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IT talent lifecycle – how to feel in control

IT & Project Recruitment
IT & Project Recruitment

I had a very interesting email exchange with a Director of HR this week about how the talent management lifecycle is becoming increasingly difficult to control.

Among the key challenges, she told me, is the ever-accelerating rate of change in technology. IT is altering all aspects of managing the talent lifecycle.

She said, “Imagine the career path model of an employee even ten years ago and compare it to today you notice differences, even over a relatively short time horizon. People don’t stay in the same job as long as they used to. Extend that time horizon to 20 or 30 years ago and compare talent lifecycles to today and the differences are stark!”

This evolution in the talent management lifecycle is everywhere but especially for businesses that depend upon IT to deliver their services or products. Which, these days is most.

None of us can predict the future, but we can develop a strategy that prepares for it.

The truth is if IT plays a big role in what your talent delivers to you-you must!

I’ve asked a few heads of HR for their thoughts on this, their combined insights have been distilled into the following five suggestions.

1 – Hire Talent For Potential Over Roles

Most traditional talent lifecycle models start with the initial contact that a company has with candidates … the job ad, the interview. Then they map how, post-hire, employees move up through the company, usually through a departmental silo. Most often it has been a case of matching candidates to roles based on how they measure up against potential job-specific challenges.

In this newly evolved scenario, it may pay to assess the mid to long-term challenges faced by your business, rather than role specific issues, and hire accordingly.

One HR leader emailed to say, “We hired three IT Project team members for roles that technology later rendered obsolete. Two seemed reluctant to evolve and soon left, the other was more rounded and adapted to the new environment. The lesson we learned was to hire more guys like this in the future.”

2 – Hire Culturally Aligned Talent

When you hire talent who shares your belief you buy more than their services, you hire in their blood, sweat and tears.

It can make a huge difference to the talent lifecycle too.

Cultural alignment also buys a degree of loyalty. At least it gives talent another thing to consider when they weigh up alternative opportunities.

As one IT Project Manager once put it, “When your job fits like a glove why would you consider giving it up for a mitten.”

To leverage the best from this you have to know what your business culture is. You know what you do, you know how you do it, but have you really drilled down on why? When you hire people who share your “why” the talent lifecycle starts to manage itself a little.

If you haven’t worked out your “why”, if you’ve struggled with identifying your culture, a recruitment partner with a track record of selling businesses as a great place to work can help. Sometimes, an independent pair of eyes can see your USP in an instant.

And on the subject of partners …

3 – Partner Up Wisely

To feel in control of the evolving IT talent lifecycle, as an employer you want a recruitment partner with excellent reach to find the right candidates quickly and you want those candidates to have been profiled by Subject Matter Experts – so that they stick!

To this end, look for an IT recruitment partner that promises specialist peer profiling for each skill set.

One of the other problems with traditional recruitment services is that you pay upfront recruitment costs and then either don’t get a return for six months … or the hire doesn’t work out and you end up starting the process again (and of course paying for it).

Choose a specialist recruiter who shares the risk – monthly payments that stop if the hire doesn’t work out. This gives you more control and it incentivises the recruiter to recommend the right talent in the first place because they will want to get paid the full fee!

Finally, don’t pay upfront fees. Ever. The longer the money is in your bank account, the longer you hold the balance of control.

4 – Measure Employee Engagement (Above Employee Satisfaction)

You have a physical contract with your employees but have you considered that you also have a psychological contract with them too? If you were to write out the terms and conditions of this allegorical contract – how well do you think you would measure up against them? If managing the talent lifecycle is becoming harder the answers may lie here.

Measuring employee engagement usually has a positive effect on staff retention and gives you feeling that you are in control of the talent lifecycle. You can identify and address workplace, industry and internal company HR trends.

It’s worth repeating the subheading here … Measure Employee Engagement (Above Employee Satisfaction)

Your employees can be satisfied without being engaged. In some industries, job satisfaction may be enough to retain employees. Increasingly, this is not the case with IT talent. Engagement, employees feeling that they are stakeholders, is really important in IT and the good news is that engaged work teams drive greater productivity.

So … personal growth, autonomy, the meaning that employees attach to their work, the wider impact that they believe their work has, their connectedness to, and understanding of your business goals … these are all good factors to measure when surveying engagement.

Engaged talent performs better, with more passion, so it is perhaps not surprising that innovation and engagement tend to go hand in hand. Other benefits include better team performance and smoother organisational change. Beyond the talent lifecycle, there are lots of reasons to focus on engagement.

5 – It’s Not Them, It’s You

There has been a shift in the talent lifecycle, and yes, IT is driving a lot of that.

Occasionally though you come across a business that seems to have “over shifted” in this area.

My friend works in HR for a private sector business, its revenue now is entirely delivered through IT but they really struggle to retain talent. To give you an idea, she jokes about long service awards being given out to people who stay more than a year!

We’d talked about the talent lifecycle and how it had changed but she felt that this wasn’t the whole reason and so she initiated a staff survey.

This was a business that had put energy and money behind making itself attractive to talented people. The IT was cutting edge, the pay was great, the promotion potential was huge … and yet people still quit … fast. The survey revealed that talent may be leaving because of the bosses.

I bet you have quit a boss rather than a job or company. I have too. We’re not alone! When conducted a survey, it discovered that half of us would fire our own boss if we could.

If you can create a culture where employees feel rewarded, where they are fearless and gratified, retention rates improve and managing the talent lifecycle becomes less of a problem.

In conclusion, in this talent-driven market, employees are likely to flit from one job to another, from one employer to another, in line with their aspirations and ambition.

However, you can maintain control.

You can identify HR trends to anticipate future talent needs and you can assess what your specific needs will be based on your goals and forecasts. You can combine these to identify what positions you will need to fill and to align talent resourcing with the long-term business objectives of your business.

You can do this alone or gain valuable extra insights from an external, independent pair of eyes – a partner you can trust.

Either way, bringing a degree of certainty and control to managing the talent lifecycle will deliver stability to your business in what are progressively uncertain times.

Find out more about Access Talent’s Recruitment services

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