Not enough chiefs: why agencies struggle to recruit digital leadership

Sabotage and culture may be hindering the recruitment of digital leadership to the public sector. Outsiders recruited from the wider ICT sector have a lot to offer, but they need support to navigate the processes of government bureaucracy.

Everybody’s trying to make sure they aren’t being left behind as the digital revolution reshapes society and the economy. The importance, number and seniority of digital leadership roles in the public sector is clearly on the rise but when it comes to recruiting experts to fill them, it’s looking very much like a seller’s market.

Six federal agencies are currently recruiting CIOs and in many cases, the vacancies have opened up when their incumbents have moved to fill a different hole elsewhere in the Commonwealth bureaucracy. The new Digital Transformation Office found its inaugural leader in the United Kingdom, where he had already successfully transitioned to the public sector, and the ACT government just poached a Kiwi with combined public and private sector experience to lead its digital charge, leaving New Zealand’s Department of Corrections on the hunt for a CIO.

When such roles in the states and territories are considered, a picture of musical chairs emerges across the wider Australian public sector, and indeed within the English speaking world. New high-level digital leadership jobs are being created but there is a limited pool of potential candidates with the right combination of specialist skills — mainly learned in the wider ICT sector — and the know-how to get things done within the machinery of government.

Miguel Carrasco

Miguel Carrasco

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