Four prominent figures in Australia's technology workforce have emphasized the need to prioritize the development of tech talent within organizations and beyond the industry. They have also asserted that advancing diversity efforts would contribute positively to the future success of the IT sector.
During a panel discussion at the SXSW Festival, Carina Parisella, ANZ Bank's Head of Technology Workforce, and David Ranasinghe, Chief Digital Officer at Revenue NSW, highlighted that enhancing staff mobility and fostering a culture of continuous learning could enhance talent retention and address skills requirements.
At the same time, Molly Rowe, Vice President of People at tech company Recordpoint, provided insights into how graduate programs can contribute to advancements in diversity within the tech industry. Additionally, Roisin O'Neill, Head of Recruiting at _nology Australia, suggested that tech teams should prioritize talent planning for the upcoming five to ten years.
Carina Parisella, heading a 12,000-member strong tech workforce at ANZ Bank, is keenly aware of the evolving landscape of talent priorities. With a shift towards individuals pursuing multiple careers and companies facing a higher demand for tech workers, attrition has become a prevalent challenge.
In response to this trend, Parisella suggests that companies need to shift their focus from mere hiring to actively designing strategies for talent retention. She argues that this approach, in essence, is what will set companies apart, given the current dynamics where tech workers are in high demand.
Parisella shares ANZ's successful experience in concentrating on the individual interests and aspirations of early career talent. This targeted approach has resulted in an impressive 85% retention rate, outperforming industry standards. By aligning priorities effectively from the outset, ANZ has not only retained staff for longer durations but also witnessed higher levels of performance.
David Ranasinghe, Chief Digital Officer at Revenue NSW, shared insights into his department's proactive approach during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the operations and tech headcount increased, there arose a subsequent question about how to strategically utilize the expanded talent pool.
Ranasinghe explained, "We focused on the retraining and reskilling of our staff." Leveraging the deep knowledge of the business and understanding of customers' needs possessed by existing personnel with a passion for technology, Revenue NSW restrained them for roles in technology and other areas of the business.
This shift towards in-house tech training and skill development represents a significant change in how the NSW government manages its tech talent. According to Ranasinghe, this approach has proven successful, with some employees successfully transitioning into roles related to AI and automation. This strategy not only addresses the current demand but also positions the organization to navigate potential future shortages in skilled labor.
Molly Rowe, Vice President of People at Recordpoint, has played a crucial role in enhancing the diversity of the tech firm's 50-member engineering team. Currently, 35% of the engineering staff are women, and the team boasts representation from 22 different backgrounds and ethnicities, surpassing industry averages.
Rowe attributes the success in driving female representation, in particular, to the organization's graduate program. She highlighted the program's effectiveness, stating, "We had an incredible graduate program when I joined four years ago, but we made some tweaks and really used that to drive a lot of our diversity."
Rowe acknowledged the challenges of achieving diversity in certain roles, citing market realities. She emphasized the importance of implementing such initiatives for the industry's long-term benefit. Rowe noted, "If we want to create software that truly reflects the diversity of its users, it needs to be developed by individuals who represent those diverse perspectives."
In essence, she underscores the value of cultivating a diverse workforce to ensure that the software created is inclusive and representative of the people who use it.
According to Roisin O'Neill, a tech recruitment expert and the head of the specialized recruitment firm _nology Australia, companies are adopting a more cautious approach to tech hiring in late 2023. O'Neill notes a shift from reactive growth to strategic thinking about the long-term composition of tech workforces.
Contrasting the past few years, which were characterized by rapid expansion driven by the availability of cheap capital, O'Neill observes a change in mindset. She states, "Companies are now thinking, 'What do I want my workforce to look like in five to 10 years?' as opposed to, 'What do I need now at this very minute?'"
Acknowledging the historical challenges of tech hiring, O'Neill highlights the transformative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on priorities, recruitment processes, and the definition of ideal talent. Despite ongoing recalibrations, companies continue to hire tech workers, evident in the low unemployment rate in the sector.
O'Neill clarifies that the current phase is more about recalibration than a widespread trend of downsizing or layoffs. Tech jobs remain crucial, but companies are exercising greater caution in shaping their workforces, emphasizing a design approach geared towards long-term sustainability.