– Howard Baldwin

There are a lot of reasons I don’t envy CIOs their myriad of challenges, but the biggest one has to be finding the right personnel. Choosing a technology is almost child’s play compared to finding the talent to make sure it gets deployed properly. Tech is expensive, but people are more so. Especially when the technology is popular and the skills are in demand.

Vendors will always be happy to sell you something, but unless you have the staff to make it work, you’re sitting with a bunch of shelfware.

And frankly, it doesn’t sound like the challenge is getting any easier.

My former colleagues at CIO have been beating this drum over the course of this year. Former publisher Gary Beach published The U.S. Technology Skills Gap: What Every Technology Executive Must Know to Save America’s Future (Wiley, 2013), and wrapped up a three-part series on the topic this week. The final part highlights what several companies – including IBM, Broadcom, Cisco, IBM, and Xerox – are doing to train new IT staff.

Beach also spoke this week at a SAS-sponsored webcast (not yet archived) on the topic. Current CIO publisher Adam Dennison launched a research projectlast month to help CIOs find and nurture talent.

The problem is even more prevalent in the public sector than in the private sector. Nextgov noted in an article last month that “Furloughs, budget cuts and three years of frozen pay already are posing challenges for federal agencies in terms of recruiting and retaining information technology workers.” The article also cited a recent Robert Half Technology survey of CIOs and IT workers, which noted a paradoxical result: 72 percent of CIOs “believe their workers’ satisfaction levels are high,” but 35 percent of those workers “said they plan to look for another job within the next year [and] another 35 percent of IT workers polled said they are unsure are about whether they’ll stay in their current job.”

The outlook for CIOs being able to deal more easily with recent graduates doesn’t seem so hot either. A Main Street article this week, Information Technology Students Get to Feel Pretty Smug, cited a recent survey of 48 universities and 1,200 students conducted by the Association for Information Systems and Temple University’s Fox School of Business. It found that 61% of IT graduates get at least one “guaranteed” job offer.  The study also cites job placement levers of 78% for those with a college degree, with jobs for those with undergraduate degrees paying an average of $57,212 and jobs for those with graduate degrees paying an average of $65,394 annually.

There is some good news. IT doesn’t seem to be like law, where people get a taste of it and spit it out. The article said, “A major plurality (76%) of college students who land an IT job seem to love their jobs, while another 73% believe they’ll have a long future in the industry.”

For years, we’ve been talking about how CIOs need to improve their relationship and collaboration with the business. These studies show that to ensure their ability to hire and retain talent, CIOs need to improve their relationship and collaboration with their IT staff first. It’s a good and convenient place to start.

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