Friday, April 5, 2013

How to Attract, Develop & Retain the best IT Talent

IT professionals have a strong sense and sensitivity, only insightful management with a solid judgment can manage talent skillfully.

Talent development and management are perhaps one of the most critical practices in business today, and developing & retaining IT talent is, even more, challenging due to the CHANGE nature of IT, the smartness and sensitivity  of IT workers, the complexity of multi-generational, multicultural, and multi-tasking workforce, only insightful leaders can tackle it with mindfulness and skills.

Here are four perspectives on how to design talent solution, discover talent potential, and delight talent with empathy.  

1.  Design Talent-tailored Solution

Treat them the same by treating them differently. Understand talent with empathy, how to well align talent’s career goals with business goals? Know what matters to them the most, and how to make them more motivated, creative and productive?
  • Recognizing that talent is people and people have ambition and drive: If you enable and empower people to do what they were hired for and feed their ambition and drive they will stay. Most people want to feel wanted and appreciated for their effort and work. Find the embers of drive and desire and then feed it and encourage.
  • Interesting, challenging and projects challenges: That's what really keeps people interested. It can be not only a challenge inside one's projects but also something outside of it. For example - presale architecture or an invitation to participate in another team's challenge. Give them challenges & sense of purposes and through them, they will find a sense of relevance and satisfaction
  • Motivate the team to understand the business more:  Foster close ties between the IT team and the business such that IT team members really understand how critical their role is and get regular feedback on how well they are doing. Knowing that you're job is important to the customer is always a motivator. 
  • Create measurable IT goals and then celebrate those milestones and achievements: Even if you’re working on incremental changes to legacy systems or responding to support issues, it is more interesting and challenging if you keep KPI metrics that show how individuals and teams are performing and noting when they improve with recognition and incentives

2. Develop Well-blended Training and Talent Pipeline

The best way to attract talent also includes training, to encourage continuous learning and growing.

  • Well blend virtual training, formal & informal training: Take advantage of the latest technology, well blend physical training with virtual learning; informal learning need be encouraged, as learning these days are really lifelong effort, inspire employees to voice out, not just compliant, but be creative, thinking deeper and be influential, embrace those social influencers cross-enterprise scope. Training for improvement of qualification and acquaintance with new releases of products, customized software and so on 
  • Rotate IT staff across teams to give them exposure to different technologies and business applications. This is another way to stimulate and challenge when you don't have the luxury of many new projects to assign. Change and transformation agents look for growth opportunities because they offer challenge and accomplishment when it comes to fruition. 
  • Craft a Balanced Promotion Strategy: Hire from outside for fresh blood, and hire internally to reward loyalty. Management needs to always make a fair judgment, look things beyond the surface. Send the message to the team that good work and company loyalty are valued attributes that can be rewarded with the greater responsibility when the opportunity presents. Provide alternative career ladders to enforce a positive effect on the strongest, most ambitious staff on the team, who you most want to retain.  

3. Cultivate the Culture of Innovation

Providing great training and working on interesting projects are important, but the company culture, in the end, will retain talent longer if you couple it with work that has a purpose, how to eliminate those toxic culture characteristics, and cultivate a culture of innovation is both art and science.

  • Culture! That one word encompasses a lot. Culture is critical...and it means many things to many people and companies. It is both emergent and directed. Culture embodies the values of the company. It begins with the founder/owners/leaders and it either coherently (or doesn't) finishes at the rock face with how people act/behave/treat colleagues and clients.      
  • Tolerance of Failures: To accept we are human and mistakes are made at times. But not to dwell on the mistake but take it as a lesson to learn and work with your staff to find those lesson. Advocate the talent to "compete for the uniqueness from "compete for the best";  build a healthy culture to nurture talent growth, be cognizant on talent strength, encourage talent to take extra miles, build up a high-performance team to embrace the cognitive difference. 
  • Crowdsourcing for fresh ideas: Sourcing and retaining the world's best talent is one of the most talked/written about topics in business. Yet successful achievement is a complex fabric with numerous variables, contextual nuances, and human sensitivities. Pose the Mission Impossible question to all new employees: "Which is easier? Keeping all employees happy all the time OR Keeping all clients/customers happy all the time?", collective insight is usually the best. 

4. IT Leader’s Talent Dilemma

IT professionals have a strong sense and sensitivity, only insightful management with a solid judgment can manage talent skillfully. The overall effect you try to achieve is an IT employee that strongly identifies with the team, the work, and the business. Once that's there, recruiting and retention gets a lot easier

  • Talent Retention: The challenge for many CIO's is how to build and retain a great team when you don't have the easy carrots to give out.  Interesting new projects using the latest technologies complete with advanced training will serve to attract and retain the best and brightest. But that's just not possible in many companies where up to 75% of the IT spend is on operations, support, and maintenance activities, thus, talent strategy is a significant component in IT strategy while IT strategy is also an integral part of business strategy. 
  • The Project Dilemma: Long term project perhaps provides a certain level of job security, but long-term projects are the ones where a developer after reaching some level will not be able to organically grow his\hers skills. The technological basis of a long-term project does not require constant and frequent updates which lead to stagnation, talent can't grow inside such projects. There's also a correlation between talent management and project management. 
  • Lack of Resources: Of course, if you happen to be in a high growth situation with the business, you have the natural feeling good of being part of a dynamic, winning team and then all of these things are easier too. But the real challenge is to build and retain a strong team when you don't have all the resources available at your disposal 
Peter Drucker provided six perspectives on knowledge worker’s productivity: well-defined tasks, self-management, continuous learning, continuous innovation, quality over quantity, talent as a human capital/asset than the human resource, if truly following these principles, the working environment can be more productive even creative. And the best way to attract talent is to offer excellence in everything you do such as the workplace, training, communications, and flexibility, and the most important thing is insightful management


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