IT talent development strategies you'll want to borrow from Arbella Insurance CIO

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Because it’s such an important topic, we take a multipart approach to talent development. Here’s a quick overview of what we do, which might suggest some strategies for your talent development programs.

Entry-level recruits

Though our entry-level hires may not have as much experience as long-term or more senior-level employees, their mindset is invaluable because they’ve grown up with technology. Existing staff love seeing the fresh energy of these people and the new ways of doing things they bring with them. It’s not that people who have been here 10, 15, or 25 years don’t want to do a good job or don’t want to do things differently. They just don’t have the experience from the outside world. That’s why we’ve really married some of those new ideas and experiences from external folks with our existing staff, to help evolve both groups.

Existing staff

We also focus a lot of effort on developing the skills of existing employees. This involves cross-training, modernizing skills, and giving people more opportunities. For 2016, I’ve mandated that the 135 full-time employees in my group must attend a conference to improve their skills, schedule a vendor demo at their site, or at the very least view a webinar. The goal is to get people outside their comfort zone, outside of their industry, and outside of what they’ve done in the past. As an example, I had a team of folks at a major software vendor’s technology center not too long ago, and people absolutely loved it.

Technology managers

I’m pushing our management to do more to develop skills for their direct reports, and for our employees to own more of their career responsibility. In other words, I’m trying to get away from conversations like this:

IT Employee: “Well, I didn’t get any training. I didn’t know how to do an effort-based plan. I’m a project manager.”

Me: “Okay, you’re a project manager making a very healthy salary, you have 30 years’ experience. Did you ask for any training or look for any training that could help you?”

IT Employee: “No."

If you sit back and wait and expect your manager to manage your career, it’s not likely to happen.

Employees need to take advantage of opportunities to experience innovation outside of their industry, just as managers need to help them identify the training and development they need to get there. As you might expect, about 20 percent will jump at the chance for a new training experience. About 60 percent are a little hesitant or need some guidance, and 20 percent will just get it done and check the box. Anywhere in this mix, you can find someone who will get turned on so much by an experience that they become a real high performer.

At the end of the day, if you work hard and treat people right, good things will happen. Especially when you’re dealing with millennials, there’s a sense of urgency to get to the next level and a lack of patience at times. They want to be CIO tomorrow. They’re not going to be, but you don’t want to discourage them.

I tell everyone in IT to own your career, own where you’re going. You have to know where you want to be. You have to build a plan to get there. If you sit back and wait and expect your manager to manage your career, it’s not likely to happen.

Paul’s responsibilities at Arbella span infrastructure, application development and IT core services. Paul previously spent 10+ years at Liberty Mutual where he was the Senior Director of IT.

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