Every January, my organization has a national meeting connecting the sales teams with our partners, technical resources, and practice leaders for two days of education. It can be intense; it’s a lot of information packed into a short time, and it’s always fun, too. I love seeing colleagues I’ve worked with for years and meeting those that are new to our organization. As a growing company, there’s always someone new to meet and something more to learn.

As is true for most everything else in our world right now, our National Sales Meeting became a two-day remote event. I have to admit I wasn’t that excited – two days of virtual presentations? Sigh. Where was the networking, where was the chance to learn, where was the excitement?

I was so wrong. The event was incredible and well structured. We had sessions that allowed us all to talk about the state of the company, smaller breakout sessions for education, and even some entertainment and awards ceremonies!

One part of our NSM that I always look forward to is the CIO panel, a small group of IT executives that cover different industries and verticals. This year was one of my favorite panels to date. We had four people from completely different industries, but they all had similar stories to tell.

Of the many things I took away the CIO panel, the two that stood out to me were the points about security and talent.

Security continues to be on the forefront of every CIO’s mind for the usual reasons, but right now it’s an even higher priority because of the remote workforce that’s resulted from the impact of Covid-19. Spamming and phishing attacks are on the rise, as are ransomware and breaches.

I have to say I wasn’t at all surprised to hear every CIO talk about the importance of good talent and having the right resources for their teams. They mentioned that finding talent and keeping it continues to be a high priority. Even with unemployment rates rising, technical employment rates are still incredibly strong. Technical unemployment is still under 4%, and can be as low as 1% in some practice areas. It’s not good enough anymore to offer a good salary at a good company. Today’s technical talent is looking for emerging technologies to learn about at companies that invest in them by offering education and certification opportunities. They are being offered unlimited PTO and generous bonus packages. They have realized that they are fully capable of working remotely and still keeping up production and doing a good job, which indicates that remote work will be something they want moving forward. The bottom line? You have to invest in your people if you want them to continue to be invested in your organization.

Another matter of note that came from each CIO was the importance of relationships. They don’t want to be “sold to” all day. I apologize in advance for the overused terminology, but they want a partner and a consultant. They don’t just want the next best widget, they want to know why that widget is right for their technical initiatives.

I’m appreciative of the opportunity I was given to listen to this discussion. It was real, thought provoking discourse about our industry as a whole, and it was refreshing to begin the year with a reminder that even if business looks different right now, it’s still going and so are we. I got a lot out of it, and, although I’d do it again, I’m really hoping the next one takes place somewhere other than my home office!