The war for talent in key IT technologies, such as cloud, cybersecurity, and machine learning continue to grow in both intensity and geography.\u00a0 The intensity is increasing because of the accelerated movement to the cloud, security breaches growing in both frequency and magnitude, companies scrambling to add AI functionality into their systems, and a host of other related IT megatrends.\u00a0 Geographic competition has expanded as a result of COVID-19, forcing companies to be more open to hiring remote staff and allowing employees to demand a permanent work-from-home option.\u00a0 This two-sided coin has allowed companies to widen the size of their hiring pools and employees to look for new jobs outside their physical location.\nThe interaction of these factors has made it harder to hire and retain high quality IT talent. Harnessing the combination of your IT team\u2019s hidden and transferable skills and knowledge can dramatically reduce your hiring and retention difficulties.\u00a0\n[ Discover the secrets of employee retention, why good employees leave (and how to prevent it), and the best diversity and inclusion practices for changing your culture. | Keep up with the latest hiring trends and beware the 11 bad hiring habits that will burn you. | Get the latest insights by signing up for our newsletters. ]\nHidden skills and knowledge are not really hidden as the name implies.\u00a0 They are just not being used in the employee\u2019s current job role.\u00a0 For example, you may have a programmer working on accounting systems who has an undergraduate degree in applied mathematics or a business analyst who was a high school science teacher.\u00a0 Neither of these employees are hiding their background in mathematics or teaching, it\u2019s just that no one in the office knows about these skills because they are not relevant to the person\u2019s current job.\nTransferable skills are those that make it easier for you to learn other skills.\u00a0 For example, learning Python would be easier for a Java programmer than it would be for someone with no programming experience.\u00a0 This is because the Java programmer already has an understanding of programming concepts, structures, algorithmic processing, and software testing\u2014knowledge that is transferable.\u00a0\nBefore trying to hire someone from the outside, look internally for existing employees who have the needed experience, knowledge, and\/or skill, but are not currently using them in their current job role.\u00a0 For example, with a little training, the Java programmer with a math degree may easily grow into a data scientist role.\u00a0 This approach has several benefits:\n\nHiring risk is reduced because this person is known to be a good employee.\nThe cost of training an existing employee to perform the new role is likely to be less than the cost of hiring a new employee.\nIn a tight job market, the compensation of an employee promoted into a data scientist role will most likely be less than the compensation package needed to hire someone away from their current employer.\nOverall company morale and loyalty get a boost because employees see the company\u2019s willingness to help people grow professionally.\n\nPutting the theory into practice\nCorrelating hidden skills and knowledge to open jobs may seem straightforward, but it requires knowing your employees\u2019 full skill sets and professional background.\u00a0 The Java programmer with a math degree will most likely not step forward to apply for the data scientist job on their own. This is because the employee probably won\u2019t know the position is open, and if they did, they would most likely not apply because they don\u2019t feel qualified.\u00a0 If you know the employee\u2019s hidden skills and knowledge, then you can go to them, offer them the needed training, and ask them to apply.\nTransferable skills are even trickier to correlate than hidden skills because the connection can be much less obvious.\u00a0\u00a0 For example, if you phase out an old IBM mainframe production system running JCL, CICS, and COBOL and move to Linux, you may miss the transferable skills within your mainframe operations team.\u00a0 While the syntax and command set are certainly very different, the operational concepts, processes, and escalation procedures are conceptually the same.\u00a0\nThe mainframe skills example, illustrates the advantages of identifying transferable skills and people who are willing to learn the new technology:\n\nYour mainframe employees are more likely to stay until the mainframe is decommissioned, thus saving you from a potential mainframe skills shortage prior to its removal.\nYou will have an experienced and loyal operations team up front, with the understanding, of course, that they must gain experience on various new technologies.\nYou show to IT employees working on other technologies that may be phased out that you are willing to retrain them, not just cast them aside.\n\nIT doesn\u2019t have to do this alone.\u00a0 Human Resources departments are generally very capable of building skill inventories and would know of, or already own, the software applications needed to administer it.\u00a0 The combination of the data contained within a robust skills inventory system and some creative thinking on your part can create great results for you and career-enhancing opportunities for those on your team.