How to Hook the Talent You Need

How to Hook the Talent You Need

Things to do today and tomorrow to keep your evolving IT department stocked with the best and most useful employees.

WANTED - Experienced IT professionals with broad technical competency and working knowledge of both emerging technologies and legacy systems. Should have top-notch analytical and problem-solving prowess, excellent communication skills, and the ability to work well independently and as a member of a team. Must have experience in business process management, certification in project management and a solid understanding of enterprise architecture. Customer service attitude required. Vendor management background a plus.

It's no longer a matter of debate: The nature of IT is evolving from technical support centre to innovative business partner. And the mix of skills needed to staff the new IT department is changing as well. While technical proficiency is still important, CIOs are desperately seeking hires with project management expertise, enterprise and industry knowledge, and the business skills necessary for customer-facing roles. Forty-one percent of CIOs said they place greater emphasis today on a job candidate's knowledge of business fundamentals than they did five years ago, according to a 2006 Robert Half Technology survey.

What is unclear is how CIOs will meet this demand. The supply of business-IT professionals is tight. Enrolment in computer science and engineering programs continues to drop and CIOs complain that students who do pursue traditional IT programs don't get adequate exposure to soft skills. Seasoned professionals with that valuable combination of business and technology skills inch nearer to retirement. One-third of US workers will be over the age of 50 by 2010 (locally the percentage is slightly higher); the first baby boomers reach retirement age in 2011. Skilled mid-career workers, who could fill the gap, risk being ignored or underutilized.

Yet successful IT staffing is more important than ever. "Talent is the differentiator between creating significant business advantage with IT and not," says Alastair Behenna, CIO of global recruiter Harvey Nash Group.

Staffing pressures are affecting everyone, from smaller businesses to Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits to the public sector, industry to industry. In fact, IT leaders ranked finding, hiring and retaining workers with the needed skill sets among their top staffing concerns, according to CIO's State of the CIO 2006.

"We're all going after the same talent pool," says Diane Wallace, CIO for the state of Connecticut. "These issues are going to be with us for a while, and there's no magic bullet coming. CIOs have to solve it for themselves."

A talent war is brewing, and CIOs cannot wait for the cavalry to ride over the hill with the right recruits. "You're going to be in trouble if you're not working to interest kids in IT, to recruit them out of the university, to develop your own employees and retain them," says GM CIO and group VP Ralph Szygenda.

To win, CIOs must arm themselves by taking significant steps to ease today's staffing squeeze and lay the groundwork for tomorrow's growth. Prepare your own battle plan by studying the tactics - some old, some new - employed by forward-looking CIOs.

Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.

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