A third of Australian CIOs say they expect to grow their contractor workforce this year as the experience of COVID-19 changes thinking and priorities within IT departments.\nThis was among the key findings from a recent survey of local hiring managers by global recruitment specialists Robert Half, which noted the tech sector is developing a preference for contract workers, with the top skilled professionals also leaning in the same direction.\nThe company surveyed 300 senior hiring managers in Australia, evenly spread between CIOs, CFOs and GMs, reporting that across the board, 31 percent of hirers said they expected to increase their numbers with only\u00a0 22 percent of CFOs planning to increase their contractor headcount. Just under half (45 percent) of CIOs said they\u2019d maintain their headcount at current levels, with 7 percent flagging plans to cut back.\nRobert Half director, Nicole Gorton, says the experience of COVID has meant many organisations \u2013 especially those of scale \u2013 are currently more likely to be managing multiple, agile tech projects.\nThese are naturally more suited to temporary IT staff, while those with the skills to get the job done appear happy to take short term, often higher paid work, which can be as much as 20 percent more than comparable full-time positions, Gorton said.\n\u201cGood contractors are good at getting in and knowing what tools and resources they can access and how to best to move the project along. They\u2019re more adaptable, more agile, and less likely to get bogged down in the details or being distracted by the \u2018helicopter view\u2019 of an organisation.\u201d\nGorton added it\u2019s evidence that the IT profession is embracing aspects of the so-called \u2018gig economy\u2019, albeit without the dismal pay and persistent physical dangers.\nThat said, there are typically more contractors in IT than most other professions, with recruitment platform Seek reporting a full 42 percent versus 58 percent full time workers in 2019. The number shifted 0.1 percent in favour of contractors last year, it said.\nLooking at the reasons CIOs give for hiring contractors, 53 percent cited the ability to \u2018remain nimble during changing economic conditions\u2019. Next was accessing \u2018specialised skills\/subject matter expertise\u2019 at 51 percent, followed by the ability to scale teams \u2018without affecting full time employees\u2019 at 49 percent.\nCIOs (43 percent) also cited the need for support delivering \u2018special projects\u2019, with 41 percent reporting that hiring contractors alleviated the \u2018burden\u2019 on existing employees. And 38 percent of CIOs noted it was a good way to determine whether someone was the right fit for the job.\nThe most sought-after techs were:\n- Helpdesk support officer\n- Systems engineer\n- Software developer\n- Systems administrator\n- Desktop engineer.\nGorton also noted that the rapid move to and acceptance of work-from-home arrangements has meant employers are able to choose from a wider pool, with a flood of new candidates expected to hit the IT labour market when the federal government\u2019s Job Keeper program winds up later this month.\nAnd for candidates themselves, the shift towards more contracting should translated into more options to continue short term employment and more quickly refine and acquire new skills working within smaller teams on more specific, agile projects.