CIOs discuss how they nurture IT talent

In the latest installment of CIO Quick Takes, three IT leaders discuss how they nurture tech talent.

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It's no epiphany to point out that the CIO's world is changing. Technology budgets are moving to other departments, apps and infrastructure are moving to the cloud, CDOs are moving in, the bad guys are moving to steal your data ... so what's the CIO's best move?

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Jo Abernathy, CIO, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina:

'Hold an annual 'IT Summit' where the entire IT staff goes to the local Convention Center for a day focused on their personal development. '

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Guillermo Ortiz de Zárate, director of information systems, NCARB:

'I hire intrinsically motivated people that love technology and make a commitment to help them grow towards their goals.'

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Simon Dunning, vice president of enterprise process solutions, Applied Materials:

'We manage them through a series of experiences with progressively bigger challenges.'

Having the right people on his or her team is a good place to start. Of course, that's no easy task. 

Recruiting and hiring IT staff remain top challenges for CIOs. In our 2015 State of the CIO report, IT leaders listed big data and analytics, security and risk management, application development, mobile technologies, and enterprise architecture as the IT skills in greatest demand. However, we know that finding technology professionals in any discipline is a challenge.

Finding those talented workers is also only half the battle (actually, probably less than half). Once those IT pros are on board, you need to develop and challenge them if you hope to retain them. Recruits don't just become productive and motivated employees on their own. You need to nurture talent for the benefit of both your company and your workers.

To gather insight from your peers on how they nurture their IT workforces, we again teamed with our colleagues at the CIO Executive Council and posed the question to three technology executives.  Their answers, listed below, include hosting your own technology conferences; outsourcing commodity tasks to let staffers focus on the cool stuff; letting them try different roles; and encouraging them to d0 more outside of their comfort zones.

How do you nurture IT talent?

Jo Abernathy, CIO, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina:

"Our IT organization is undergoing tremendous change and our roles are changing dramatically, from technology builders to technology brokers. To foster high levels of engagement, we:

  • Hold an annual "IT Summit" where the entire IT staff goes to the local convention center for a day focused on their personal development. Much like an external conference, we feature guest speakers to discuss relevant topics, along with many breakout sessions focused on specific technologies or competencies.
  • Leverage our "CIO Culture Club," a volunteer group of staff members that helps create and foster an environment of engagement and inclusiveness through various activities and feedback mechanisms.
  • Outsource commodity IT and leverage our resources to do more complex, relevant and exciting work."

Guillermo Ortiz de Zárate, director of information systems, NCARB

"I hire intrinsically motivated people that love technology and make a commitment to help them grow towards their goals. I sincerely care for their professional development so I work closely with them to coach them where I can, in the direction they want.

"Sometimes, à la sports coach, I try them in different positions. I love it when I find a great role that they did not think of before. I had a few of those and they are very grateful. I ask them to do the same for their direct reports, if they have any, in a pay-it-forward mentality."

Simon Dunning, vice president of enterprise process solutions, Applied Materials

"We hire people with unique skills and then we manage them through a series of experiences with progressively bigger challenges where they are both held accountable and mentored to be successful.

"Our goal is to grow IT professionals into strategic, business-oriented IT leaders. To do this sometimes requires going outside one's comfort zone to find out what we are truly capable of."

What's your approach?

What's your stragegy for nurturing IT talent? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or you can check out my CIO.com author page for other ways to connect. If you have a question you'd like us to ask our next set of CIOs, drop me a note on Twitter (@dmuse).

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