t recent conferences we've held here and in Europe, we spoke to several dozen CIOs about their key E-business challenges. Topics such as support for mobile computing and personal digital assistants, justifying and measuring the costs and business value of IT, and legacy reengineering were high on their lists. But one issue rose above the rest: people.
In our booming economy, companies have to compete for the best talent available. Once they've attracted that talent, the challenge becomes keeping these people in the face of a steady flow of calls from headhunters and tempting offers. The key opportunity for companies is to establish clear links between workforce planning, recruiting, and retention through integrated and cascading programs. According to Sandra Casey Buford, Giga Information Group's VP of human resources and a noted expert on workplace issues, some of the key steps in this process are:
Implement workforce planning that considers required skills, knowledge, and desired behaviors. Effective IT workforce planning involves ongoing assessments of required skills in conjunction with company business plans, goals, and objectives. Planning should include regular assessments of employees' skills and the identification of gaps and transferable skills. The result is clearly stated job descriptions, career paths, and targeted professional development programs.
Define where you're going. People want to know they're working toward a goal. Describe what it is and how you intend to get there.
Communicate aggressively. Identify the key stakeholders in your company, the message they need to receive, and how they like to receive information.
Identify required skills. This may sound simple, but it depends on the presence of a solid strategic plan for new technology implementations.
Take inventory of the skills you have. You may be surprised at what you discover when you do this.
Determine the career needs of your people. Do they want to learn new technologies, or do they like maintaining existing systems? In most shops, the ratio of maintenance to new development is three-to-one or higher. Are you staffed accordingly?
Build a training plan that fits your needs and give your staff incentives to participate. Transition plans generally consist of creating and communicating the business case for a change, implementing an initial transition, communicating the results, completing the transition, and declaring victory.
Implement a recruiting process that differentiates you from the competition. From minute one in the recruiting process, job candidates are assessing a potential employer. A recruiting process is a winner if it's quick, well-planned, and reflects the company's way of doing business. Most important, make sure that recruiters and hiring managers are prepared to answer questions about required skills and opportunities for career growth.
Invite everyone in the company to recruit. The power to attract talent lies with the people who can give firsthand testimonials: your employees. A strong employee referral program that offers awards can cost-effectively identify talent from untapped employee networks.
Create an aggressive retention plan. Telecommuting, training, and flexible hours are tools you can use to stay ahead of the competition and hold on to people.
Implement retention strategies that improve the quality of work life. Recent studies show that employees will often forgo a huge compensation package in exchange for a job that offers quality-of-life features such as concierge services, health-club benefits, and subsidies for transportation and parking. Methods to ensure that your company is on target with retention strategies include periodic employee surveys and regular benchmarking against successful companies.
Our clients have shared many successful human resources practices, including rotation programs, selective outsourcing for legacy systems, motivational programs, distance-learning and knowledge-management programs, and exposing the technology staff to senior management so both sides benefit. The key word is "benefit," as educated, motivated, happy employees are key to success in E-business. If you don't make changes to meet your IT-related HR challenges, you could jeopardize the success of your E-business initiatives.
Robert K. Weiler is the chairman, president, and CEO of E-business advisory firm Giga Information Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org