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Determination + Sensitivity: CIO’s Newfound Traits in the Covid-Era


The current pandemic has changed some of the  personal traits of Chief Information Officers aka CIOs  in the organizations. In a new survey by Gartner, as companies look for new CIOs in 2021, individual determination and sensitivity will become key personal traits in 70% of hiring processes.

Needless to say, the Covid-19 pandemic continues to shift the landscape for how global CIOs manage, collaborate and respond to their stakeholders. Accordingly, the demand for strong leadership and core emotional dexterity competencies is growing, according to Gartner.

“CEOs are looking for executives who are capable of weathering crises,” said Daniel Sanchez-Reina, senior research director at Gartner. “They are still unsettled about the future and want determined CIOs who make and implement timely decisions, while displaying emotional dexterity to be tactful and supportive.”

Determination and emotional competency rank high

Determination refers to the firmness of resoluteness and in turning decisions into actions, despite how tough they are. Sensitivity is the quality of feeling empathetic toward others’ difficulties and acting accordingly.

According to Gartner data, demand for the determination and competency among new hires increased 34% in 2020 versus 2019. In addition, sensitivity increased 92% in 2020 versus 2019. Both competencies are in the top 10 of increasing demand in recruitment processes, which will extend to existing employees too.

The Gartner survey showed that CIOs who look to develop emotional dexterity in the digital era can improve their self-awareness. This is especially important during times of crisis, when they commit to practicing self-improvement techniques.

For example, as Ashwin Sivakumar, co-founder and chief of digital business growth of the JugularSocial Group, observed, “CIOs need to pivot their role dynamics in organizations. Till now, the perception of this role has been largely limited to transforming processes and technology requirements led by other functions in an organization. In 2021 and beyond, it’s going to be crucial for them to get out of the comfort zone and drive change with deeper understanding of other functional areas like marketing and customer relations.”

He believes with enterprises now sensitized to have digital at its core, CIO will be increasingly expected to lead business transformation strategies. “It will be important to think beyond technology and processes to understand actual needs of a customer’s journey. Customer acquisition, experience and retention will be key drivers to bring about business transformation,” Sivakumar said.

Soft skills – The desired skillset of the future

IT and business leaders say that the most important skills needed in 10 years will be soft skills. The survey also showed “above average” CIOs are 30% more likely to practice gratitude as a self-development approach. This puts them in a better position to deal with the fear and doubt that complex change brings.

“Interestingly, all surveyed CIOs spend an average of 30 minutes daily in learning and development, indicating it is not the quantity, but the quality of time spent on focusing on the right behaviors that is important,” said Rob O’Donohue, senior research director at Gartner.

Natarajan Radhakrishnan, CIO at Hinduja Global Solutions (HGS) said that the new remote workforce demands CIOs to not just drive a technology agenda, but a business technology agenda that aims to enable business growth and value creation, enhances customer experience (CX), and makes business processes run efficiently.

“In that sense, that CIOs are expected to be Zen Masters,” said Radhakrishnan. They need to be multi-dimensional with knowledge of strategy, finance, people, technology and business. According to him, as the world turns digital and IT leaders are increasingly part of a company’s management, it’s up for them to take the necessary steps by being flexible and agile with a willingness to learn and adapt to every new situation.

In a recent article on CXOToday, L Subramanyan, founder and CEO of Trivone, too echoed similar view. “In the current scenario, where ‘digital transformation’ is going to be the buzzword for at least the foreseeable future, the new-found importance of the CIO can be a harness to secure a position at the top table – the boardroom. The entire enterprise will need to address the new normal, using technology as the fulcrum–but as one that delivers and propels the company onto a higher trajectory of growth.”

The CIO who gets this is already ahead. That CIO will be able to use her superior understanding of digital technology and tools as well as emotional dexterity to become the prime mover of the enterprise in its digital journey.

One can say therefore, the newfound personality traits of CIOs are likely to pose a huge challenge before them. It would mean that they have an incredibly critical role to play in times of Covid-19 as organizations look towards them to digitize processes and operations (determination) and ensure the entire organization – including its employees and customers – can function normally (sensitivity) in these extremely trying times – and these qualities will only help him deliver better.

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