IT Recruiting Definition and Solutions

IT Recruiting topics covering definition, objectives, systems and solutions.

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At no other level can you have the kind of influence on your future employees than at the university level. Most IT-related programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels in computer science and business departments are eager to get IT leaders involved on campus. There are opportunities to sit on boards, visit classes, offer business-specific training...the list goes on. (See "Go Back to School" if you need some inspiration.) Getting involved in college recruiting efforts takes time and effort, but it will only strengthen your position on job fair day at the local university.

Smart CIOs are also doing what they can to preach the gospel of IT careers to the next, next generation of workers. "There's much more work to do in the K-12 environment to encourage math and science," says Phil Zwieg, who recently retired as VP of IS of Northwestern Mutual. "The numbers there are depressing, particularly with girls." (For more on K-12 IT education, see "Computer Education's Failing Grade.") CIOs may be disinclined to spend their already-limited time with young students because there's no near-term ROI, but the long-term benefits could be priceless.

And what about your plans for after you hire that freshly minted college grad? Unfortunately, many IT departments drop the ball on entry-level training programs even though such programs help the kids develop faster, impart a more in-depth understanding of the business and instill company loyalty. To read about three CIOs who have developed robust entry-level training programs for three different reasons, read "The Kids Are All Right."

Should I invest in an internship program?

Far too many IT departments fail to take advantage of the opportunity an internship program can provide.

Like entry-level training, internship programs were quick to fall by the wayside as we entered the age of outsourcing and cost controls. According to CIO's annual staffing survey, only 13 percent of IT leaders have an internship program in place. A well-structured and closely managed internship program can be a win-win for CIOs (eager young minds for cheap!). But the key words are "well-structured" and "closely managed." Who’s got the time?

Savvy CIOs are making the investment. Juniper CIO Alan Boehme has always been a big believer in them. Interns are on the job at Juniper's offices in Sunnyvale, Calif., and Europe. They're not all the usual suspects; one is studying journalism and has taken charge of the IT newsletter. The program required investment in training and management oversight, but Boehme says it pays for itself. It costs less than bringing in contractors to do the same work, and he's able to build a pipeline of future full-time candidates.

Harrah's CIO Tim Stanley was a fan of graduate school recruiting but initially resisted an undergraduate internship program. "I wrestled with it," he says. "Young people flip-flop quite a bit before they figure out what they really want to do." Growing concern about the future supply of IT workers changed his mind. "Kids are coming out of school without the skills necessary to be productive," he says. "They may be brilliant at code, but they're not coming out fully experienced for customer-facing roles." Harrah's IT internship program is now in its third year. The program has grown 25 percent year over year, and between 20 percent and 50 percent of interns have gone on to accept jobs at Harrah's.

To learn more about how to set up a successful internship program, see "Six Degrees of Hire Learning."

Should I try to promote from within or look outside the company?

You should probably start out trying to do both. You want as diverse and talented a group of candidates as possible, and that will likely include applicants from inside and outside the company (if they qualify).

What's most important is that when a position is awarded to someone (whether inside or outside the company), you be as transparent as possible about how the decision was made (without violating any privacy concerns).

That's because a big concern for today's IT professional, both within his own company and generally speaking, is his career path. As IT staffing needs have shifted, career paths have become fuzzier. Once upon a time, a computer science grad went from programmer to analyst to systems analyst to project analyst to project manager to manager. Today? Who knows? Maybe I'm a programmer for a while. Then I'll take that job in marketing. Then maybe I'll come back and manage a project. Then what? Smart CIOs will attempt to make career progression less of a mystery and work with employees on individual career development plans. IT workers are more likely to walk out because they see no opportunities for advancement than for any other reason, according to Hudson Highland Group's "2005 Retention Initiatives Report."

And if you can't offer prized employees a promotion or more interesting work, some CIOs advise trying to help them find a larger role outside the organization. Career progression is the biggest issue for U.S. Tennis Association CIO Larry Bonfante: "For some, the only thing they can aspire to is me getting hit by a bus in the parking lot." Bonfante naturally offers upwardly mobile employees more compensation and responsibility. But at a certain point, it's up or out. So he sometimes uses his connections to help them find new jobs. It's beneficial all around. The employee moves into a bigger role (albeit at a different company), an opportunity opens up within IT, and that inevitably leads to referrals from the worker you helped.

