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How CIOs trap themselves by recycling the same talent

Research pointing to talent standing in the way of CIOs achieving their objectives suggests a lack of innovation. It’s now time to think differently

According to recent Gartner research, talent is the single biggest issue standing in the way of CIOs achieving their objectives. It seems there are still the same gaps and challenges as there were four, five, six and more years ago.

It is time to think differently. As well as adapting to technological changes, CIOs also have to adapt how they find, manage and employ talent.

Like many other professions, CIOs tend to recycle talent within their sectors. If you’re good at automotive, pharmaceutical, banking, insurance or retail IT, you tend to stay in those environments. While this creates expert knowledge of the sector and a high skillset, it can also mean that we end up approaching problems with the same mindset and consequently create the same or similar solutions. We end up trapped by our own expertise and viewpoints.

As business models change, so must we. We need to be able to cross-fertilise ideas, learn and borrow from different sectors and be more flexible in our teams to deliver innovatively around complex challenges such as bimodal IT, digitisation, legacy systems, cyber security and regulation. We need teams with the basic skills as well as those associated with emerging technologies around which we can innovate.

Innovation starts with people. We’re already seeing organisations moving towards a far more fluid attitude to the IT team make-up using a mix of onshoring, offshoring, permanent staff, consultants and suppliers.

What does this mean for us when we’re hiring? We need to hire people who have the potential we need, wherever they might come from in terms of within or outside of our sectors. If you want to start to solve problems like Google, then hire from Google.

We tend to get hooked up on the project management or development methodology as the innovator, whether it’s DevOps or agile; whereas, in reality, it’s the people who are implementing that methodology who drive creativity and innovation.

We need to hire people who have the potential we need wherever they might come from; within or outside of our sectors
Jonathan Young, CIO, FDM

Introduce someone who will question the “because we’ve always done it that way” attitude and the result could be that we all think about, and therefore solve, the problem in a different way. It’s refreshing to work with someone whose questions or answers surprise you; it opens your eyes. Introducing new talent from a different sector creates an impact on the existing team dimension; new talent sparks existing talent and builds a really creative environment.

If we’re moving towards a different blend of onshore, offshore, permanent staff, consultant and supplier team dynamic, then we need to consider how we manage this. When we use offshore teams, we need to make sure we don’t forget about our onshore talent investment. This is the team that is co-located with our users and who we will use to drive innovation and develop new products. We need to balance the expansion of our offshoring with solid investment onshore.

Creative recruitment

By being creative with our recruitment, we may find new ways of sourcing dynamic people, whether that’s recruiting straight from university, finding people who are returning to work after a career break, employing ex-forces personnel or consultants, or headhunting.

This goes for what we look for too. Do our choices need to be based solely on experience? What about the potential of an individual? By being open to potential, I’ve discovered some really interesting talent. Finding someone who is smart, good at problem solving, eager to own it, able to learn and willing to take responsibility for themselves and their work is key.

Read more about IT recruitment

We should also consider whether the talent we need is in the organisation already. There may be someone with the aptitude and appetite who is looking to move over to a different team and find a new challenge. Putting people into positions who are not proven in those roles, supporting and nurturing their development and potential, can lead to outcomes that can be surprising but also illuminating. Investing in existing employees in this way is a great way of building retention and gaining a reputation as an organisation that values its employees.

Having good people is at the heart of an organisation’s success. Digitisation, bimodal IT and the other changes that are coming our way mean it’s time to stop doing what we’ve always done and instead start thinking differently if we’re going to have the talent we need. It’s time to learn from each other.

This was last published in January 2017

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