Win the IT Talent War

Win the IT Talent War

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Although general unemployment rates remain stubbornly high, the picture changes considerably when you look at the market for IT professionals. One Enterpriser speaking recently in Chicago put it succinctly, "There aren’t as many qualified candidates as there used to be, and qualified candidates have multiple offers by the time they get to the altar."

Another CIO Enterpriser told a story that sounded more like professional sports recruiting: "I was speaking to students in the MIS program at a college in Texas last week. In that program the juniors have two or three offers already."

With the odds seemingly stacked against you for finding that next Enterprise Data Architect or Director of Emerging Technologies, what do Enterprisers do to attract—and just as importantly—retain talent?

Recruit talent that isn’t looking for a job (fast)

Enterprisers find it’s no longer enough to offer a great position and package. They have to get in front of the right candidates. "I’ve been doing more social networking," says one VP of IT. "And the more I do, the more I realize recruiting is really about finding people who aren’t actively looking. That may be because they just don’t have time to look."

Others have learned to sell their company in new ways. "Working in the environmental space is a big sell right now," notes one CIO. "Another is the ability I have to offer flex time. A recent hire I made had four offers, but I was the only one that offered the ability to work from home, so I landed her." This Enterpriser’s assessment of today’s IT job market? "You can’t wait anymore if you see talent. It will be gone."

Hire for skill, but also for cultural fit and ability to learn

A 30-year Enterpriser decided to broaden his perspective on what makes a good candidate. "The stuff I started out with in IT is now in museums," he says. "I hire less for people who know something well. The more sense I have that they can learn what’s coming, that’s it for me. Can this person learn?"

Another Enterpriser agrees, "I’m hiring for a fit—that critical business thinker who is challenging the business as they go."

Find them a mentor, before they even start

Do you have a formal IT-business collaboration or mentorship program? If not, consider launching one. If you do, make sure to include it in your recruiting pitch. "I just realized we have a mentor program but don’t talk about it during our recruiting process," one CIO said. "That’s an eye-opener."

Providing access to business-savvy leadership is also a key to developing IT talent that can drive the business. "Take high potential talent and pair them with executives," one Enterpriser suggested.

But the biggest benefit may be simply the personal attention and signaling that the organization is invested in employees’ growth. "It’s one on one with my team," a CIO noted. "I sit in on their team meetings to see how directions are being sent down. Words are very important; use them wisely. Be a part of it and try to be as positive as possible."

Follow this topic on Twitter at @4Enterprisers #312weekCIO.


New Rules for the CIO is one of the topics covered by "The Enterprisers Project." Here we’re discussing the changing role of enterprise CIOs and the new best practices that are emerging. Learn more about The Enterprisers Project, and join the with CIO magazine at The Enterprising CIO.

Community of business-minded IT leaders exploring the evolving role of CIOs as they drive business strategy and inspire enterprise-wide innovation.

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