CIOs want to hire IT generalists but admit to a large, financially damaging skills gap. Maybe IT leaders don't know how to find the right staff.
By Kim S. Nash, CIO
I know I must be missing something basic, but I don’t understand completely why IT professionals are so hard to find. The latest data from Robert Half International shows that tech positions are harder to fill than those in accounting and finance, legal, advertising and marketing.
Skills mismatch and the fast pace of technology change are part of it. Is anyone really a cloud architect yet? A tablet commerce expert? More than 90 percent of companies says there’s a gap between the technical skills their IT staffs possess and the skills their companies need, as my colleague Meridith Levinson reports.
But I wonder if IT hiring managers actually know what they’re looking for.
CIOs want to hire jacks-of-all-trades, not specialists, says Foote Partners, an IT labor researcher. The catch is that those IT generalists have to have business skills and, even better, experience with innovation and relating to external customers.
The conventional wisdom is that bosses hire people like themselves. Our State of the CIO research indicates that CIOs lack the very skills they now seek in staff members. Just 9 percent of the 596 CIOs in our latest survey spend time studying customer needs to identify commercial opportunities. Only 17 percent find ways to differentiate their companies against competitors. So maybe CIOs dither in filling open jobs because they don’t recognize the talent they need when they see it.
Or maybe the problem is unrealistic expectations. It may be too soon to have your pick of cloud, mobile and social computing experts because enterprises have only begun to put in industrial strength systems that use those technologies for real business scenarios. There are relatively few people with that experience in the pool of the IT unemployed.
One way to catch the pool up with what CIOs demand is to train and train again. But some IT leaders feel like they’re on a treadmill where there’s no time to do so. An executive director in IT at a very large healthcare company recently told me that about half of his $600,000 professional development and training budget goes unused. His staff and colleagues are too busy implementing the stuff they’d love to get more training on. Such is the pace of business. This isn’t sustainable. Pretty soon, no hiring manager will be able to find what they’re looking for. (Cue U2 and my favorite philosopher, Bruce Springsteen.)