For many IT leaders, an unwritten job responsibility is acting as the visionary who sees the potential for emerging technologies to disrupt business models and create new opportunities for growth and innovation. And, a key to bringing that vision to life is having employees whose skills and knowledge align with the evolving organization’s goals.
But often, cultivating employees’ talent and skills gets short shrift, says Rob Cordova, a learning and development consultant whose clients include American Express, Avery Dennison, Costco, Delta Airlines, and Lowe’s. Too frequently, an employee’s career development plans are discussed for just a few minutes during an annual performance review, Cordova says.
“In the smartest organizations, the climate has to be about constant conversations about development. It can’t be just check the box,” Cordova says.
Cordova will lead a workshop at this year’s Interop ITX conference to help IT leaders devise strategies for analyzing and developing the talent their workers need to help their organizations achieve their goals. A first step is defining what constitutes a mastery level of a particular skill or competency, Cordova says. Then, leaders need to determine where their employees are now and what it will take to get them to the mastery level. At the end of the half-day workshop, called “Leading and Developing Careers in a Changing IT Landscape,” participants will have learned a process for guiding talent development in their organizations.
For IT professionals who are promoted into leadership positions, their responsibilities expand far beyond technical expertise. Guiding career planning for the people who report to them becomes a key part of their job. “When you start to lead others, your role drastically changes,” Cordova says.
The role of leaders within an IT organization has evolved as well. Workers now have vast amounts of information at their fingertips -- from online tutorials to TED Talks – when they want to learn a new skill or develop expertise on a particular topic. As a result, many of them, especially the growing number of millennials in the work force, no longer rely on their bosses to steer them to the classes and training programs they need to do their jobs, Cordova says.
“They are so used to solving knowledge and skills gaps on demand. There are thousands of resources available to them,” he says.
But while many workers may be able to figure out what knowledge and technical skills they need and how to acquire them, they often lack the perspective to create a path forward for their careers, Cordova maintains.
“That’s where a leader comes in. Now the leader is a mentor,” he says. “It’s almost like a life coach.”
As a result, IT leaders must take a more active role in mentoring employees and creating individualized career development plans, Cordova says.
“Leaders have to be able to look at the people who report to them individually and come up with a personalized approach.”
Jill Gambon is a freelance journalist and editor with more than two decades of experience covering business and technology. Her work has appeared in numerous print and digital publications, including TechWeb, RFID Journal, Mass High Tech, the Boston Business Journal and Crain’s New York Business, among others. She is a former managing editor of InformationWeek.com, where she oversaw the rapid growth of the magazine’s online presence, and was a senior editor at InformationWeek, covering the rise in mobile computing, the Microsoft antitrust case and other topics. She holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Boston University and a master’s degree in English from the University of Massachusetts Boston. Her latest endeavor at the keyboard is an attempt at writing poetry, which she is finding more challenging than writing about business and technology.