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How CIOs are managing the unprecedented challenges of the Great Resignation

How CIOs are managing the unprecedented challenges of the Great Resignation

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Recent workforce studies across the world highlight a considerable shift in employees’ attitudes towards work, brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic – including the hotly debated ‘quiet quitting’ trend. ISACA’s new white paper, The Great Resignation: Business Challenges and Sustainable Solutions, discusses the reasons for The Great Resignation, the difficulties it creates for enterprises and recommendations for developing a sustainable, multi-purpose workforce-management solution.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing turnover is a global concern and a major risk to the sustainability and resilience of many enterprises worldwide. Enterprises must take immediate action to become flexible with responses to employee demands, allowing more flexibility for working from home and balance between work and life commitments when returning to work after the pandemic.

ISACA’s white paper delves into the components of operational resilience and different types of risk that The Great Resignation has introduced, including productivity loss, poor customer service as well as reputational and information risk. When addressing the challenges caused by The Great Resignation, the organisation suggests keeping the following in mind:

  • Adaptability is essential: It is hard to predict exactly the skills that will be needed even five years from now, so workers and organisations need to be ready to adapt to any of the worlds envisaged.
  • Focus on employee value: The risk of losing critical people to burnout or early retirement will be a constant concern; organisations need to pay careful attention to the employee value proposition.
  • Adopt a phased approach to solutions: Although problems caused by The Great Resignation are pressing, they should be solved using a phased approach to avoid sudden changes overwhelming staff.

ISACA’s paper shares several sustainable solutions to workforce issues, including:

  • Strengthen innovation, creativity, empathy and leadership capabilities in the business alongside critical technology skills.
  • Build and nurture adaptability in the enterprise workforce by harnessing a flexible talent mix, new ways of working and learning and providing radically different career paths.
  • Build a future-looking understanding of how humans and machines can collaborate to deliver the enterprise’s purpose.

We asked industry experts from Trellix, iManage, Progress and UiPath, to offer their opinions on the subject.

Kim Anstett, CIO at Trellix: Between January and March 2022, a record 994,000 people in the UK moved jobs, illustrating the scale of the challenge to retain talent during the Great Resignation. Pandemic-induced burnout made many workers re-evaluate their careers.

Employees are in search of more meaningful work today. Industries that offer an opportunity to change the world for the better, like cybersecurity, are well-placed to hire and nurture this wave of talent. After all, our sector is ultimately protecting data, businesses and therefore, people.

Yet meaningful work alone is not enough. Businesses must foster a culture that draws people of all backgrounds in and encourages them to stay, as well as supporting them with the technology to do their job effectively. CIOs have a crucial role to play here.

The great opportunity for CIOs

The talent crunch is particularly acute in the cybersecurity industry. Improving the supply of talent is a serious issue and it’s made more difficult by both negative perceptions of tech careers – often starting at school – and a blinkered approach to hiring that doesn’t always look beyond computer science graduates.

Although there’s a widespread belief that a university degree is necessary for a career in cybersecurity, our research revealed that 80% of UK cybersecurity professionals disagree. Instead, they place a greater onus on learning on the job, employer support to achieve qualifications and further skills development.

CIOs have an opportunity to use the Great Resignation as a catalyst for change. With more people considering a career change, CIOs can broaden their hiring searches to bring in new talent with different career experience. This will boost the team with more diversity of thought and provide a more meaningful career for those who want it.

Removing complexity from technology

The right technology must be in place to support teams. The operational burden technology puts on talent can be extreme, creating unnecessary manual tasks. For SecOps, it’s often a case of being slowed down by having to stitch disparate products together. Yet cybersecurity work shouldn’t be cumbersome or boring: this is a job that can have a critical impact on society. Our research found that 92% of cybersecurity professionals view their work as purposeful, which in turn motivates them to deliver high-quality results.

Even purposeful work can begin to drag if teams aren’t freed up from burdensome tasks. Implementing a flexible, scalable, open XDR (extended detection and response) architecture that can natively integrate all security tools into a cohesive security operations system will not only drive better, faster outcomes but also empower SecOps teams in their work.

The Great Resignation has been a tumultuous period which shows no sign of easing up. But by building diverse teams, creating a culture which supports employee growth and deploying the right technology, CIOs can ensure employees feel fulfilled and are likely to stay longer.

Ian Pitt, CIO, Progress: With the Great Resignation in full swing, a global survey by PwC suggests one in five workers globally are planning to quit in 2022; 71% cite pay as a key reason and over two-thirds say they are seeking more fulfilment in the workplace. As tech specialists have become increasingly valuable and are looking for new lucrative opportunities, sourcing quality talent remains one of the biggest challenges for CIOs in a tech labour shortage.

Recently, reports of Facebook and Google’s hiring freezes and tech business cutbacks have sobered the mood, with workers more fearful for their job security. Meanwhile, the quiet resignation is equally on managers’ minds as workers reassess their priorities to choose not to live to work or to work beyond capacity or in multiple roles.

As the expanding CIO role includes managing the changing tech environment as well as managing tech talent, leading by example couldn’t be more relevant right now. This means sharpening the lens on all things WFA (working from anywhere)-related – flexibility and remote work, training, reskilling and career development and creating diverse and successful teams.

