Two Through Five

By Ericka Chickowski  |  Posted 2008-04-29 Print this article Print

Tips for getting the workforce you need in the skills you lack.

2. Monitor the market.
As critical as training is, though, it is just as important to remember that it needs to be done strategically. Gartner recommends that IT managers keep an analytical eye on the job market to stay ahead of the trends in skills gaps.

“IT management teams should establish careful and frequent market monitoring to identify where they are at risk and to speed the development of coping strategies,” Gartner's analysts wrote in a paper entitled The Quest for Talent: You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet. “Interviews conducted with IT sourcing managers across the Gartner client base hint at what's to come: Many have seen price hikes of
10% to 15% in certain skills during the past year; others report that IT service providers are experiencing employee turnover of 20% or more and struggling to meet service-level agreements.”

The earlier an organization can spot a lack of supply in skills that they expect to need, the sooner it can implement training or at least think of alternative ways to deliver the necessary work without maintaining an employee on staff with the requisite knowledge.

3. Learn to identify future leaders.
In the same paper, Gartner advised enterprises to focus heavily on developing the skills of the talented individuals who they most expect to fill leadership positions in the long run. These positions tend to be the hardest to fill because they usually require a combination of technical competencies and business understanding that can be difficult to find in the marketplace. As such, it is usually easiest to train someone to spec.

In order to do this, it is essential to identify these people as early as possible by looking for highly-trainable people, the kind of smart employees with the cognitive abilities to pick up anything given the right training.

“Look especially for people who meet the versatilist model — rich in contextual grasp, high in the capacity to generate future business value,” Gartner analysts wrote explaining that this versatilist model puts more emphasis on initiative, strategic disciplines (such as financial analysis) and role experience (such as project management) than on technical skills and certifications.

4. Take advantage of the wisdom of age...
Smart organizations know how to look for high-potential candidates that might not have all of the right skills or certifications. One of the most effective ways to do this is to plumb the depths of candidate groups that many enterprises fail to explore.

Older candidates may not have the freshest technical skillset, but they very often have the business acumen and understanding of the business for which CIOs are so clamoring these days.

“Why not hire older workers?” says Vivek Wadhwa, a professor for Duke University’s Master of Engineering Management Program and a former technology CEO himself. . “They usually have a knowledge of the business, and even if they don't know the latest technology a lot of those base technology skills make it easier to skill them up quickly on the tech side.”

According to Dr. Kate Kaiser of Marquette University's College of Business, tapping into a pool of candidates who have a lot of business knowledge but limited technology skills is often the way to go.

“I have always heard people tell me they can easily teach the business people the technology, but it is a lot harder to teach the tech people the business,” says Kaiser, a professor in IT who belongs to  the Society for Information Management and frequently leads IT skills research for the group. “Besides, technology is constantly changing, so you've got to relearn these things anyway.”

5. ... And the vigor of youth.
Young candidates also offer distinct advantages. Though they are lacking in experience, they are usually eager to learn and their skills can be molded exactly to an organization's needs. One of the easiest ways to hook them while they're young is to start up an internship or co-op program and strive to hire the best students at graduation.

“Internships to me are a win-win way to recruit,” Kaiser says, explaining that students gain experience no matter what and employers have the opportunity to train future employees cheaply and effectively recruit the best candidates before the competition even gets a crack at them.


Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
eWeek eWeek

Have the latest technology news and resources emailed to you everyday.