Authored by Frank Liberio
The unemployment rate for IT professionals
seems to continue to go down as more and more companies search for talented folks to staff on their IT teams. I remember it taking upwards of six months to find a talented senior director in almost any IT discipline. Finding IT resources is just tough. Unfortunately, I do not believe there is a silver bullet that will solve this issue. I guess there are a few ways to make it easier but I would not recommend them. First you can overpay for the roles you are looking for, but in times of IT budgets getting constantly squeezed I am not sure this works. Second, I have seen a few companies put junior folks in senior roles as a way to attract the talent they need. This approach is even worse than the first in that the individual is likely to fail since they have not developed the necessary skillsets to be successful and then second, they will struggle in the next role they find as well because they will be looking for an equivalent or maybe even a more senior role.
My advice on finding talent is to push through the process and do the hard work to find the right candidates. If you can afford to use recruiting firms I have found that it does increase the caliber of the candidates. If you can also bundle a set of roles together and then negotiate a discounted rate for the search on a set of candidates that has also worked well. For example, I once bundled six director/senior director roles together and got bids from the search firms on the set of roles, we did get a substantial discount. Lastly, try to find a recruiting company that can facilitate all your search needs to once again get better pricing. I also believe incenting your employees to identify potential candidates through their personal networks is a great approach. Your employees will likely not recommend someone that they think will fail in that it is a bad reflection on them.
Another point on finding talent, I am a strong believer that recruiting directly from college campuses works well. We had a significant number of a leaders, director and above, first come to us as summer interns and then eventually full-time hires. Over time they have grown in strong leaders that understand the culture and how to get things done within the company. I know this is not a short term solution, but if you are consistently building talent from the ground up, you will always have a set of potential leaders waiting for promotion.
Lastly, on finding talent you will eventually get the right candidate. There is generally a multitude of reasons that someone decides to join you. I have heard stories of folks that really wanted experience in our industry, they were offered a role that was a bit of stretch but needed it on their resume, they liked the location of workplace, they heard we had the right culture for them and knew it would be a good fit. Regardless, the right candidate will come along and now you have to retain them.
Retention is difficult in these times of high demand. I have found once a person starts looking for a new role outside your company, you have probably already lost them. In most cases, they will find someone that pays more, is one level higher, or is just more convenient for their lifestyle. Therefore, the key is to ensure they never start looking!
Preventing folks from looking is also difficult but possible. They say that people don’t leave bad companies they leave bad bosses. In order to retain talent, you and the leaders on your team have to put in the effort. I would recommend at least annual or even semi-annual roundtables discussing the resources in your organization to determine how they are performing, do they need a new challenge, are they ready for promotion of failing miserably and need a lifeline to rescue them. This requires time from you, your leadership team and their leadership teams. However, if you are staying close to the people working for you and helping them build strong careers, they will stay.
When I was in consulting I was lucky enough to get put on a career development committee of the firm for which I was working. There was eight of us helping to manage the careers of about 100 consultants. What became very obvious to me after about six months, is that the consultants that were getting regular and sometimes very tough feedback were performing better than those that were not being told what they needed to do in order to be successful at the firm. What that meant to me, was that we are all sometimes reluctant to give our people the tough feedback, but in reality, by not being honest regarding their performance, you are actually hurting their longer-term careers. Because in the end, if you don’t tell them what needs to be changed in their performance then they will likely not make it to the next level.
To be honest, there are probably a dozen other ways to find and retain good talent that I have not mentioned. Therefore, I will say that the one thing that holds true is that the process to have a strong team requires committed effort. You have to be willing to dedicate your time and your leadership team’s time to the process of hiring and retaining talent. In the end, the effort you put into the process will pay dividends.