Engineer demand is at an all-time high and is expected to rise further as more traditional businesses shift their business models from offline to online. Finding the right technology talent takes time and effort. However, executives can learn from how leading IT organizations develop, retain, and recruit good people.
Finding your next tech hire will take a lot of work. According to Microsoft, there will be 149 million new technology-related jobs worldwide by 2025. As a result, the supply-demand gap for high-quality engineers is likely to widen further in the coming months and years.
Even with unemployment hovering around 10% in many countries, many CIOs and CTOs need help finding and retaining talent. This talent is required to extract value from big data and enterprise mobility investments and carry out day-to-day IT operations with the required quality, security, and efficiency.
These executives also need help to make the most of their existing workforce. While they have employees with specific IT skills, they frequently need to gain superstars who can solve thorny problems spanning multiple tech domains and engage business managers on technology innovation.
Talent Development and Retention
Integrating new talent in a tech organization (or any other organization) is expensive, time-consuming, and risky, especially at the management level. Even for a midlevel manager, screening candidates, conducting interviews, negotiating employment terms, and bringing new hires up to speed can take six months or more.
As a result, developing and retaining your current team is the first imperative in winning the war for technology talent. We discovered that, in addition to the traditional people-management levers (competitive compensation, success rewards, effective coaching, and so on), leading organizations use various approaches to develop and retain technology talent.
Rotate top performers.
Rotating encourages relatively narrow specialization, which can lead to a sense of career “staleness” over time. Some companies actively rotate high performers across technology domains and into business or operational functions.
The goal is to develop managers who can interact as peers with business leaders and more efficiently solve multifaceted technology problems that span many parts of a traditional IT organization.
Make training more user-friendly.
Providing training that helps tech personnel understand the business—to the front lines in some cases—makes the value of technology more tangible and provides invaluable context for interacting with nontechnology managers. Customers, products, strategies, market position, and operations can all be addressed through such training.
Maintain senior exposure.
Many technology organizations have discovered that providing high-performing technology staff with the opportunity to interact directly with the institution’s most senior leaders is a valuable motivator.
The chief administrative officer of a top ten financial institution said, “I ensure that the chief information security officer (CISO) has regular opportunities to interact directly with the board and the executive committee. He could go anywhere, but that is one of the main reasons he stays here.”
Encourage technological interests.
The best people in the tech market are those who are passionate about technology. They are energized by the prospect of using cutting-edge technology to solve problems.
Individual experimentation and innovation can easily become discouraged or lost with an emphasis on top-down management of IT project portfolios. Companies like ours, Techzir Solutions, allow their engineers to recharge after a long, arduous project by enabling them to work on a passion project for a couple of weeks.
Allow for more outside exposure.
Technology is a much larger community than any single company or institution. Leading technology firms broaden their high performers’ horizons and help them feel connected by making time for them to participate in industry or functional groups (for example, standards-setting boards).
Externally Augmenting Talent
Developing and retaining existing talent is critical, but more is needed.
Internally, key skills and capabilities may not exist, and opportunities to upgrade talent are always available; a technology organization benefits from the new ideas and viewpoints that new blood can offer. As a result, external talent acquisition is essential.
Naturally, excellent recruiting skills are required, but IT organizations have discovered that some actions have been particularly beneficial.
Where possible, buy entire teams.
Some businesses use M&A to gain access to talent faster than they would have by developing internal capabilities.
When necessary, rethink location strategies.
Some IT organizations are refining their location strategies to attract critical talent. In many cases, this entails running a portfolio of locations that includes low-cost sites. Transactional activities and locations in city centers or near universities are used to attract customers.
Choose the best athlete.
Extensive, complex technology necessitates dozens or hundreds of specialized skills, and needs can shift quickly: customer analytics and enterprise mobility may be pressing needs this year, but other issues may become more pressing in a few years.
Make use of the network.
Talent attracts talent, particularly in technical functions. Investing in high-profile hires, possibly from unconventional sources (for example, hiring high-tech professionals for enterprise IT roles), can generate buzz in the recruiting market.
Making The Necessary Changes
Which levers to use, how to use them, and in what order are heavily influenced by a company’s needs, existing capabilities, and organizational constraints. Here’s how to consider combining these levers to help win the war for technology talent.
Get a clear picture of future requirements and current capabilities.
A technology talent strategy must begin with an understanding of needs.
Simultaneously, IT organizations must develop an accurate view of their current skills and capabilities, how current employees feel about their career experiences, how employees are perceived outside of the organization, and how current recruiting and career-development processes work — or do not work.
Creating a priority heat map.
Leading organizations create a heat map illustrating the gaps between business requirements and current skills. And the risks associated with those gaps to focus efforts. Furthermore, the heat map should be informed by market trends and their impact on talent availability shortly.
Map levers to needs while keeping constraints in mind.
Only some levers are suitable for some situations. Opening a new location or acquiring may only be feasible in some cases. Senior leaders will be motivated by board exposure, but retention in a frontline data-center operations team will remain the same. To put the right strategy in place, you must first determine which potential levers will address each talent gap and risk.
Track and reinforce progress with zeal.
Progress must be measured against a set of metrics (for example, high-performing employee retention, the number of external hires, and the percentage of staff who receive business-oriented training) and shared with senior leaders who can resolve issues and accelerate change.
Most technology organizations face a daunting agenda that includes developing new capabilities, doing more with less, keeping systems running “all day, every day,” and safeguarding critical information assets.
These initiatives will only be able to carry out with exceptional technological talent. Traditional approaches to technology career management emphasize narrow technical specialization.
Many technology organizations can foster the broad-gauged innovators and problem solvers needed to help exploit growing demand in cloud computing, big data, enterprise mobility, multichannel customer experiences, and a variety of other areas by implementing a wide range of talent-management levers.