A third of tech leaders are planning to hire for new positions in 2022 as demand for multi-skilled workers grows, according to research.
A survey of 300 senior leaders in the UK comprising CEOs, CFOs, CTOs and CIOs at SMEs and large organizations by recruiter Robert Half found that 34% plan to up their headcount next year, driven by the ongoing shift to digital and "online-first" business models.
Two in five (41%) tech leaders said changing behaviors had inspired business confidence, which in turn is prompting hiring activity, the research found. However, 56% of respondents said they expected finding qualified candidates to be a greater challenge compared to the pre-pandemic jobs market.
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Front-end developers are in particularly high demand, said Robert Half. These specialists have been charged with shoring up businesses' digital storefronts after the pandemic put an end to in-person shopping, working and learning.
This effort is leading to the generation of large volumes of new data, resulting in a surge in requests for data scientists, analysts and engineers. Meanwhile, remote working has driven demand for IT workers with expertise in remote desktop support and virtual collaboration tools who can provide agile and responsive support, the recruiter found.
Taken together, these changes are creating a need for new skillsets that reach beyond the typical technical qualifications, with 34% of CIOs surveyed reporting that most candidates lack desirable 'soft' traits like adaptability, problem-solving, and negotiation and communication skills.
Phil Boden, senior manager at Robert Half, suggested that these "all-rounders" might be hard to come by, and as such organizations should be ready to fight for them. "Across the board, the level of demand is intense and candidates that meet businesses' heightened requirements for soft and technical skills are in short supply, so companies should be prepared to compete," said Boden.
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed pressure on businesses to balance cost savings with the need to quickly implement and scale out new digital tools, both internally and on the customer-facing side.
Robert Half's research found that IT security was the biggest concern for CIOs in 2022, with 28% of respondents citing 'Boosting security and safeguarding data' as their top strategic priority. Employers could face challenges here: 15% of CIOs reported that IT security skills were the most difficult to find amongst job candidates for permanent roles. This has been a common complaint amongst recruiters since the start of the pandemic.
At the same time, a quarter (24%) of CIOs said they were prioritising further cloud-based projects and initiatives, meaning the need for cybersecurity professionals will continue to increase.
Cost reduction and balancing budgets also featured high on CIOs' to-do lists, with 28% of CIOs citing this as their top strategic priority.
As detailed in ZDNet's Tech Budgets Special Report, much of organizations' IT spending in 2020 and early 2021 was focused on devices to support the sudden shift to remote work. As organizations move into 2022, budgets will likely be recalibrated, with more spending dedicated to custom application development aimed at specific business outcomes.
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As such, just under a quarter of CIOs (24%) cited 'innovation and investing in new technologies' as their top strategic priority for 2022, which featured joint-third alongside 'cloud projects and initiatives' (24%) and 'working 5G capabilities into IT strategy' (24%). The shortage of available tech talent could again pose a problem here, with research published by analyst Gartner in September finding lack of capability to be the biggest barrier to organizations' adoption of emerging technologies.
Other top CIO priorities identified by Robert Half: 'automation to boost productivity or reduce costs' (19%), 'transformation projects and initiatives' (17%), DevOps (16%), and 'data warehousing reviews' (15%).
"Technology initiatives have been at the heart of many businesses' pandemic recovery efforts and underpin their plans for future growth, but they are also keen to protect themselves financially by balancing their budgets," said Boden.
"As technology is always advancing, candidates who can adapt and evolve their skills over time are also highly desirable to businesses."