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Editor’s Question: How can CIOs manage the challenges of the ‘Great Resignation’?

Editor’s Question: How can CIOs manage the challenges of the ‘Great Resignation’?

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We asked three industry experts how CIOs can manage the challenges of the ‘Great Resignation’. Here are their responses:

Peter Murphy, Head of Consulting, Atturra Advisory

Peter Murphy, Head of Consulting, Atturra Advisory

The term Great Resignation conjures up images of large numbers of people handing in their notice and opting for a life of leisure – however reality is proving somewhat different.

Rather than turning their back on work, thousands of people in the IT sector are using the period following the Covid lockdowns to change roles or switch to a new organization. Thanks to the on-going shortage of skilled personnel, the opportunities to do this are many and varied.

As a result, CIOs need to rethink the methods they are using to attract and retain staff. The days of having multiple applicants for every vacancy are well and truly over.

One of the first steps a CIO can take is to forge a closer working relationship with their HR department. This will ensure those responsible for recruitment have a clear understanding of the types of skills and experience that is required to allow the organization to continue to function in a highly competitive environment.

There is also an opportunity for CIOs to liaise more closely with universities. They should meet with both university staff and students to create an on-going dialogue about what skills are required and how this is evolving.

While increased salaries are likely to be needed to attract and retain staff, CIOs also need to be aware of the other factors that prospective new hires are taking into account when assessing a new employer. These can include everything from flexible working patterns to leave entitlements and training allowances.

It’s also important that both existing staff and new hires have appropriate and satisfying work to undertake. Rather than feeling as though they are stuck in a dead-end position, staff need to be able to see a clear and achievable career path that will help them to grow as individuals.

CIOs, along with other senior members of the management team, also have a role to play when it comes to communicating their organization’s culture. This needs to be clearly explained to all new staff members and reinforced on a regular basis.

It’s important that all staff can see the culture in practical terms, rather than it being simply a written statement that is rarely if ever mentioned. Facets such as a focus on customer service, quality and professional development should all be covered.

Finally, CIOs should understand that, while the Great Resignation phenomenon is currently in full swing, it’s unlikely to last forever. Like other trends experienced by the industry, it will continue to evolve and bring additional challenges into the mix. Keeping a keen eye on what lies ahead will continue to be critical.

Nathan Gower, Director of Australia and New Zealand, Boomi

Nathan Gower, Director of Australia and New Zealand, Boomi

While the collective change in attitude towards work and life urged many in the United States to quit their respective jobs and industries and look elsewhere – the ‘great resignation’ – the challenge to find and hire the right talent in Australia and New Zealand has largely come from a direct shortage in skills to draw from.

While new working conditions have certainly played into the fierce competition, record unemployment rates, rising inflation and new budget challenges are squeezing talent across almost all sectors, from healthcare and childcare workers, right through to construction engineers and ICT professionals.

When it comes to technology jobs, CIOs are faced with a ramp-up of digitalization efforts – some of which are frantic, initiated to cope with and better prepare for the macroeconomic changes of the last two-to-three years – and not enough skilled IT professionals are available to make the most of those investments.

At the heart of it, A/NZ has typically relied on skilled migrants to catch at least half of the available jobs in the technology sector. But COVID-19 shutdowns turned off the tap, and in Australia, ICT temporary work visas fell by 50% last year compared to pre-pandemic levels.

The challenge is compounded; the race for tech talent is sending salaries skyward. While it is a win for the industry, pay increases are forming another source of pressure in hiring, onboarding, enabling and retaining technology professionals in the highly competitive market.

This means CIOs can’t afford processes and systems that require armies of people to manage them, nor can they afford to rely on professionals with highly niche skills who might take their expertise with them if they choose to leave.

Many decision-makers are turning to low-code, high-productivity tools to combat the heat. For example, tools that make digital projects such as software development and platform integration much more approachable for non-technical professionals.

No matter which department they’re in, the benefits of low-code functionality extend to giving workers the technology to have an even stronger impact in their role, whether it’s a university administrator using software to improve student experience, someone in utilities making decisions about where to drill sustainably, or an insurer creating new services that integrate into their existing offerings.

With technology skills strained, it’s down to companies to simplify how teams manage the influx of digital initiatives and meet the needs of customers and employees.

