08:57 AM
Chuck LoCurto
Chuck LoCurto

Education IT Talent Development: Who Needs It, Anyway?

Universities can tap students, consultants and even offshore labor to fill work gaps, so why bother grooming staff? There are plenty of reasons.

9 Tips To Avoid IT Midcareer Slump
9 Tips To Avoid IT Midcareer Slump
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Short on talent in IT? Why worry? After all, there are plenty of consultants out there willing to help.

At a university, you can get plenty of college workers "on the cheap." If you're adventurous and willing to try something on the edge, there's always crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing is a fun and a somewhat disruptive process that will certainly deliver results. Hey, how about off-shoring to a country with lots of IT talent, like India? Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai have some of the best IT talent in the world. Take advantage of the "24-hour work clock."

So, there you have it: several easy ways to get access to talent and, poof, all your work is done. Now, on to the next task, right? Absolutely! Or is that, absolutely not?

Let's face it: None of us can do all of this IT stuff alone. We need help. We need consultants and vendors that we can partner with to get work done. We need constituents "outside of our domain" to help us see the forest from the trees. We need different thinking and perspectives to help us innovate. We need to engage student workers so we can teach, learn (yes, learn from students), and build a talent pool for the workforce.

[ Online learning is inspiring some colleges to update their approach. Read MOOCs Lead Duke To Reinvent On-Campus Courses.]

But let's get one thing straight: nothing happens without internal talent.

Someone has to integrate the work. Someone has the make the architectural decisions. Someone needs to define, design and run the IT processes. Someone has to understand the business processes. Someone has to speak business language. This stuff can't be done in an ad-hoc way if you want repeatable and reliable results. Internal talent is the differentiator!

You need top talent from your leadership team right through the entire workforce. You need dynamic thinkers, motivated workers and employees who have a passion for what they do. You need employees who don't think of work as "work." After-all, work is, well … work. But isn't it better when work is fun?

Where do you start? It begins with trust and a true concern for developing the talent on your team. Not just for the sake of the organization, but for the individual as well. It should come as no surprise that IT professionals want to progress in their domains. However, not necessarily by climbing the ladder to a director or CIO position. Many IT professionals are in the field because they have a passion for it (OK, not everyone, but call me an optimist). If you haven't done so already, assess your team. Assess them from the following perspectives:

1. Performance/potential.

2. Performance and values (behaviors).

3. Flight risk.

4. Succession planning.

5. Skills, passions, and proficiencies (not to be confused with the annual performance review).

Look at your succession plan. Got gaps? Work on lining up people who can step into important roles, if they should become vacant. If you have a gap, have it by design, not by accident. There might be roles that are easy to fill, for which you don't want to pay to have a successor waiting in the wings. Or a potential successor might not be willing to play the understudy for an extended period of time. My point is that you should be aware of risks, accept them if necessary, and try to mitigate them.

Lead by example and get out of your comfort zone in order to help others get out of their comfort zone. Give them new assignments. Put them in new domains. Let them work with different customers and co-workers. Allow them to become certified in industry best practices and frameworks.

I'm a firm believer that you can create an entirely new job experience for someone just by changing who they report to, what they do or how they do it. Your employees can have an entirely new experience on the job, and not even have to change seats. I believe that doing these things for your employees creates an environment where employees become motivated.

As leaders, we need to create the environment!

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