IT leadership: 3 tips to nurture IT talent

In today's tough labor market, it's more important than ever to cultivate talent for critical IT roles. Consider these creative approaches to build a top-notch team from within
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Huge financial incentives are commonplace in the skill-hungry tech sector as a way to acquire and retain scarce talent. However, compensation on its own is neither effective nor sustainable as a staffing tactic in the long term.

It’s also wasteful. This is because most organizations have a ready pool of loyal workers who, with training and support, can be a fit for many tech jobs that are going unfilled today.

3 tips for nurturing IT talent

Consider these three tips for nurturing IT talent:

1. Hire attitude, aptitude, ability

Employers can widen the talent pool by stepping outside the box. A win-win approach is to tap employees who may not have the traditional skill set (technical certifications, academic qualifications, and work experience) but who do possess the drive and ability to learn new things. Think older employees with high school or community college diplomas, part-time or remote workers passed over for new opportunities, and employees from underrepresented communities.

study from Harvard Business School (HBS) estimates that there are 27 million “hidden” workers in the United States alone, including 17 million part-timers who are willing to work longer hours. This group is highly diverse, cutting across racial, ethnic, physical ability, and demographic lines. Recruiting them could not only add needed workers to the team but also enrich it with new knowledge, fresh perspectives, and greater diversity.

[ What IT skills will be hot in the year ahead? Read Top IT skills to build in 2020, according to CIOs. ]

The problem is that the automated tools most organizations use are built to exclude candidates. But certain technological developments are lending support to inclusive hiring. For instance, artificial intelligence and machine learning models can identify employees who are likely to succeed in a certain skill or function and should therefore be trained on priority. Also, low code/no-code platforms make it possible for enterprises to deploy even non-technical or business users in application development roles.

2. Nurture continuous training and drive lifelong learning

Study after study highlights the seriousness of the talent crisis. In 2018, a leading advisory firm estimated that only 20 percent of employees had the skills they needed in their current and future roles.

Two years later, things were much the same: In a 2020 study of 4,500 office workers in six countries, almost 50 percent of respondents were worried that their lack of skills would put them out of a job in five years; more than 80 percent wanted their employer to provide reskilling or upskilling opportunities. This is further proof that enterprises are not properly utilizing captive talent that could be trained for other roles.

Employers must establish a framework so employees can access learning on demand, in small capsules, throughout their careers.

Since technology skills are becoming obsolete at an increasing rate, employers need a new training approach matching that pace. Clearly, the old model of one-off training does not work anymore. In fact, the education construct itself – where people learn for the first 20 years or so and apply that learning, updated periodically, during the next 40 – is due for a change.

In place of intermittent training, we need lifelong learning. Employers must establish a framework so employees can access learning on demand, in small capsules, throughout their careers.

[ Also read: IT talent strategy: 3 considerations for recruitment and retention in 2022. ]

But tools alone will not suffice. Enterprises need to inculcate learnability so their employees can learn new content in new ways. Cultural change can be supported by intelligent solutions such as smart assistants to guide employees toward the sources of knowledge most appropriate to their context.

3. Make employees want to stay

The pandemic has reshuffled work and life priorities for most people. For those working from home, the trappings of corporate life such as company brand and majestic campuses have receded. Instead, employees are seeking belonging and a path to personal and professional development. Organizations that meet these altered expectations with clear career roadmaps can look forward to a robust pipeline of in-house talent.

Organizations that offer flexible benefits matching individual needs – childcare, elder care, affordable housing, and wellness benefits, for example – are more likely to retain their talent. Opportunities to make a difference through work, for instance, writing software applications to promote public health, can also persuade employees to stick with their companies.

Looking inward going forward

As noted earlier, an HBS study shows the technology sector had the most vacancies, but the growth in vacancies is starting to taper, suggesting that employers were filling tech roles by upskilling existing employees. Taking this approach will help organizations achieve two objectives at once: strengthening the talent pipeline while making full use of their human resources.

[Where is your team's digital transformation work stalling? Get the eBook: What's slowing down your Digital Transformation? 8 questions to ask.]

Anant Adya, EVP at Infosys Cobalt, is responsible for growth of the CIS service line in the Americas and Asia Pacific regions for Infosys. In his 25 years of professional experience, he has worked closely with many global clients to help define and build their cloud and infrastructure strategies and run end-to-end IT operations.