Tips On Bridging The IT Gap

 

So as noted there’s an IT Gap in my opinion at least on senior level positions, and frankly people make it worse. So now the question comes up; what do I, the handsome devil-may care Program Manager recommend for hiring. I’m glad you asked because I like to talk – plus, hey, after all that ranting I ought to do something to help you out if you’re a recruiter.

Or if you want to help out some recruiters. Remember their job is kind of a nightmare.

Here’s my advice.

Get Out Of The Ruts

  • Do every single thing in your power to reduce bias against age, race, and gender. It’s not just the right thing, which should be enough, but it’s practical as hiring is hosing you. Ignore ages, give people code names, do interviews by phone, I don’t know I’m not in HR despite my handsomeness and charm.
  • Forget the IT degree. We’re up to our armpits in people with CS degrees. Only hire for it if needed.
  • Forget the degree. In fact, stop worrying so much about degrees unless they’re needed. It’s just a delusion, let’s be honest, a lot of us do not do what we were trained for.

Work With People

  • Cultivate, cultivate, cultivate. If you hire someone entry-level, point them at senior opportunities. Sure they may not reach certain senior positions (like Project Manager, etc), but who cares. Aim them on an improvement path to cultivate them – because it’s harder to hire senior people.
  • Retain, retain, retain. For the god’s sake put a crowbar in your wallet and give people good raises. Also train them and treat them well. Right now when wage pressures compel people to leave and fear makes them stay you’re putting folks in a neurotic situation. Fix that.
  • Train, train, train. Everyone should have training available and encouraged so people improve (which helps if they don’t like hands on cultivation OR if they’re ambitious).
  • Repurpose, repurpose, repurpose. Stop laying people off because it’s convenient, because you’re only going to regret it down the line when you A) don’t have people, or B) can’t get rid of someone you really need to toss. Repurpose them. It helps you out and builds better morale.
  • Go Beyond. Encourage non-IT people to take as many IT-related training courses as possible. You never know when someone in a non-technical job may get good enough at, say, report-building or SQL to actually take on that work and save time. For that matter you might get a new IT person out of it.
  • “Inboard” Senior people. Take people who are senior in one way and see if you can repurpose them to get more appropriate senior talent. As a PM I went from banking to webcasting to video games to software. Engineers can be repurposed as well. Find ways to make your senior people less siloed, more mobile.

Get Out Of The Box

  • Go broad geographically. Do not limit who you hire to specific locations. Look everywhere, because talent is everywhere and with jobs distributing you never know where the next genius is.
  • Go broad where people can work. Some good people don’t want to move, so go for telecommuting, or a branch office or fly them in once a month or something. Make it easier on people to work for you.

Culture

  • Leaders define the culture. If they’re screwing it up and you’re loosing people, then you have to let them know (and have a backup plan incase they’re a-holes).
  • Think long-term. One policy I have pushed for a decade is you hire enough people that your current workload is 90% (at times 80%) of your staffing capacity. Because that extra 10-20% is the buffer that you’ll need when someone quits, leaves, dies, gets promoted, and so on. And you’re probably underestimating workload.
  • Skew pay rates towards higher in your region and demographic. Yes it costs money, but it helps you get people and right now that extra $5000 you’re saving a year probably isn’t a saving when you’re operating without enough people.
  • Listen to the other people in IT on what they need. The higher-level IT people, the folks doing the coding and the managing and what have you really know what’s going on because they’re there. If they say “no” or “yes” listen to them.

Do It Right

  • Automate. An amazing amount of IT work can be responsibly and transparently automated. Think ahead and automate to prepare for the gaps (just be aware sometimes that means you need very senior people to maintain it . . .)
  • Go for real ROI – Return on Investment. Aim to get something out of hiring beyond “cheapest possible with most skills.” Because even if you save money and get an “OK” person how much are you going to loose when you need someone who’s “Great?”

Recruiting

  • Engage everyone in recruiting at your company by telling them what you need and asking them to help Pay bonuses for people who bring someone in and get them hired. Recruiting is everyone’s job – and when it’s more personal, you’re less likely to “play poker” to get someone in at “cheap but OK.”
  • Make recruiting needs public. There should be a visible dashboard or weekly status update or something to pretty much show “we need this” to get attention. If you’re familiar with Agile statuses, that’s the kind of thing you want. It promotes responsibility, helping out . . . and a bit of social pressure.
  • Teach people to recruit. Most people don’t know how to recruit very well because no one told them. Get everyone involved in recruiting for your company, and show them how to do it.
  • Write real job postings. Many people don’t know how to, a lot is boilerplate. ┬áLearn how to do it – and make sure others do. ┬áSome people ought to be writing their own job postings because they know them better than anyone.

Good luck folks, I hope this helps!
Respectfully,

– Steven Savage
http://www.musehack.com/
http://www.informotron.com/
http://www.seventhsanctum.com/.