Where’s the plan?
When Tony Yortis joined Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM) as CIO, there was no career planning specific to technology specialists that enabled the firm to determine how anyone became an architect, an engineer or a CIO. There was nothing to outline the commercial, technical and leadership capabilities required for these roles. “We spent eight months defining those critical aptitudes in each of our functional areas and creating generic roles based on 10 core capabilities,” says Yortis, a member of the CIO Executive Council.
“Now, people have a map. They can see what levels they need to reach, from entry to senior, for each of our roles. If someone is a systems analyst and they want to move into infrastructure, they can develop a career plan and know exactly what they need to focus on to achieve it.
“We invest a lot of money, time and effort, but it builds engagement with people. It helps you to attract and retain the right people and hopefully, they will stay for a long time.”
At SKM, a manager sits down with an employee and the employee rates themselves. Level 1: Do I understand the commercial imperatives of a project? Level 2: Am I applying them? Level 3: Am I demonstrating broad business understanding and influence outside my circle? Level 4: Can I move beyond my expertise and make technology a business value proposition to influence my peers and other functional areas?
We invest a lot of money, time and effort, but it builds engagement
Yortis — who believes the war for talent is constant — says SKM had a poor attrition rate several years ago. Now, even though there is movement in the IT industry again, SKM is facing little staff attrition.
“It’s early days for our program,” says Yortis. “We’ve only launched this in the past three months, but there is strong take-up. It’s given our people something tangible to work towards.
“If someone says they want to move into project management and the map shows them they need a certain level of commercial understanding, then they need that certain level of commercial understanding to move into project management. It’s that simple.
“It allows us to manage expectations. More than anything else, some people think they are already at a certain level. Rather than have a subjective discussion about what you and the employee thinks, you have an objective discussion with real examples of where they’re at and what is required to progress.”
No surprise then to hear from Yortis that when it comes to self-assessment, Gen-Y overstate their skills and people in their 40s tend to understate their value.
“I really don’t care what generation they are,” Yortis says. “Every day at work will not be a good one, so you need people who are resilient; people who are constructive. People who want to get involved, work as a team, and solve issues. You don’t want people who are in it only for themselves. You want people who understand that they’re doing something great for the company, that the company is doing something great for them, and that when they leave they will be a better person. None of this is generational. It’s attitudinal.”
Changing the mix
Angelo Grasso, CIO of Aristocrat Leisure, has been developing a career mapping methodology. It is a passion area for Grasso. He is more than aware that CIOs need to address the skills shortage by retaining critical staff and offering long term career development. But into the Aristocrat mix he has introduced a strategy deemed unfashionable by many — outsourcing.
“Even though people say outsourcing is old hat, it’s important they look at it again,” Grasso says. “It frees your mind. It enables you to provide better quality roles and more interesting work for your staff and this helps to retain good people. They can become more immersed in your business. And that’s what you want. Yes, some people like a basic role. But in our organisation there are few such opportunities.”
Aristocrat went to market in August last year with its new global strategic plan. That process is underway. It means Aristocrat needs good people to be able to execute that plan. It has outsourced many IT functions, both on and offshore.
“We chose to change our mix significantly,” Grasso says. “We had some staff turnover because we chose offshoring for our applications development and some other projects. But we wanted certain key roles to remain in-house.
“We had some project managers, but not true project managers. We didn’t have true business analysts. We didn’t have true enterprise architects. We defined the job descriptions based on competency and we took people who were willing and able to fill these roles.
“Today, it’s important to have a combination of different sourcing strategies. If your organisation is going to take IT seriously you need to be commercial. In difficult economic times, you have to look at what is core to your organisation and what is non-core.
“As long as you have experience and you can manage risk through transition phases, offshoring allows you to reduce cycle times, increase service levels and reduce overall TCO. It’s vital you can demonstrate to the organisation that you are commercial.”
Aristocrat now has a retention plan that includes career maps based on job descriptions, which comprise management and technical competencies. They show what is required for a particular role and where that role can progress — whether it’s technical, management or other. It also defines the skills and behaviours required so that it is easy for people to understand.
“Once we’ve mapped the career, we look at the person’s aspirations,” Grasso says. “We consider things like sponsoring internal training, a university degree, MBAs, secondments — and generally looking at how to improve a person and how we can assist them to achieve their goals. There has to be a match between the person’s goals and the company’s goals. When there is, we can develop a tailored career plan.”
Next: The good news
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