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CIOs want staff with good soft skills to help drive digital change

Effective communication of what is being done and why is vital for organisations implementing digital transformation, survey shows

Communication skill, not technical knowledge, is the most sought-after attribute for chief information officers (CIOs) looking to digitally transform their organisation.

A survey carried out by recruitment consultancy Robert Half revealed that almost three-quarters (74%) of CIOs said communication skills are a top requirement for leading digital transformation, while 52% cited technical knowledge.

Half of the 700 executives questioned said demand will increase for people with good communication skills in the next three years, with 30% expecting such recruits to become harder to find.

Steve Sully, associate director at, Robert Half Technology UK, said that at one time, soft skills were overlooked and undervalued, but this has changed. “The need to hire technology candidates with both technical and softer attributes, such as communication, flexibility and adaptability, is a fine balance required to adjust in this constant state of digital change,” he said.

Sully pointed out that employers do not find it easy to spot good soft skills. “Finding candidates with the necessary skillset to lead and motivate a team, partner with other departments, support the adoption of technological change or plan for the future is a daunting and difficult task for many employers,” he said.

Digital transformation often means shaking up traditional ways of working. For example, the extensive use of automation technology is seeing staff roles change.

As a result, good communication and other soft skills are becoming vital for IT teams to drive business transformation with internal audiences. Creating open lines of communication and engaging with affected staff are important capabilities, according 49% and 45% of CIOs, respectively.

Read more about automation

The onset of automation is not going to slow down anytime soon, so managers will need the right skills to help automation technology integrate with the human workforce.

According to a recent survey from robotic process automation software maker Blue Prism, more than three-quarters of knowledge workers (78%) have experienced some of their daily tasks being automated in the past 12 months, and 34% do not think the business they work for will be competitive in the next five years if it just relies on a human workforce.

But educating staff about the benefits of technology can reduce fears. The same Blue Prism survey found that 83% of knowledge workers are happy to learn new skills and work alongside automation robots.

Read more on Diversity in IT

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