by David Henderson

Media CIO David Henderson – talent matters, even more

Nov 22, 20114 mins
IT LeadershipIT StrategyMedia and Entertainment Industry

I argued almost two years agothat talent management was one of the CIO’s most critical issues to address.

I pointed out that the need for broader skillsets, the changing demographics, the reduction in training budgets and the skills shortage in certain areas meant that getting discretionary effort and the best from your workforce was a big challenge.

One only has to look at how the Silicon Valley firms wage war for the cream of the talent, in some cases acquiring companies just to get access to top engineers and in other cases putting multi-million dollar golden hand-cuffs in place. Earlier this year Top Prospect Data Labs published an info graphic that showed how Microsoft, Google and Yahoo were the big losers as talent left them to join Apple, LinkedIn and Facebook.

The situation in the UK is compounded by a declining number of Computer Science under-graduates, possibly due to the increase in infrastructure and application off-shoring and the trend away from “IT service providers” towards “technology transformation partners” which requires less technical but more analytical, relationship management and facilitation skills.

Addressing the talent challenge must be done in a world where most IT budgets are shrinking and trade offs are required. This is particularly applicable in the newspaper industry so let me share some practical examples of what we have done.

We have broadened the channels by which training can be delivered and ensured spend is much more cost effective, established a coaching and mentoring programme, launched an innovation exchange, run an annual internal awards and adopted a charity of the year with lots of social events in order to drive employee engagement. Our teams have to know their colleagues and have a sense of purpose. We are focusing on employee engagement even more this year.

We have committed to a Bring Your Own Computing model, run technology incentive schemes such as half price iPads to encourage our people to adopt new technology and enabled the use of social media at work and the ability to get work done at home. Our teams want to have a Monday morning computing experience as good at work as their Sunday night experience at home.

We have flattened the organisation structure, de-layered and increased spans of control and have doubled the number of secondments. We have rolled out Chatter as a company wide collaboration tool and given people more freedom in the way that they work. No one wants to work in a hierarchical organisation that is six levels removed from the CIO, or frowns on using social media at work and the days of a 30 year career plan have long gone.

We have a structured intern programme and have kicked off “GenZ”, an initiative which gets us ready to recruit the first batch of a group who have never known a world without internet, who get globalisation and who are highly connected.

But it can’t stop there. We continue to succession plan and drive talent initiatives in order to identify emerging talent population and future leaders. This year we ran our inaugural Technology Summer School in partnership with the University of Cambridge where we combined leading industry speakers and first rate academic thinking in an inspirational setting for our high performers. The theme of the week was to “think different” and we ran sessions on innovation, entrepreneurship and strategic thinking. We also used this to generate new innovative business ideas together with a series of quick win ideas that could be delivered within 3 months.

CIOs need to be realistic though. Talent management takes time to mature and, after two years, only now are we seeing tangible results from investments made at the start.

Two critical success factors are having top down support and having experts to guide you. Our Global CEO listed technology and talent as the two biggest strategic challenges facing our business and we have an expert Head of Talent within the technology function who is passionate and able to dedicate and drive improvement here.

There is nothing in the last two years that has led me to think that talent management does not remain one of the most critical of issues that confront a CIO; in fact it matters even more.