For more on cultivating leadership, read "How Stars Are Made." And to find out how American Airlines CIO Monte Ford cultivates innovation by moving high-potential employees around, up and even out of his IT organization, see "Let Talent Bloom."

Is it better to focus on retention rather than recruiting?

It certainly costs plenty to recruit and train a new employee to replace a trained and valued employee who has left the organization. (Conservative estimates say it'll cost you 25 percent of the defector's annual salary plus benefits. And then there are the indirect costs.) Then again, there may be some employees who should go as your organization changes. (For more on dealing with underperformers, see "How to Find, Fix or Fire Your Poor Performers.") And an IT organization with too little turnover may face problems due to a clogging at the top and a lack of entry-level positions at the bottom. So it's safe to say that IT leaders should balance their efforts between recruiting and retention.

That said, it's an especially delicate time for retention. CIO magazine executive coach Susan Cramm lays the situation out in her column, "The Worst Job in IT": "CIOs are shaking up their departments, changing the rules of governance, architecture, process, costs and staffing under which they operate [and] turning up the heat on their organizations to make it all happen," Cramm writes. "It's not a whole lot of fun being on the receiving end of all these demands."

Without a clear understanding of what's in it for them, Cramm says, "People will assume that the future doesn't include them." And guess what? The labor market is currently in their favor. Your best and brightest will get by just fine. Just not in your organization. (On a cheerier note, Cramm offers her advice for sharing the upside of change with your hard-working staff in "IT’s Good News.")

Providing training is another way to keep workers on board. Unfortunately, training budgets were slashed after the Internet bubble burst, and bringing them back remains a challenge. But some CIOs have coped by finding creative ways to fund training (see "Get Creative About Training").

Another problem: One in three workers thinks the time he spent in his last training session probably would have been better spent elsewhere, according to a recent survey of employees. So it's important to make sure the training you do invest in is valuable and useful. See "Time in Training Often Wasted" for training best practices to bear in mind.

Should I do anything special to retain baby boomers?

While they won't all be retiring at once, and some will work into their 70s, the importance of the boomers to your operation is worth noting. They know a lot of stuff, and there are certainly a lot of them. Their numbers almost double Generation X, according to "Beating the Boomer Brain Drain Blues," and unlike their younger cohorts, many boomers have spent a large chunk of their careers in one company building up experience and knowledge.

You should increase your efforts to leverage employees who want to work past the traditional retirement age. "Sixty-five is the new 40," says a recent Forrester "IT Roles and Skills" report. CIOs should encourage their valued senior employees to stay on, at least in part-time, seasonal or on-call roles. According to a study by AARP, more than 60 percent of U.S. companies are currently bringing back retirees as contractors or consultants. (This could be worth considering as a personal option for you as well. According to a Robert Half Technology survey, 46 percent of CIOs are likely to consider consulting or project work as a way to "ease into" retirement.)

Unfortunately, according to CIO's staffing survey, only 18 percent of IT leaders are pairing up new employees with experienced workers. That's too bad, because such mentoring relationships not only offer the opportunity for knowledge transfer (old dog = new tricks, new dog = old tricks), but also usually prove to be a motivating force for both mentor and mentee. (To learn how Raytheon pairs experienced workers with new employees, read "Teaching New Dogs Old Tricks.")

Can I skip these recruiting headaches by outsourcing more of my shop's work?

Nice try. But if you think you can insulate yourself from personnel problems, personnel decisions and personnel strategy by outsourcing, you're sadly mistaken. That is, unless you want those outsourcing relationships to fail. If you don't mind failure, then, yes, you can avoid all the headaches. In that case, however, you'll soon be searching for a job yourself.

Mary Lacity, professor of information systems at the University of Missouri-St. Louis who has studied outsourcing best practices for more than 15 years, notes that with successful domestic outsourcing relationships, clients review the resumes of their suppliers' employees before they are assigned to their delivery team. And when it comes to a successful offshore outsourcing arrangement, clients often personally interview each potential offshore-supplier team member.

And, as anyone who's done significant outsourcing knows, it's never long before any HR problems your supplier has (from recruiting to retention) trickle down to you. An outsourcing decision should never be made with the idea of removing all risk or responsibility for something—recruiting or otherwise. The work may move; responsibility stays. (If you have more questions related to outsourcing, refer to The ABCs of Outsourcing.)

Where can I find more information about recruiting and other HR issues?

Here are a few places to start:

Related:

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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