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CIOs are struggling to recruit the skills they need to drive transformation, have placed recruitment and retention higher on their management agendas, and are continuing to look to increase headcount or insource in order to bring crucial digital and IT skills back in-house.

That is according to the 2018 CIO 100, where 69% of technology executives responded they were struggling to hire to achieve their transformation initiatives, 86% said technology had risen up their agenda, and exactly three-quarters said that they were trying to increase headcount or were planning to insource.

Indeed, it is the third consecutive year to see an increase in the responses to all three of the skills and recruitment questions posed in the CIO 100 survey.

Furthermore, some 65% responded that their organisation operated an IT apprenticeship scheme, up from 61% in 2017.

2018 CIO 100 IT skills and recruitment stats

69% of CIOs find it difficult to recruit the skills they need to drive transformation
86% of CIOs said recruitment and retention has risen up their agenda as a CIO
65% of organisations operating an IT apprenticeship scheme
75% of CIOs increasing headcount or planning to bring skills back in-house

CIO 100 member Dave Roberts from Radius Payment Solutions said that the company had made IT skills a focus and that organisations needed to take a multi-faceted approach.

"There has been a significant emphasis on technology recruitment at Radius Payment Solutions over the last four years," he said. "Technology is helping to drive innovation and product diversification, which has meant that recruitment and retention has been a continual focus for the IT leadership team.

"As a result, we have tripled the size of the IT team and reduced staff turnover but there are always ongoing improvements that can be made. We have developed a close working relationship with the local universities, helping to introduce industrial placement programmes, which has successfully created a pipeline of skilled talent coming into the organisation.

"CIOs need to think about multi-layered recruitment strategies in order to sustain the growth and demand for IT talent."

President of Tech UK, Jacqueline de Rojas, said that the 2018 CIO 100 figures show that the government needed to do more to nurture the skills pipelines.

"It is no surprise that the majority of firms are struggling to recruit the skills they need in the UK today," she said. "We have long known of the country's chronic skills shortage and more must be done by government and industry to collectively encourage the uptake of STEM and digital skills."

Insourcing warning

CIO 100 panellist Christine Ashton warned that increasing headcount was not a silver bullet in the world of digital business, thoughts echoed by CIO at The Restaurant Group, Simon Iddon.

Ashton said: "Headcount isn't the answer to everything. To survive in a complex world, companies really do need to look hard at where they can simplify their operations. Spending less time on things that don't differentiate, targeting AI at simplifying processes and building capabilities in areas that will create new value, is what CIOs really need to be doing by advocating the business changes that if made would release resources without destroying value.

"Just bringing back outsourced work means that they will still be on the cost-cutting agenda for activities that in my experience don't always add material value."

Iddon said: "More can be done with specialist and boutique agencies who will always know more than an in-house team and bring in ideas from outside the industry. The in-house organisation must own vision, plan and provide thought leadership collaborating with true partners to jointly deliver."

At the 2017 CIO Summit, Addison Lee CIO Ian Cohen said that the notion of the skills gap was somewhat overstated, and that the onus was on organisations and their CIOs to develop a more appealing proposition to attract skilled digital and IT workers.