FRAMINGHAM – It’s starting to feel like 1999 all over again for Alan Boehme, the year the dotcom/digital economy hit its high-water mark and the IT job market peaked. On the one hand, that’s a good thing. “IT is in vogue again,” says Boehme, CIO of Juniper Networks. “It is not just for cost-cutting. It’s seen as key to growth.”
On the other hand, it’s a nightmare. Growing on average by 12 percent year over year, the US$2 billion company’s appetite for business-enabling IT systems is insatiable. And so is Boehme’s need for IT staff. His hiring activity picked up about 30 percent last year, when he had 60 open positions. The market for tech talent is increasingly competitive, says Boehme, particularly where he sits in Silicon Valley.
Boehme’s experience is borne out by the numbers. Nearly two-thirds of CIOs who had staffing forecasts projected an increase in headcount, according to Gartner’s 2006 “IT Market Compensation Study.” Of those, almost 19 percent anticipated an uptick of 10 percent or more, compared with 5.2 percent in 2004 and 17.9 percent in 2005. Overall employment in the tech sector has increased since the second quarter of 2005 and is now at its highest level in four years, nearly matching prerecession IT employment highs, according to Forrester Research. A tightening labor market may be good for technology workers, but it’s a challenge for CIOs.
“The recent upturn has presented IT professionals with more options and differing expectations,” says Samuel Bright, Forrester’s IT staffing and careers analyst. “It forces enterprise IT not only to compete with other enterprise IT shops but also consulting firms, outsourcers and technology vendors for the same pool of IT talent.” Like it or not, enterprise IT is not as glamorous as working for Google. “As a result,” Bright says, “CIOs have to take a more strategic approach when it comes to recruiting.”
IT executives can no longer afford to delegate staffing to the back burner. It takes the right people with the right skills to help IT fulfill its mission. But where to begin? Right here, with answers to some of the most pressing recruitment concerns CIOs face today.
1. Most IT recruiting is done by HR and middle management. What’s my role?
Penske’s Stephen Pickett likens his role in IT recruiting to that of the coach in college athletics. “The CIO should be the chief sales and marketing executive for IT recruiting,” says Pickett, vice president and CIO of the transportation company. “They are the ones that sell the future.”
First, the CIO needs to provide the recruiting framework for the IT organization. “They should focus on more than headcount,” says Bright. “The CIO has to articulate a vision.” At the strategic level, IT leaders should focus on identifying key positions and building competency models for them. They also must make sure high-level recruiting strategy translates into frontline action by hiring managers. Unfortunately, CIOs tend to spend more time managing up than managing down. But smart IT leaders invest time in things like skip-level meetings with the direct reports of their direct reports and reviewing recruiting metrics (volume of incoming r