Smart Strategies to Scare off the IT Talent Grinch

Smart Strategies to Scare off the IT Talent Grinch
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by Sanjeev Kapoor 29 Dec 2015

For a CIO one of the biggest challenges is skill shortage.

If the IT team is imbalanced and has shallow bench strength in critical areas it will fail to meet the demands of business users, even if there were no budgetary constraints or unlimited human resources.

But in an environment where budget cuts are the new normal and user demand for cutting edge tech solutions never subsides a skill shortage can give CIOs an ulcer, for starters.

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Which is why, in the recently released Gartner CIO Agenda for 2016 22% of CIOs consider talent gap to be the biggest barrier to success.

Barrier to CIO success Percentage of CIOs
Skills 22%
Funding/budgets 15%
Culture/structure of organization 12%
Alignment between IT and business 11%
Tech challenges (legacy, security etc) 9%

Data courtesy Gartner

According to the report the biggest talent gaps are around big data, analytics, information management, and business acumen.

Ironically these are the same gaps CIOs were struggling to plug four years ago.

Implications of talent shortage

In our whitepaper titled The CIO Playbook: Challenges and Opportunities in a Digital Economy we talked about CIO bleeding neck issues like application modernization and enterprise mobility.

According to data from CSC CIO Global Survey 2014-2015 which surveyed CIOs about their priority technology initiatives:

In the absence of a balanced team all these critical initiatives will not see the light of the day.

Enterprises will struggle to migrate to the cloud.

They will be unable to harness the power of big data and predictive analytics to make intelligent business decisions.

IT will struggle to modernize legacy applications which kill employee productivity and make the enterprise less flexible and agile.

Even something as critical as making the enterprise mobile friendly will be pushed to the backburner.

IT will overstretch itself putting fires out, leaving no time and resources for forward planning.

Creative solutions to fix skill shortage

If you are a well respected company like Apple or Google or a hot Silicon Valley you probably won’t have to fret about talent shortage.

But IT leaders at many traditional companies in the manufacturing, health, retail and finance sectors struggle to attract the best and the brightest. The problem is exacerbated by shrinking IT budgets and rampant poaching.

In this scenario it’s not enough to rely on traditional recruiting channels like job boards or headhunting agencies. Here are some off-the-beaten-track ideas to ensure that quality talent is attracted to your team.

1) Associate yourself with an authority figure

Companies like Google and Microsoft have job titles like Evangelist and Fellows. They are usually given to subject matter experts who command intellectual heft in the industry. Vint Cerf, the “father of the internet”, for example, is the Chief Internet Evangelist at Google.

Associating your IT organization with someone like that, even on a part time or consulting basis, would make it more attractive to talented people who respect these influencers and might be drawn to the chance of interacting with them in a workplace environment.

2) Publicize your work

Is your IT department doing exciting work with cutting edge technologies? Are you working on solving challenging problems? Do you have a culture that fosters initiative and innovation?

If yes, it’s time to toot your own horn. Use all available channels, including social media, email, blog, PR etc to talk about these attributes..

Your talent acquisition worries will be over as you will attract a pool of high performers who would be eager to sink their teeth into these problems.

3) Look within the organization

Talent can sometimes be found in the oddest of places. As CIOs aim to make IT more responsive to business needs the demand for tech oriented people who understands business keeps on rising.

To meet the demand recruiters can explore the option of looking at candidates who are already working in core business areas. Successful candidates would be the ones who have a firm grounding of business but come with a tech mindset.

4) Play the long game

When Drew Houston, founder and CEO of Dropbox recruited Guido van Rossum, the creator of Python, away from Google he didn’t do it off a job listing. He spent 12 months developing a relationship with van Rossum before the job offer was accepted.

CIOs need to have a clear idea of the mid to long term technology goals so that they have a rough estimate of what skills are needed. This will give them sufficient time to start t nurturing relationships with future hires.

Parting thoughts

When it comes to hiring CIOs will have to adopt the lead generation mindset of marketing teams, keeping an eye out for people who are doing interesting things and proactively reaching out to them.

The war for talent can be brutal but you can still win it even if you don’t have the deepest of pockets.

What hiring strategies have worked for you?

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