The CIO Icons conference brings together some of the UK’s leading CIOs in an exclusive, two-day event. Although their discussions – focussing on topical challenges and resulting strategies – occur in a closed-door environment, event presenter Lucy Shamdasani has kindly shared some of her key talking points from this year’s conference.
Lucy is a Managing Director and EMEA Portfolio Chief Information Officer at The Carlyle Group. She has been working in technology for over 20 years, delivering digital transformation and data-led analytics for a number of industry-leading organisations.
Talent attraction and retention is a key priority for CIOs, particularly in today’s challenging job market. The ability to attract and retain talent has become increasingly more difficult over the last year and technology leaders are having to think creatively and differently about how to manage this situation.
In many years of leading IT teams and recruiting resources, I’ve never seen such a challenging market as we see today. The whole model has been turned on its head over the past couple of years; we’ve gone from a situation where companies and employers had the upper hand in recruitment – able to set salary benchmarks in line with their industry, have a standard set of benefits that potential employees wouldn’t dare challenge, and the pick of a relatively large group of candidates – to a complete swing of the pendulum to an employee’s market, desperation to recruit tech talent, a shortage of skilled candidates, and a situation where individuals are able to demand significant increases in salaries, and very different benefits and perks.
The other aspect causing tech leaders significant headaches is retention of talent. As the demand for tech skills has grown, IT employees are being tempted away by better roles, salaries, and packages, resulting in significantly higher rates of attrition.
As a result of many organisations accelerating their digital transformation initiatives, hiring numbers have really ramped up this year; more people are quitting or changing jobs for better deals, and IT talent is the most active. In a recent Gartner webinar poll, 44% of executive leaders expressed that IT is the function they are most concerned about when it comes to attrition risk.
This perfect storm has led us to work on creative ways of tapping into new talent pools and methods to motivate and retain employees. It’s important to play the long game here, building recruitment and retention processes that will set a company up in the long term. One of the most successful recruitment approaches is the graduate scheme, and these are traditionally very good for retaining employees for a long period of time, as they feel loyalty to the employer for training them and giving them their first step onto the job ladder. Companies have taken this concept and built on it to generate a pipeline of talent, examples of which include a partnership with Salesforce that hires refugees and carries out on-the-job training of the SaaS platform, and schemes that recruit women who are returning to work after having children.
If you manage software engineering teams, the war on talent is even more acute, and it’s important to find ways to be an attractive employer. Flexible working and generous work-from-home policies are expected, anything under three days at home will put you at a significant disadvantage when recruiting. One company runs regular office meet-ups for the London software engineering community to meet and hear about technology developments and work together on open-source initiatives – not only a great way to recruit new talent but also a successful retention tool as employees lead sessions as part of their professional development.
Ask your people what they are looking for from you as their employer: what matters to them, what would make them stay. In my own experience, few referred to salary increases and instead related to recognition-type activities in the software community, which until then I had frankly not even considered and were generally quite easy to implement. Ask what you can do better, what would make a difference, and – more importantly – act on what you get back. If you don’t actively respond to the suggestions you receive and make your team feel heard (even if you don’t necessarily implement anything specific), it can be damaging to employee motivation and engagement. It’s important to recognise that different generations are driven by different motivations and you need to adapt your culture, benefits, and packages for each. You will be at a disadvantage with a one size fits all approach.
Another important angle to retention in a post-pandemic world is achieving the right balance of physical to virtual engagement for an IT or Tech team. I see the most success and most engagement in companies where employees are trusted to work from their location of choice much of their time, but also have regular, physical get-togethers – in both work and social terms. You must maintain a company culture, and to do that there really does need to be consistent connectivity.
In many ways, it’s great to see our skills so in demand and important now. For many years, IT and Technology teams were considered to be a supporting entity, and now are so fundamentally important to the success of running a business and the delivery of future value.
For more information, get in touch with Tom Nunn
Tom NunnHead of Technology Practice - Interim Management