Friday, January 22, 2016

How to Close the Gaps in IT Talent Management

People are always the most invaluable, but the weakest link in modern business.

People are always the most invaluable asset in any organization, and having the right person in the right position at the right time is always one of the biggest challenges facing any business. This is particularly true for IT, due to the changing nature of technology and abundance of information. Some fresh mindsets, new skills, or integral digital capabilities are needed every day because we live in a time of rapidly changing digital dynamic. However, people are often the weakest link in strategy execution as well, so how to identify and close the gaps in IT talent management more specifically?


Skill Gaps: There are skill gaps existing in modern IT organization because IT is no longer just a support center or help desk. IT needs both talented specialized generalist to connect the dots, have an in-depth understanding of business, and do more with innovation; IT also needs dedicated specialists to keep the light on and focus on technical excellence. It’s important to identify the skill gaps and define the technical/functional competencies required to achieve business goals. And then training (the mix of the formal and informal training) is one of the management practices to close the gap for talent development.  It's often the case that organization’s training without defining the value impacts what they are looking for. If you know what is done now, what the results are and have been, and you know where you need to be, you can plan for several options.


Capability Gaps: If closing skill gap is tough, and then bridging capability gaps could be more challenging. Because often skills are linear, but capabilities are more integral. Skills can be trained via instilling knowledge, but often capability needs to take time, inner drive, and situations to build. For example, thinking is an invisible, but “hard” capability which can not be taught completely, especially multidimensional thinking. There exist a stereotype about the skills set an individual is perceived to possess. But in the reality, there can be more or even less than expected. There are talent arenas such as synthetic capability, not very specific skills, can't be easily analyzed and hence, a recruiter fails in fitting the right person to the job. They might even sometimes reject the correct person for the job based on the same stereotyped perception. If these organizations are not finding qualified talent for their roles in a variety of verticals, you then need to start looking at the recruiting process. Hire talented, intelligent people who are ready and able to continuously learn without needing hand-holding. Understanding the talent availability from capability lens helps the business make more strategic HR decisions and look at longer term talent pipelining, so they are ready to access to labor pools full of well-educated and life-long-learning potential employees. And they will build their pool of high performers and high potentials more effortlessly.


Cognitive Gaps: Many organizations take initiatives developing diversity programs, in essence, it’s not just about bridging the gaps at the superficial skin level, but to closing the cognitive gaps in mindsets. The traditional concept of diversity can not fill out the gaps caused by cognitive difference necessarily, and the strengths of the problem-solving capabilities people bring to the team. The heterogeneous team with the cognitive difference is more innovative than the homogeneous group setting, as good ideas are multi-dimensional, they take root in unsuspected places and they evolve with time and by unexpected connections. Minding the cognitive gaps can benefit with any organization to make a sound judgment, close cognitive bias, and generate innovative solutions, to improve your company’s ability and maturity.


Communication Gaps: Today’s business is complex, not only business and IT speak different languages very often, even within the IT organization, different IT specialists may speak their own dialects or jargons, and “lost in translation” becomes the very barrier for effective communication and collaboration. Speaking common business language to enhance cross-team and cross-functional communication is important for solving business problems because IT is not just a technical challenge, but a business enabler.  More critically, IT leaders need to learn the executive language and advocate IT value proposition, and must do this from the angle of C- level executive concerned about the core business drivers first and not the tools and trappings of its own management.


Culture Gaps: IT leaders always should ask themselves whether the workplace is healthy enough to attract the best and brightest. If any talent gaps existing, what’re the root causes behind it? Is it caused by out-of-date IT geeky image? or is it caused by outdated culture ingredients? An unhealthy workplace is usually identified by the lack of morale evidenced throughout the organization, the  characteristics may include un-professionalism, unsatisfactory communication, and in general, the low rate of employee engagement. These are just some of the characteristics -- and the numerous possible combinations thereof -- would make a workplace more or less healthy. Therefore, it is important to expand the talent pipeline, innovate talent management and performance management, attract and sustain the bright, capable and positive people and bring wisdom to the workplace.

Bridging so many gaps in IT talent management is obviously not an overnight job, it’s a thorny journey and takes the thought out planning and practices. Weather IT can attract the brightest talent or not also depends on how effective the CIO is marketing his/her organization as a contributor to the corporation and society as a whole. IT knowledge life cycle has been shortened due to the changing nature of technology, thus, when assessing talent, more dynamic and balanced approaches are needed, and more innovative and forward-thinking practices need to experiment. Because nowadays, IT is no longer just an order follower, but a digital champion in the organization.

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