CIOs discussed post-pandemic successes and challenges at year-end discussion

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IT professionals agreed work shouldn’t always be “glass balls” where employees are expected to go beyond requirements.

On 30 November, some of the country’s top CIOs and business professionals gathered at the Four Seasons hotel for the 2022 CIO year-end celebration, where they enjoyed insightful discussions and networking.

A select group of CIOs and business leaders took part in a round-table discussion on lessons learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Scarcity of skills

The panellists revealed that cyber skills are wanted globally and people with those skills are emigrating. They also shared that there is a challenge of retaining those skills.

However, some of those who have left want to come back to South Africa because of the cultural dynamics in the countries they work in. “There is a shift of people who have left wanting to come back home.”

The challenge the companies are facing now is that they cannot afford to hire the people who have worked abroad.

It was also revealed that young people are not just attracted by money, but want meaningful work that allows them to acquire new skills. “The conversations I’ve had with people who wanted to leave is that they do not see value in the work they are doing. They want something meaningful. They want an opportunity to learn new skills,” one CIO said.

Hybrid work

One panellist said he preferred people going back to the office full-time. He said Covid-19 put a spotlight on IT and digital data. “Our data science team has churned three times since Covid and it’s partly because the spotlight is everywhere. There is a shortage of skills in the country, so the numbers go up.”

Another panellist said while most companies allow remote working, it is not ideal for new employees because remote onboarding does not work. “New joiners have really battled. The simple reality is that you cannot onboard people remotely because people do not form part of the DNA of the organisation. They feel neglected and everybody needs a network.”

Technology

One CIO said while technology and communication platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams are fundamental in resolving remote working, they limit human connection.

“HR missed noticing that with virtual meetings you invite a lot of people who should not attend, whereas if you had an in-person meeting, you would ask each person what contribution they would be making in the meeting. Those who don’t have a contribution to make, do not attend.”

Another disadvantage of virtual meetings, the CIOs said, was that there were no breaks. They also mentioned that now people are no longer comfortable with switching their cameras on.



“We have so many communication platforms and we are over-communicating with our staff. Every shiny new toy was thrown at employees when Covid hit because you have to keep that connection going, and now there is just too much,” said one CIO.

The inundation of tools is overwhelming. “We used to only look at emails, now there is a Teams chat, a Skype chat and you miss stuff. I only use emails and people get irritated when I do not respond to chats,” one panellist said.

Acceptable boundaries vs. job requirements

One CIO said it was bad leadership to abuse employees by expecting them to chip in even when they are not supposed to be working. “It happens when you push the boundary line and that’s how people check themselves into mental institutions. It’s leaders who do not respect people’s time. We don’t work in hospitals and no one dies if you do not pick up the phone in two minutes. Covid has made me realise that there are glass balls and there are plastic balls. We have to be able to distinguish between the two.”

Work, according to the CIO, may be a glass ball but it should not be a glass ball everyday. “I think sometimes we as leaders do not ask ourselves, ‘Hhow am I showing up to my people as a leader?’”

The roundtable was attended by:

  • Glen Krynauw, Director, Deloitte
  • Jonathan Lamb, Head: CIB Platform Businesses, Standard Bank CIB
  • Cobus Rossouw, Executive Vice President: Digital & Information Technology, Imperial
  • Nigel Mangwanda, Chief Architect: Enterprise Functions, Absa
  • Nomonde White, CIO, Bidvest Bank
  • Viren Naidu, CIO, Hollard Insure
  • Rajan Pillay CIO - Thungela
  • Nomahlubi Sonjica, Managing Editor, CHRO South Africa
  • Georgina Guedes, Executive Community Director, CFO South Africa

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