According to the Society for Information Management’s IT Trends Study 2015, the average CIO is 51 years old, male (89%), and has been in his current position for about five years. Although none of this is terribly surprising, what is concerning is that the industry could lose up to one third to half of all current CIOs over the next five to ten years, according to Leon Kappelman, the lead researcher for the report, in a recent interview with InformationWeek.

Although tenures for CIOs are longer than they’ve ever been, IT leaders don’t last in their roles forever. Some CIOs move on to new IT leadership opportunities. Some take on new responsibilities in the C-suite, such as Chief Operating Officer or CEO, while others move into consultative roles.

Regardless of the progression path, CIOs need to be thinking about laying the groundwork for next-generation IT leaders. It’s a carefully-planned path that nurtures long-time rising stars within the IT organization while attracting attractive talent from other organizations who can deliver needed skill sets as well as fresh perspectives to problem-solving. It requires conscientious planning on the part of the CIO to recognize, reward, and create new opportunities for valued employees while continuing to draw in external talent that can help the enterprise meet its goals going forward.

Certainly one of the biggest challenges CIOs face in nurturing next-generation IT leaders is retention. No one stays with a company for 20-plus years anymore. Gifted IT professionals are highly sought after. And they’re more nomadic.

Compensation is just one piece of the puzzle. Competent IT professionals are also hungry for new opportunities, including stretch assignments that take them beyond their current skills or knowledge. These responsibilities can include overseeing projects that entail cutting-edge technologies or lines of business they’ve not worked with before. Stretch assignments provide learning opportunities for valued IT members while enabling the CIO to gauge how effectively an individual handles a particular project that falls outside of their normal comfort zone.

Of course, every CIO – and every employer – runs the risk of investing too much in a particular employee’s career since they may very well take that knowledge elsewhere. Ultimately, IT organizations that don’t provide employees with opportunities to take on new responsibilities and advance their careers will end up lacking the talent that’s needed to help take the enterprise forward.

Meeting with IT staff regularly can help the CIO to understand their passions and to identify new creative opportunities that can help keep them energized. Great leaders don’t place people in boxes – they free them from restrictions and give them room to run.

IT staff don’t just want opportunities to grow their skills. They also want to share their observations and ideas and feel that their voices are being heard and are making a difference.

Great leaders create an environment where individual performers are nurtured and can spread their wings. They also lead by example by how they lead others, the relationships they build, and by how they’re able to navigate change.

Ultimately, it’s about cultivating an IT team that’s able to deliver on the needs of the enterprise. As Ted Colbert, CIO at The Boeing Company shares in an HMG Strategy video, “The modern CIO has got to look at their talent and make sure they have the right folks in place to deliver on the expectations of your business.”


Key Takeaways

  • According to recent research from the Society for Information Management (SIM), one-third to half of all CIOs could be retiring over the next five-to-ten years.
  • Forward-looking CIOs need to recognize, reward, and create new opportunities for valued employees while continuing to draw in external talent that can help the enterprise meet its objectives.
  • Stretch assignments provide learning opportunities for valued IT employees while enabling the CIO to gauge how effectively an individual handles a particular project that falls outside of their normal comfort zone.