At a macro level, the IT talent gap is universal and undeniable. But every CIO is facing a different situation, and the key to success is first understanding the particular dynamics you face.
Colin Seward, our Chief Information Officer for CISCO EMEAR, on how CIOs can harness other parts of the business to fill talent gaps within their teams.
Mind the gap
Naturally you want to start by working out what talent you need, what talent you have, and therefore what the gap is.
But “talent” isn’t a helpful term here. Recruitment analytics software company Burning Glass has identified that the unit of currency of the job market is skills, not jobs, roles or talent4 — understanding this is the key not just to recruitment, but to unlocking mobility within and between roles.
For example, engineering-type roles tend to prioritise “hard” technical skills. Everyone agrees there are clear gaps here today. A Learning@Cisco Technology Manager Survey in September 2018 ranked the top five technical training areas:
- Big data/analytics
- Application development
Familiarity with DevOps, Agile and other modern IT practices will also be high on the list.
But modern IT teams work more closely with the business; they may be involved in developing marketing apps for end users, optimizing supply-chain processes, having to work in agile (with a small ‘A’) teams to solve problems fast. These roles require a “hybrid” of hard skills and softer skills like business acumen, creative thinking, communications skills and other capabilities that help them collaborate effectively and forge partnerships with the wider business.
Establish a common language for skills
So what we have here is a fast pace of change in technical skills, with a continued need for focus on soft skills as well. There’s real potential for confusion and misunderstanding just in terminology and the clarity of how skills are defined.
Therefore a critical step is to develop a common language for skills that you can map to your job roles and use as a basis for your profiling and gap analysis. For us at Cisco, it has been important to adopt a standard skills vocabulary when looking at our job roles across IT to identify and define future requirements. To do this, we’re piloting the Skills for the Information Age (SFIA) framework to give us a standard vocabulary that we can use to better define jobs inside our IT organisation.
It doesn’t have to be that way. There’s never been so much data available that can help you understand your situation, understand the job market, benchmark yourself, and model future trends.
- Internal data sets around engineer activity and expertise, training courses taken, patents filed, tasks assigned, contributions made to open-source code bases, support cases resolved, CV keywords, 360s and other performance reviews.
- Details about your open roles, salary grades, job description keywords, role locations, impending restructures and redundancies.
- External sources such as salary benchmarks, CV databases, educational statistics, job description keyword databases, and analytics about volumes and trends in open postings.
Ruthlessly prioritise the most critical gaps against strategy
As CIO, your goal is to deliver as much value to the business as possible using the people and budget you have available. If you’re spreading your investment and attention right across your function, you’re diluting your impact.
Work with your CEO to understand your business priorities. Then ask yourself: which roles, and which skills, are most critical to those strategic priorities and the future of your business at the furthest possible planning horizon? Maybe it’s AI to drive product innovation. Maybe it’s security to protect your brand. Or maybe it’s just getting infrastructure releases to production at the right standard, on time (after all, there’s always a need for good project management and quality assurance (QA) people). Treat the transformation of your talent and skills efforts like any project: look for quick wins, look for value, and start with a few use cases, a proof of concept, a pilot. Don’t try to boil the ocean. But keep your eye on the end goal.
Prepare to adapt
You won’t have all the answers at first. You will be making decisions based on hazy information. And the situation will change, probably quickly. Be prepared to revisit your plan with subject-matter experts, with further data and in consideration of alternative scenarios.
You should build this test-and-learn mentality in from the start, ensuring you are measuring the right factors and have built a process that allows you to learn and evolve your approach.
And that approach can be embedded as part of the normal flow of work by what we call ‘performing and transforming’. There is always a need to perform, to execute an immediate task, but it should be done in a way that challenges and innovates, thereby contributing to a broader long-term transformation.
Partner with HR and workforce development teams
It won’t come as a surprise, but you can’t do any of this alone. You probably already meet regularly with your HR and finance counterparts, but from now on you’ll be joined at the hip. They’ll help you understand the tools and data available to you, and advise you on regulations, funding and best practices. You’ll be able to inform them of your organisation’s strategy and most pressing needs.
In Cisco’s IT organisation, we see HR as a strong partner. When we began our workforce transformation, we talked with our HR contacts, and they started to help us with workforce planning frameworks, introducing us to some of the tools they use within HR to get information from the market about different locations where there were talent pools. They had a huge amount of data already.
Chief Information officer for Cisco EMEAR, Colin Seward, discusses how CIOs can partner with HR to develop a workforce planning framework.
Together with your HR partners, you’ll manipulate the three strategic levers that can help you navigate this talent crisis: reskilling, recruiting, and sourcing.
It’s these three strategies that we examine in more detail in the following pages.
A bridge to the bank of the future
Banks and financial services have seen first-hand the impact of digital transformation on their business, as FinTechs and start-ups continue to threaten incumbent market leaders. While these challengers are stealing revenue, they’re also stealing talent, and banks must take steps to make sure they don’t get locked into a spiral of decline.
To keep up, they must have the right talent mix of employees, who can identify sources of new value and determine how data can deliver them. To do so, they need to take a number of steps. This will include identifying gaps in talent, and understanding how best to fill these, either through retraining or hiring. Banks may need to create new roles, such as Digital Transformation Directors, who will be able to explore how to share digital knowledge across an organization.
In order to attract and develop the best talent, banks must not be shy about communicating their digital transformation both internally and externally and must do so with strong leadership support. Doing so will make sure that they can face down the threat posed to their talent pipeline by less well-known brands.
By David Maireles, Country Head Spain, RaisinGmbH