CIO

Tackle your talent problem from the inside

If acquiring the talent from outside isn’t viable, then develop the skills you need in your current workforce.

Acquiring talent from the labour market is the predominant concern for most CIOs, according to Gartner’s 2019 CIO Agenda survey. Yet competing for dwindling technical talent is a costly bidding war that’s hard to win.

The labour pool for technical talent is shrinking, not just because interest in the field is declining, but because the rapid changes in technology are rendering those with the skills to meet the needs of business today obsolete tomorrow.

While CIOs attempt to find the “right” person with the “right” skills, positions remain unfilled. This leaves an expensive hole in productivity and slows progress. Most of their time is spent implementing new technology and then trying to find talent that has the exact skills to support it.

Invest in growing your own employees

If acquiring the talent from outside isn’t viable, then develop the skills you need in your current workforce. Employees with waning skills still have the basic skills that can be built on to meet new technical needs.

The continuous development of the workforce is the competitive advantage and the strategic mechanism that enables your organisation to thrive today and in the future.

Offering a portfolio of learning and development opportunities to your team attracts new employees and retains the existing ones. The investment in an employee’s performance in their current role and in future career growth has a direct correlation with higher engagement, loyalty and motivation.

Regardless of the size of your organisation, developing your team can feel daunting. This is largely due to the perception that internal development requires a large investment of time and resources, as well as the plethora of options available for learning at work.

The reality is that you do need to make time and resource commitments to shift the focus from hiring externally for new skills, to reskilling and developing talent from within. But it will be a more viable, sustainable, long-term solution for closing gaps in digital expertise, skills and competencies critical to sustain your competitive edge.

So how do you strengthen your teams’ capabilities without breaking the bank and losing countless hours completing classroom training?

Take a blended learning approach

Digitally mature organisations have moved from only offering formal training classes to develop employee skills, to implementing a blended learning approach in which employees have a wide array of options to learn formally and informally on a daily basis.

The learning market is exploding with new delivery approaches including simulation training, hackathons and virtual instructor-led training. While some approaches require more cost and involvement, most are easy to implement, low cost, low effort but high return, such as mentoring programs, job rotations, apprenticeships and job shadowing.

It’s important that incorporating a blend of learning approaches matches the diverse learning needs at individual and organisational levels. When done right, the outcome will be a work environment that encourages continuous learning and improvement.

Kickstart a “grow-your-own” strategy

An effective strategy to grow-your-own talent must be supported by proactive planning for the changing roles, skills and competency requirements.

To get you started, there are three steps you can take to develop skills internally:

1. Assess and prioritise learning needs

Clearly align talent needs with strategic business objectives. Determine what roles, skills and competencies are critical in the short and long term to fulfil the enterprise’s digital ambition.

Assess the current workforce based on the defined current and future talent requirements and identify gaps in skills and competencies. Then evaluate which business outcomes will be most impacted by gaps, as well as time and resources required to close them.

2. Blend different learning delivery mechanisms

Identify and select mechanisms that will deliver an engaging learning experience to targeted learners. In collaboration with HR, segment the workforce into targeted learner groups with similar needs and/or interests. This allows you to identify and blend different learning approaches that best meet employees’ diverse learning needs.

3. Drive shared ownership of continuous learning

Build a learning organisation and foster a continuous learning culture that enables the reskilling and alignment of workforce capabilities to changing digital business needs. Provide guidelines to help managers and employees understand and prioritise key skills and competency areas for individuals and teams to learn and develop.

Empower employees to take ownership of setting personal goals and develop managers to become effective coaches. Hold each manager accountable in understanding individual staff’s learning needs, as well as identifying and personalising approaches to match these needs and drive engagement in continuous learning.

Preparing the future workforce

To counter the talent acquisition barriers and the concerns of establishing a revolving door of talent, the clear path forward is to redistribute your resources inward and establish a grow-your-own development strategy.

Understanding the skills needed to improve performance today and prepare the workforce for the future puts your organisation in a healthier position to meet and exceed its digital ambitions.

De’Onn Griffin is a senior director analyst at Gartner. Her role is in the CIO research group, focused on leadership and learning development. The latest CIO trends will be discussed at Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo 2019 on the Gold Coast, 28-31 October.