Management of the remote or hybrid workforce has been a steep learning curve for us all in terms of engaging with workers and implementing key strategies for retention. As with any peaks in resignations, there is no magic bullet to stop the flow, but this is a time that business and department leaders must actively engage with workers in new ways to show they care, to motivate them and understand that it’s the little things that make a difference.

It’s also at times like this that our CIO community realises the advantages of peer-to-peer collaboration – many CIOs are sharing strategies to look within and listen to their people to give new meaning to work, strengthen teams and support individuals. Leaders who are prepared to be as transparent as possible and introduce flexibility and support for workers will be the winners. Some key areas to focus on include:

  • Connecting the top and bottom of business and getting managers back to the floor to understand what a career in tech means in 2022.
  • Being open with goals – This means not confining goals to the boardroom, but sharing openly and communicating widely across all facets of the company ecosystem.
  • Offering flexible working – Critical to allow workers some flexibility to build roles around their lifestyles where possible. 
  • Training and reskilling – Looking within to find talent and reskilling can benefit the worker and the business, as well as training and fast-tracking for career growth opportunities.
  • Prioritise well-being and purpose – Keeping workers happy and energised and showing you invest in staff and a healthy working culture will keep them.

The open job market will continue to be challenging as tech roles expand in scope and job expectations rise. CIOs will need to rely on their soft skills and emotional intelligence to lead teams, keep work interesting and build a strong supporting team who share these values.

Paul Walker, EMEA Technical Director, iManage: It’s hard to find a single area of an organisation today that hasn’t been impacted by the Great Resignation.

The best way for CIOs to manage this situation is to, foremost, accept the fact that this trend is actually happening – regardless of how much they may wish it weren’t – and find ways to minimise the ongoing impact on the organisation.

For instance, how do you handle a constant haemorrhaging of institutional knowledge out of your organisation every time an employee leaves?

Moreover, how do you prevent burnout among those staff members who are left behind after one of their colleagues walks out the door? And how do you get new employees trained and up to speed quickly, given the fact that the people tasked with onboarding them are already spinning more plates than usual?

Organisations that already have robust data management processes in place are better equipped to weather this particular storm. Here’s why: when the collective intelligence of the organisation is in a centralised location, there’s less chance of institutional knowledge vanishing into thin air or being impossible to locate.

For example, many aspects of a project, a transaction, or a client engagement are hammered out via email. These emails contain the background, the context and the details about why certain decisions were made or arrived at. The ongoing capture and contextualisation of this information means that the organisation can quickly and easily pick up from where a departed individual left off – rather than having that knowledge buried in an individual’s inbox where it is, practically speaking, nearly impossible for someone else to unearth.

Additionally, having an easily accessible task checklist or template for how to carry out a particular task, deal, or transaction means that if the only person who knows how to perform a particularly specialised piece of work decides to resign, there’s a clear path forward for others.

When all of this knowledge is more accessible, it also makes it much easier to train and onboard new hires – taking the pressure off of overburdened existing employees and making onboarding a more ‘repeatable’ process.

As long as the Great Resignation continues to cast a shadow on the labour market, there will continue to be higher-than-usual job churn. But looking at the technology and processes around an organisation’s collective intelligence in a holistic manner can help make that churn more manageable, allowing CIOs to better navigate a challenging situation while lessening any negative outcomes for the organisation.

Jagjit Dhaliwal, VP Industry Practice at UiPath: “The Great Resignation is currently one of the biggest challenges faced by CIOs. Not only is talent leaving the business in droves, but those who stay are finding it harder to perform their jobs. In fact, a recent UiPath survey found that 58% of UK office workers don’t know what their responsibilities are anymore due to the amount of their co-workers who are resigning. As a result, 43% say they too would consider resigning from their jobs in the next six months.

“We’ve seen this phenomenon play out for months now and it’s not getting any easier to contain. If CIOs aren’t able to find a solution, the problems are only set to get worse. One of the most common causes of employees resigning today is their unsustainable workloads, with workers quitting to avoid the burnout that is rife in today’s working culture.

“For too long, working extended hours has been deemed evidence of a ‘good’ employee, but presenteeism is not an accurate measure of an employee’s productivity – the swift and successful transition to remote working during the COVID-19 lockdowns proved as much. CIOs must respond to this by implementing tools to help their companies work smarter – not harder. Automation is an excellent solution to make this a reality, empowering employees to become more productive with less stress and fostering greater organisational output.

“Unfortunately, the Great Resignation has also come at a time where hiring is becoming a large issue. In UiPath’s study, 74% of surveyed executives admitted to struggling to attract new talent to take on necessary tasks. To stand out from competition in order to continue attracting prospective talent, expanding access to automation will be key. If CIOs can offer both automation tools and the accompanying training opportunities, they can add real value to the professional lives of their existing and prospective workforce.

“This training is essential for attracting and retaining talent as it gives employees the opportunity to grow and find fulfilment in their professional lives, giving them the potential and ambition to advance in their careers. Recent research found that roughly 86% of employees say that job training is important to them-and nearly three out of every four (74%) are willing to learn things outside of work hours to improve their job performance. CIOs must be aware that by reinforcing their investments in automation and offering employees training opportunities to maximise the technology’s potential, they can both effectively combat current labour shortages and prepare their employees for the future of work.

“The best talent can be both attracted and retained with the promise of being upskilled in automation. A CIO’s priorities revolve around balancing operational excellence, improving customer and employee experience and accelerating digital growth – which automation can help achieve simultaneously.”

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