by Laurianne McLaughlin

CIOs’ Top Concern: People

Oct 09, 20073 mins
IT Leadership

What’s your biggest worry, CIOs? For the first time in 10 years, IT chieftains responding to the Society for Information Management’s annual survey say their top problem is finding and keeping the right staff. People have replaced alignment as the number one thing keeping IT execs up at night. 51 percent of you cite finding, nurturing and holding onto talent as the key worry. (42 percent say it’s aligning the business and IT.) This doesn’t surprise me, because it’s exactly what I heard firsthand from CIOs a few months ago at CIO’s Leadership conference.

While some people (including many journalists) lose sleep this week wondering when Google will ship its long-rumored answer to the iPhone, you’re not losing any sleep about this or any other technology coming down the pike.  You’re worried about having a talented team standing behind you.

And you haven’t just got one people problem, you’ve got several. First, your middle-level IT ranks have evaporated, as those jobs have been outsourced. That brings us to problem number two: There’s no place where talented entry-level people can move up. This means that talented mid-level people with special skills, say SAN administration in a virtualized environment in the financial services industry, are in short supply, command high salaries, and often jump ship after a few months. And for some of you, looming baby boomer retirements mean volumes of knowledge walking out the door.

Moreover, you’re having to spend more time developing the people you do have: 40% of the CIOs responding to SIM’s study say building business skills in their IT staff is a top concern. That’s the first time that worry made the top ten list of sleep-deprivers.

No wonder: IT people must not only speak in business terms, but also thoroughly understand how the business works, in such a way that allows them to spot opportunity. That’s a tall order. Not a tall glass of warm milk.

So what are you doing about the people conundrum? Creating special programs for entry-level folks? Finding new paths for the mid-level veterans? Charming the specialists? Recruiting business-side stars who know technology? After all, you’ve got to get some sleep, sooner or later.

Talent Tips:

Here’s how some mid-market CIOs outside of traditional tech hot-spots are managing the talent dilemma.

Here’s one expert’s take on how IT can attract more talented women to its ranks.

And here’s my colleague Stephanie Overby’s excellent feature on the care and feeding of good IT talent.