That’s the assessment given for the first half of 2017, based on a survey of 2,500 CIOs who work at U.S. companies with more than 100 employees, according to the recently released Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Forecast and Local Trends Report.
Hiring during the first six months of 2017 is expected to be slightly higher than the last six months of 2016, with 85% of CIOs reporting that they expect to either hire for new positions or fill existing vacancies, compared to 84% for the second half of this year.
“We are seeing technology leaders maintaining their current staff levels and adding new members to their teams very strategically, to meet specific needs and business goals. These numbers are encouraging and indicative of a stable technology hiring environment,” John Reed, senior executive director of Robert Half Technology, told IEEE-USA Insight in an interview.
He noted that the start of the New Year often leads CIOs and other technology leaders to reassess their teams and needs.
According to the report, 69% of CIOs plan to fill existing roles, while 16% anticipate adding new staff to their IT departments.
“The numbers have remained in between the 10% and 20% range consistently over the past couple of years in terms of adding to teams. While there has been growth over the past five or so years, the number of CIOs growing their teams shifts largely based on business needs and trends,” Reed said.
For example, mobile and data initiatives played a big role in building teams, but now it is at a point in where teams have been established and keeping the existing talent is very important for leaders, he explained.
“We’re seeing them working to maintain levels in order to keep up with business demands,” Reed said.
Top In-Demand Roles for First Half of 2017
Although tech workers are in high demand, CIOs note that they are especially keen on filling these three particular roles at their organization, according to the survey.
Database management positions topped the list, with 44% of survey participants putting this IT role on their wish list.
As data collection remains important across businesses, these professionals are in high demand within organizations, Reed observed.
As for network administrator roles, this position has historically made it into the top three in-demand positions in Robert Half Technology’s hiring index reports and has posted increased growth in its salary survey. A push by corporate America to make their offices completely wireless has served as the main driver for the demand in networking professionals, Reed said.
When listing in-demand IT positions, 42% of survey participants checked off network administrators and also desktop support as an in-demand skill at their companies.
“Support professionals are in constant demand as technology needs grow within organizations, so it is unsurprising that those needs are still there for leaders. Effective support is a critical need for businesses,” Reed said. “The help desk is a great starting place for entry-level professionals and those looking to get a foot in the door with the tech industry, but these employees play a vital role.”
With high-profile security breaches from the Dyn distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack to the massive Target data breach, companies are keenly interested in securing their information and instituting a strong defense. As a result, it comes as no surprise that 41% of survey participants listed cybersecurity as an in-demand position.
Cybersecurity and network administration are among the technical skills that Ahsan Baig, deputy CIO of the information technology department for the city of Oakland, Calif., would like to fill at his organization, as well.
In addition to those roles, Baig, an IEEE member, would like to find enterprise architects who can build solutions for the enterprise and its platforms. Additionally, he is looking to hire people with extensive cloud computing experience, data analysis and data intelligence skills. “I need people who understand data, analytics and data presentation,” he said.
Hiring Challenges Linger
Nearly half of CIOs surveyed (45%) indicated that it remains somewhat challenging to find skilled IT professionals for their companies, with 16% noting it is “very challenging.”
“It is challenging,” Baig said. “I work for the government, so we have different challenges and opportunities.”
Prospective job candidates tend to want to come to government jobs for the long haul, but the biggest challenge is how to keep them motivated to learn new technologies, he said.
Baig, who has been with the city of Oakland for 13 years, estimates that 70% to 80% of his IT workers have been with the city as long as he has.
Government jobs tend to pay less, but offer attractive benefits like pension. As a result, when the stock market is not performing well, IT workers tend to more interested in government jobs because the promise of stock options at private companies may not be worth as much, Baig noted.
CIOs’ Top Concerns
Maintaining the security of IT systems and safeguarding corporate information is the top concern of CIOs headed into the first half of the New Year, according to the survey, which found 30% listed it as top of mind besides retaining and hiring IT workers.
“With the threats of security breaches growing, the safety of data for clients and employees within organizations is of utmost importance for CIOs,” Reed said. “From what we’ve seen, the safety of information has been a continuing concern for technology leaders, especially as more data is being collected and data breaches are becoming a more frequent occurrence.”
Meanwhile, 22% of CIOs surveyed listed updating existing systems to push better business efficiencies as their second highest concern as they face the first half of the New Year.
Technology teams are responsible for maintaining the systems that keep the organization operating at the highest possible level of efficiency, so naturally this would be a prime concern for IT leaders, Reed said.
The survey also found that 17% of CIOs listed helping the business to grow as a major issue on their mind, while investing in new technologies garnered 16% and retaining staff 15% of the topics IT leaders are concerned with.
As the technology department made the shift from back office to boardroom, the priorities for leaders has changed as well, Reed said. While security and systems upgrades are certainly top-of-mind issues, IT leaders are now responsible for helping grow the business through the effective use of technology, as well as presenting new technologies that will contribute to those goals.
He added that retention should always be top of mind, especially as unemployment in the technology sector remains low and employers are offering generous salaries and compensation packages in order recruit top talent.
“These areas are all very important and always on the top of my mind,” Baig said. “CIOs are no longer responsible for the upkeep of tech, but also they need to make sure that the business grows with the new technologies.”