CIOs Can Build a Resilient IT Workforce with AI and Unconventional Talent

As the IT talent crunch continues, chief information officers can embrace new strategies to combine traditional IT staff with nontraditional workers and AI to augment the workforce.

Lily Mok, VP Analyst

October 16, 2023

5 Min Read
AI and people. Human and robotic hand reaching each other over blue background
Prostock-studio via Alamy Stock

CIOs are no stranger to the challenges impacting the IT workforce. As the enterprise is committing more and more to digitalization, the critical technology talent needed to deliver it is getting harder to find and to keep. This trend will not reverse anytime soon.

Many CIOs have relied on traditional talent strategies and have not yet fully embraced AI and its role in the future technology workforce. CIOs view human workers’ readiness as critical for AI adoption, but blending AI with humans in the workforce requires a change in managers’ skills. CIOs must develop strategies to combine traditional IT staff with nontraditional workers and AI to automate work and augment human talent. As simple as that may sound, it will require deep changes in the makeup of the workforce, talent discovery, humans’ roles, management skills and other organizational fundamentals.

Here are four key ways that CIOs can begin to meet today’s talent challenge while building the resilient workforce they will need within the next five years.

Employ Unconventional Talent Practices

CIOs often do not exploit all available ways to secure IT skills and talent. In a recent Gartner survey, CIOs reported that they are primarily relying on employee reskilling and the use of business technologists to expand their IT talent pipelines. However, far fewer CIOs were using tactics such borderless recruitment, hiring retirees or hiring neurodivergent talent.

Related:2023 IT Salary Report: Pay Increases Despite Economic Pressures

CIOs can enlarge the IT talent pool by employing a broader range of talent practices, including hiring from untapped talent pools, removing limits on where the organization hires talent, and fostering relationships in the talent ecosystem to build future talent pipelines. Determine which alternative talent practices work most effectively by taking a test-and-measure approach. Try a new tactic in a pilot and gather data on its performance. If it performs well, scale it up. If it performs poorly, adjust and try again, or stop the experiment and try something else.

Consider New Human- and Machine-Based Resources

CIOs expect full-time and part-time employees to do a smaller share of technology work in five years, with robotic automation and AI augmentation making up the difference. Gartner data shows that CIOs project virtually no change in use of other types of human resources, such as consultants, contractors, and gig workers.

However, the reality is that these projections for robotic automation and AI-augmentation are likely a bit too optimistic, perhaps driven by the hype around ChatGPT and generative AI. Although AI promises a substantial increase in productivity, implementing AI is more complicated than simply deploying a new tool.

Related:Quick Study: The Evolving Roles of CIOs and IT Leaders

CIOs must create a strategy for building a resilient, blended workforce by considering a wide range of human- and machine-based resources (such as gig workers and AI-augmented workers) to execute digital strategies, and assessing how their contributions can be increased in the future. A resilient workforce needs many kinds of talent and capabilities; AI will not solve all IT’s staffing problems.

Learn more about various AI solutions and their impact on jobs and the workforce. Prepare for incorporating AI into the workforce by speaking with HR and other stakeholders about how they use AI today, what the most likely use cases for AI in the future will be and what would need to be done to implement AI successfully.

Define AI’s Role in the Workforce

CIOs may be slow to adopt AI in the workforce in part because they recognize the complicated effects on human workers. Technology advancements will not simply replace humans in performing tedious tasks. Generative AI solutions will automate more complex tasks that form part of some people’s jobs today, such as writing software code, and they will augment humans -- the more valuable use case.

This will require people to interact with AI in more intricate ways than entering information and reading the output of a conventional application. Such conversational interactions will be affected by implicit biases in both human and machine. AI needs explainability for humans to interact effectively.

Organizations must prepare before they can use AI effectively alongside the human workforce. CIOs must hire people with AI management expertise who understand how to incorporate it into the workforce -- for example, AI strategists and managers of robots. Only 4-5% of enterprises have these roles today, but more than half plan to adopt them within the next five years. They must be in place before the enterprise can implement more advanced, value-creating AI use cases.

Collaborate with HR to define the human roles the organization will need to establish, such as AI strategist, to design and deploy AI-based digital workplace solutions. These new roles can:

  • Help HR define skills and competencies needed for the future human-AI relationship

  • Help business leaders use AI to accomplish their business objectives, and

  • Determine the impact of AI on customers, communities, employees, investors, and other stakeholders.

Prepare IT Managers for the Future

CIOs recognize that the manager role is on the verge of dramatic change. Whereas managers today focus primarily on maintaining employee productivity, managers in the future will have to orchestrate the many elements of a blended human-machine workforce. As the use of AI becomes more pervasive, managers may have little control over what AI technologies get deployed centrally or within other applications. In those cases, they must be able to manage the impacts of AI, including changes to how work gets done.

CIOs can’t expect AI, other technologies, new management techniques, or any trend or development to rescue them. To lead the new blended workforce, IT managers will have to improve their technical skills and learn how to think and behave quite differently from the ways of management today. CIOs can prepare IT managers for the future by working with HR to assess and develop them on the skills and competencies necessary to lead a blended workforce.

Develop support resources to help managers cope with the change and practice human-centric leadership. Encourage managers to embrace the future by devising new measures of their performance that reflect the emerging requirements of their role, such as metrics around the degree and sophistication of human workers’ use of AI. Outline a few simple AI augmentation scenarios and start immediate implementation to shift the IT managers’ mindset toward blending people and AI.

Lily Mok and other Gartner analysts are providing insights on IT talent and leadership strategies for CIOs at Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo, taking place October 16-19, in Orlando, FL.

About the Author(s)

Lily Mok

VP Analyst , Gartner, Inc.

Lily Mok is a VP Analyst at Gartner, Inc. focused on helping CIOs and HR leaders develop strategies and programs to build a future-ready workforce. Lily and other Gartner analysts are providing insights on IT talent and leadership strategies for CIOs at Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo, taking place October 16-19, in Orlando, FL.

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