Monday, March 11, 2013

CIO’s Talent Strategy: Are People the Weakest Link in IT

Don’t be afraid to look above, below, and outside of the Talent Pools that you are seeing.

The speed of business is accelerated; the talent demand for IT department is also never ending. However, the crux of the problems is that IT tends to employ the wrong people, and HR often plays 'buzzword bingo' because they don’t really understand what they have been tasked to the source. So, are people the weakest link in IT, and to what extent is your IT function let down by your talent supply chain?  If so, why / where?

1.  Main Issues in IT Staffing

Start solving problems by owning it. You have taken the view that you are possibly the weak link in your talent value chain, and dig through the root causes:

  • Lack of Clear Process Guideline for Staffing: Without better education of the complete range of skills required in an IT department, the IT department will continue to under perform and languish. Without the independent advice and strategic guidance on how to build an IT department, internal HR departments and external recruitment companies will continue to hire ‘buzzword jockeys’. 
  • Hire for Yesterday: Somehow most companies experience a sudden (instead of planned) shortage of people with specific knowledge or skill that can be workable in a very quick period of time and want them for "yesterday." On this scenario usually, they hire the first person they are able to find that can join right away. Time, not quality is the main driver. Also, project or short term needs are over considered than profile fit for the organization long term needs.  
  • Hire Certification, not Ability: Certifications is mainly as an indicator of good discipline to learn and ability to pass exams not always ability to put this knowledge to solve problems in context with teamwork efforts, certifications are overrated by a whole industry of selling training and certifications. IT only looks for the technician, as a shortcut tell HR to put requirement filled with keywords. This results in those job descriptions we've all seen, and candidates that either "fib" to meet unrealistic expectations, or are so deeply entrenched in a technology they're unable to change with the times. What IT really needs are people who can learn new technologies and businesses, problem-solving, and communicate effectively with peers and users    
  • Lack of People Development: This is also a long-term view and one of the main causes of the broken IT staffing supply chain. Companies also seem to be averse to continuous training of their employees. As a result, they either do not change or add technologies or they pigeon hole the employees with knowledge in older technologies forcing them to leave and hire new employees with the new technology experience. What they forget is that a significant amount of knowledge of the business is walking out the door. Further,  a key expertise that is overlooked in IT is business knowledge and that is incredibly important. It is important to create a culture of continuous learning for IT employees, so their knowledge and experience continue to grow

2. What are the RIGHT Qualities for IT Talent

The weak link is people who are too tunnel vision, looking for / focusing on the narrow but deep experience of the individual. IT leader needs to take responsibility for ensuring the talent is made of the right stuff and ensuring that we don’t let this talent drift out the door. As candidate tend to be hired based on certifications and prior experience rather than whether they are able to think. The team needs members experienced and educated in the technologies that are being used at the company but more importantly, IT personnel needs to be able to think, learn new technologies and relate what they have known in the past to the new technologies. Whilst from a solutions delivery perspective, the focus should be on extracting information related to situations in which candidates found themselves that demonstrate the ability to learn and solve problems. The good quality for IT staff:
  • Growth Mindset
  • Problems Solving Capability
  • Empathy - Communicate with the ability to think on one's feet 
  • Culture fit 
  • Competency (via multidimensional lenses)
  • Capability/Skills/Experience 
  • Think innovatively
  • Establish insight into approach and style in different situations 
  • ability to learn to reflect
  • Discernment 

3. Next Practices for IT Staff

Not only does IT explore the best practice, but also it should continue to develop the next talent practices in order to strengthen the weakest link –People:

  • Don’t just delegate the process to HR or a recruiter: As for IT: Talent, simply stating “this is what I want” is going to get you a pool that survived the automated candidate parsing system and is either very narrow in the skill-sets or very good at playing the “qualifying word bingo” Game. But if HR is supposed to be providing a service, shouldn’t they be more proactive in ensuring that you really need what you are asking for and ensuring that your talent requirements are articulated in an unambiguous and recruitment agency-friendly manner?  
  • Don’t be afraid to look above, below, and outside of the talent pools that you are seeing. Be open-minded to hire candidates that would be considered somewhat unconventional to others but showed a real desire to do the work that was required of them and had skillets that proved to be eminently transferable to their roles. Many great candidates can be recognized by wise eyes, otherwise, they would have likely been given a pass by an Automated HR System.  
  • Don’t get caught between the “Hire the Experience” vs. “Grow your Own” Traps. Everyone in I.T. is “Grow your Own” and regardless of past experience or success, providing the time and $$$ to educate, train, and re-train IT Talent is a constant process that will never end. Look for people who are able to grow and give them the opportunity to do so, look at how to motivate and obtain the most out of the talent and look for breadth of experiences, internal rotational opportunities, individuals who are motivated to succeed along with leadership who encourages appropriate risk-taking. 
  • Challenge to improve "Attract-Hire-Retain-Train-Organize" Cycle: Introduce HR-IT- Business Programs to reduce turnover, eliminate technology tunnel vision, introduce rotation programs, increase employee productivity and efficacy. IT leaders, need to be visionaries who can articulate the strategic direction and personalize it to the staff. Then, use this to motivate the staff to learn those technologies needed to realize the strategy. Additionally, IT  need to personalize the strategy to each member of the team, so they are motivated to learn and grow. This is how to cultivate culture and organization, to overcome the weak link in staffing. 
  • Enforcing the connection between the requirers and the required: Clearly one of the ways I.T. leadership can help alleviate this issue is to deepen their involvement and relationships with HR and (if they use them) recruiters. It may be time-consuming and even somewhat difficult, but the effort can be worth it. Build a strong case for IT to maintain exclusive ownership of the recruitment process, involving HR only towards the end of the process, potentially with the final few candidates.  
  • Be ready for the departure of top talent by trying to build a deep bench: Getting people to learn the first 50% is the hard part. The last 50% tends to come easy, especially once it has been made part of someone’s daily work life. So build as many 50%’ers as possible as people begin to reach their highest levels of skill. - Increasing employee loyalty and training, taking care of employees, will eventually increase IT productivity and quality, sometimes the short-term increased stress and oversight lead to long term reward with a deep and talented IT Bench. And for an IT leader (or really any Leader) that should be one of the primary goals.     
By analyzing the key problems, and manage next practices, IT can strengthen its weakest link and make its talent supply chain more mature, adding real value to both business’s bottom line and top line growth. 


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