As the competition for IT talent heats up, CIOs and other tech and business executives are finding it necessary to broaden their thinking—and their strategy.
It's clear that CIOs are under growing pressure to find IT talent and shape it to the requirements of the digital enterprise. But translating the general concept into reality is no simple task, particularly as skill sets shift and new requirements emerge.
Here are five ways technology and business leaders can transform the talent challenge into an opportunity to build a better IT organization.
1. Hire outside IT. A growing number of CIOs and others in IT did not come from a traditional information technology background. If a person is smart, well-educated and enthusiastic about acquiring specific IT skills and knowledge, they may be well-suited to key positions. These include strategic planning, design interfaces, cloud initiatives, and tapping into big data and analytics in a more strategic and overarching way.
Gary Curtis, owner of GAC Technology Consultants, points out that looking outside the IT department for talent can be advantageous. "It broadens the talent pool and can provide a valuable outside-in perspective," he says.
2. Hire from within. One of the best but most overlooked places to find talent, particularly at larger companies, is from within the organization, including other IT roles. "An existing employee is already familiar with the company and, in many cases, he or she can bring to IT experience and a fresh perspective from another department or function," states John Doehring, president of business consulting firm J. Doehring & Co.
As the lines blur and silos crumple between functions, a broader perspective—along with cross-functional knowledge—is critical. What's more, employees often welcome a change as a growth opportunity, and, with minimal training and development, they can get up to speed in a new job. Best of all, it's often possible to fill a position faster and at a lower cost to the organization.
3. Use alumni networks. The use of LinkedIn and Twitter for recruiting has become commonplace. However, a growing number of companies, universities and other organizations have established online alumni networks. These sites tap into the power of social networking by keeping people connected to others they know and trust.
In many instances, a network can provide insights into potential candidates who may or may not be actively seeking a job or career change—or it may provide access to colleagues who can help. This method also taps into an often-overlooked aspect to cultivating talent: the fact that the best job candidates are often individuals who aren't looking for a new position.
4. Work with universities and other schools. One of the best ways to tap into the talent pipeline is through universities and trade institutes. It may be possible to sponsor IT competitions, such as a TechJam, and, in the process, connect to some of the brightest and best students. At the same time, a relationship with a dean or professors at a school can prove valuable. Many aim to help students land good positions and may think about your company if you're in touch.
But this is only part of the story. Shirley Davis, president and CEO of SDS Global Enterprises, a consulting firm focused on preparing firms for the 21st century workplace, says that establishing internships, part-time positions for college students, scholarships, tuition assistance programs and sign on bonuses—all while speaking at universities about the field—can pay immediate dividends and also build a pipeline for future talent.
5. Extend your approach to networking. Although there's a heavy emphasis on social media as a hiring tool, old-fashioned networking techniques still work remarkably well. Professional organizations and associations, trade shows and other events provide connection points for spotting and cultivating talent. In addition, professional organizations—such as the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) and the National Society for Black Engineers (NSBE) —can help an organization connect to a broader universe of talent and embrace a greater diversity of thinking.
"The number-one problem is that people don't want to invest the time and energy required to make this approach work, even though it's extremely effective," Doehring explains.
To be sure, developing a comprehensive talent acquisition strategy is critical. As Doehring puts it: "If you're simply filling open positions to respond to business and IT needs, you're not positioned for maximum success. It's important to focus on hiring the best talent when it's available. Businesses that take this approach typically find that greater success and growth follow."