CIOs: Customer Support, Rising Workloads Drive Staffing Activity

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Menlo Park, Calif. — June 2
In the next three months, 8 percent of chief information officers (CIOs) plan to add information technology (IT) staff and 6 percent plan personnel cutbacks, according to the third-quarter Robert Half Technology “IT Hiring Index and Skills Report.” The net 2 percent hiring increase is unchanged from the second-quarter forecast. The majority of respondents, 85 percent, plan to maintain current staffing levels.

The “IT Hiring Index and Skills Report” is based on telephone interviews with more than 1,400 CIOs from companies across the United States with 100 or more employees. It was conducted by an independent research firm and developed by Robert Half Technology, a provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis.

Key Findings

  • Technology executives attribute hiring activity largely to an increased need for customer/end-user support and rising workloads.
  • Three regions are tied for the strongest hiring forecasts in the third quarter: South Atlantic, East South Central and Pacific.
  • CIOs in the transportation, communications and utilities sector are most optimistic about hiring.
  • Staff-level technology professionals are in greatest demand.
  • Reduced IT budgets remain the leading reason for staff reductions.

“Companies are adding staff at a steady but moderate pace,” said Dave Willmer, executive director of Robert Half Technology. “Managers are watching budgets closely and concentrating hiring activity primarily on customer-facing roles such as help desk and desktop support.”

Twenty percent of technology executives expect to add a mix of full-time and contract or project workers in the third quarter. When hiring full-time staff, nearly nine in 10 CIOs surveyed (88 percent) plan to recruit IT professionals at the staff level (up to five years of experience). Twenty percent of CIOs said they plan to hire at the manager, senior manager or director level. (Note: CIOs were allowed multiple responses.)

Thirty percent of executives cited the increased need for customer/end-user support as the primary factor driving hiring demand, followed by rising workloads at 27 percent. Technology executives expecting to decrease staff in the third quarter said the top reason is reduced IT budgets, with 41 percent of the response. Thirty-seven percent cited companywide layoffs, and 14 percent said new IT projects are being put on hold.

Skills in Demand
Seventy-three percent of CIOs report that network administration (LAN, WAN) is the technical skill set most in demand in their IT departments. Desktop support received 69 percent of the response, followed closely by Windows administration (Server 2000/2003), at 68 percent.

When asked which job area is experiencing the most growth, technology executives ranked networking first, with 16 percent of the response. Help-desk and technical support was cited by 15 percent of CIOs, followed by applications development, at 11 percent.

Regional Outlook
Technology executives in three regions — South Atlantic, East South Central and Pacific — were equally optimistic about third-quarter hiring, with a net increase of 4 percent each. Eleven percent of CIOs in the South Atlantic area plan to add IT staff, and 7 percent foresee personnel cutbacks. Hiring activity in the South Atlantic region is being fueled by an increased need for customer/end-user support, according to the survey.

In the East South Central states, 7 percent of executives plan to expand their IT departments and 3 percent forecast staff reductions. Rising workloads are the main reason for hiring activity in this region, CIOs reported.

Seven percent of technology executives in the Pacific region expect to add employees and 3 percent project personnel cutbacks. CIOs attributed the gains largely to corporate growth or expansion.

Industries Hiring
CIOs in the transportation, communications and utilities sector anticipate the most active hiring in the third quarter. Fourteen percent of technology executives plan to add staff and 3 percent foresee personnel cutbacks, for a net 11 percent hiring increase, which is nine points above the national average. Eighty-two percent of technology executives said an increased need for customer/end-user support is driving staffing activity.

Help-desk and technical support is the job area experiencing the most growth within their IT departments. Among CIOs in this sector who plan to add staff in the third quarter, 82 percent expect to hire IT professionals with between two and five years of experience, and 53 percent said they anticipate hiring senior staff with five or more years of experience.

The professional services and finance, insurance and real estate industries also forecast employment growth above the national average, with a net increase of 3 percent each. Nine percent of CIOs in the professional services sector expect to add staff and 6 percent anticipate personnel reductions. Twelve percent of executives in the finance, insurance and real estate industry plan to expand their IT departments and 9 percent foresee staff cutbacks.

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