The focus will be on staffing growth for automation, cloud platforms and support for remote work, a Gartner survey finds.
The accelerated pace of digital initiatives is a major driver for 55% of CIOs to increase their total number of full-time employees in IT this year, according to a recent survey from Gartner. Staffing growth will be predominantly focused on the areas of automation, cloud and analytics platforms, and support for remote work, the survey found.
These digital accelerator CIOs are 10 percentage points more likely than other CIOs to plan FTE increases, and are almost twice as likely to plan FTE increases of 15% or more, Gartner said.
CIOs expect to direct the most staff growth toward enabling automation, cloud platforms and remote work, along with the security personnel necessary to reduce the risks from significant investments in other areas, according to the firm.
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Security and support for remote work represent more traditional areas of IT activity that will continue to see expansions in supporting personnel. Growth in security personnel is necessary to reduce the risks from significant investments in remote work, analytics and cloud platforms, Gartner said.
Further, continued investment in staff focused on supporting remote work is another indicator that many firms plan to keep sizable numbers of employees working from home for a prolonged period, Gartner said.
"The critical role IT played across most firms' response to the pandemic appears to have had a positive impact on IT staffing plans," said Matthew Charlet, research vice president at Gartner, in a statement. "The initial pessimism around the 2021 talent situation that many CIOs expressed mid-2020 has since dwindled."
Among the CIOs surveyed, the need to accelerate digital initiatives is, by a large margin, the primary factor driving IT talent strategies in 2021. This is followed by the automation of business operations and an increase in cloud adoption.
Data center, network, systems administration and applications maintenance are the most likely areas to see staffing decreases due to the shift toward cloud services, according to the survey.
One interesting note is that while support for remote work is expected to see staff levels grow across a wide swath of companies, most companies do not seem to be planning growth for traditional end-user support staffing, the firm said.
"While CIOs plan to hire more staff in several areas critical to meeting changed consumer and employee expectations, most will not be able to meet their planned talent strategy goals without also upskilling or refocusing their existing teams," Charlet said.
Notably, initiatives to increase diversity and inclusion within IT do not feature prominently in CIOs' top drivers of their talent strategies, despite being featured in the trade press and in conversations among IT leaders, the survey found. This does not necessarily mean that diversity and inclusion is not a driver of IT talent strategies--just that it is not one of the main drivers, Gartner stressed.
Focus is on developing existing talent rather than hiring
The survey also found that CIOs overwhelmingly plan to execute on their 2021 talent strategy by focusing on the development and upskilling of existing staff, according to the survey. Nearly two-thirds of CIOs said they expect that the development of existing staff will be one of the three most important means to achieving their strategy.
Even though hiring will play an important role for CIOs in 2021, most CIOs will not be able to meet their talent strategy objectives without significantly upskilling or refocusing their existing teams. This explains the emphasis on training and development, despite robust hiring plans, Gartner said.
Not surprisingly, given many firms' positive experiences with remote work in 2020, a large share of CIOs expect that offering geographic or work-from-home flexibility to existing and prospective employees will play an important role in fulfilling their talent strategies, according to the survey.
The 2021 Gartner CIO Talent Planning Survey was conducted between November 2020 and December 2020 among 184 CIOs in North America, EMEA and APAC across industries, functions and company sizes, the company said.
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