Even if an organization has access to skilled IT staff, leaving them to manage complex integrations and perform repetitive administrative or other low-value manual tasks often mean it won’t be long before those employees look for greener pastures.

Craig Somerville, Founder and CEO, Somerville

Craig Somerville, Founder and CEO, Somerville

In the area of managed IT services and support, the so-called Great Resignation is having a somewhat different impact from other areas of the technology sector.

Senior technicians and engineers are tending to remain in their existing positions where they have established themselves and embraced the culture of their organization. In saying that, replacements for senior technical staff are extremely difficult to find when they are lost. At the same time, more junior staff are taking advantage of opportunities to jump ship and take up roles at other companies, usually drawn by the prospect of a salary increase.

For CIOs in the managed IT services space, this means attracting and retaining younger, more junior staff has become quite a challenge. With more vacancies than candidates to fill them, it is very much an employee-driven market.

A key way to overcome this is through the communication of company culture. Prospective employees want to find a place where their efforts will be appreciated and they will actively be able to make a difference. Salaries will always be important however organizational culture also ranks very highly.

CIOs also need to think about the career development opportunities they are offering to younger staff members. Those joining will want to be able to see a clear progression path that will enable them to expand their skills and assume more senior roles over time.

This career progression needs to begin from the first day a new staff member joins the team. The onboarding process should be comprehensive and cover everything from an explanation of how the organization functions to the systems that underpin daily operations. Following this process makes it much more likely that the staff member will remain as an employee over the longer term.

It is also important for CIOs to ensure their organization is offering a flexible work environment for all employees. The COVID-19 disruptions have made working from home a natural part of business life and most staff are keen for this to continue.

Working remotely full time is often not practical, however a structure where staff spend three days each week in the office and two at home is working well for many organizations. This also ensures staff can work alongside each other on a regular basis which promotes knowledge transfer and camaraderie.

CIOs may also have to rethink rosters, especially when it comes to covering 24/7 service requirements. Rather than forcing staff into working within these constraints, additional resources can be sourced from overseas markets and added to the local mix.

The challenge of recruiting and retaining staff is going to remain significant for some time to come, but by changing their thinking CIOs will be able to win the battle.

Andrew Wilkinson, Chief Information and Technology Officer, Deep Blue Company

Andrew Wilkinson, Chief Information and Technology Officer, Deep Blue Company

With The Great Resignation at the front of every CIO’s mind, the race is on to beat the competition to the best talent. It’s an employees market with record-low unemployment, making it more important than ever for businesses to have a competitive offering to help attract and retain staff. 

Firstly, it’s critical to think beyond the numbers. Businesses should take a holistic approach to hiring by focusing on what they can offer beyond competitive compensation.

For many workers, flexible arrangements are now considered non-negotiable. At Deep Blue Company (DBC), we’ve found that empowering teams to set their own agendas and combining in-office collaboration days with home-based focus time works best for us. The key here is choice.

Giving employees the freedom to choose how they balance their work and home lives lets them know you trust them to make the call on which environment they’ll benefit from most on any given day. 

Secondly, taking a step back when discussing development opportunities will show your employees that their future with the business spans beyond their current position. Offering coaching, mentoring and development outside the context of their current role greatly helps build trust and rapport, giving you the best chance to retain talent. This approach means you must be prepared for conversations that may span beyond your typical performance appraisal and into opportunities to try out a new skill or role. When faced with these, authenticity is key – or else it doesn’t work.

The talent war extends beyond the physical or virtual office. Equally as important as internal hires, partnerships play an important role in providing talent which may be difficult to hire in-house. Cultivating strong partnerships and treating these partners and their people as your own is important as they have more choices now than ever about whom they work alongside.

At DBC we partner with several technology partners and real estate agents who play a key role in ensuring the sale-to-settlement journey goes smoothly, so investing the time, energy and capital into these relationships is critical to our long-term business strategy. 

Finally, learn what motivates and inspires your team. Doing this will have a direct impact on retention levels. For us, it’s the three pillars of purpose, task and team. You are more likely to attract people who resonate with your company’s purpose, and if they find meaning and reward in the work you are more likely to retain them.

The more technically interesting the work is, the more engaged your team will be. Ensuring that you create an engaged and co-operative work environment makes a significant difference in the satisfaction of your team and is key in facing the challenges presented by the Great Resignation.

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