the lights on’, technologists of the future need to take risks on projects and exercise strategic leadership. They must be given the opportunity to invest in their skills, both on a personal level and also as a team or department. Critically, they must have access to the software and tools needed to turn data into real-time, context-specific insights that can inform strategic decision making and help drive their business forward. Further, IT professionals must embrace the future-proofing side of technology

3.    Encourage ‘big picture’, creative thinking

Leaders must empower their teams to speak up, bring new ideas to the table, and constantly challenge the status quo. Australian IT and business leaders must also work together to create a culture of curiosity; supporting and encouraging their technology teams to think bigger picture and challenge the way things have always been done. Inspiring technologists to embrace the creative side of technology, lead challenging digital transformation projects, and leave a positive legacy on the business, are all critical to attracting and retaining the right talent.

The shortage of ICT skills across most, if not all, Australian industries poses a real threat to our country’s economic growth, and to organisations as they turn to digital technologies to drive innovation and productivity. While the majority of technologists are excited by the future of technology and care deeply about its ability to change the world, more needs to be done at a local level to attract and keep ambitious tech talent.

With the increasing adoption of artificial intelligence, augmented reality and other emerging technologies, technologists are being pushed outside of their comfort zones and are facing disruption like never before. For many, this can seem like a huge challenge, but for those with ambitions to become Agents of Transformation, it presents a huge opportunity to take risks, make bold decisions and accelerate both their careers and the success of the businesses they work for.

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Loren Webb

Loren Webb

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