Talent management

Todd McGregor looks at the problem of talent retention for companies in the Middle East.

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By  Todd McGregor Published  July 2, 2007

The selection and implementation of HR practices for retention, recruiting, and development vary significantly with the size of the IT organisation as do the skills sourced. Large IT organisations (with 500 or more employees) invest more and use more complex tools than smaller IT shops - such as 360 reviews, the rotation of personnel through different functions, and leadership training. Developing the right IT HR culture is important - irrespective of size but the HR practices will vary depending on this.

The culture of an organisation results largely from the actions of its leaders. Frontline people, for example, look to the senior management team for cues as to what is expected. The leaders of small shops, through working together, are able to develop a consistent style that provides a model for their organisation. Being smaller, it's also easier for them to identify and coach possible successors to the current team. Large shops have a larger number of leaders with less opportunity to be together to develop these desirable behaviours. Formal succession planning is needed by these large shops to evaluate the large number of people to determine candidates for leadership positions.

While IT emphasises technology, and the business focuses on processes, the needs of people can get overlooked. Many CIOs do not think about talent management issues (recruitment, retention, rotation and development, and roles and skills) until problems arise. And when they do, they try to put a Band-Aid on a tumour - pursuing short-term tactical approaches to a larger strategic problem - recruiting new people into IT will just lead to new retention issues unless there are the proper rotation and development tools in place. CIOs need to incorporate talent management strategy in their larger IT strategy - recognising that their people are critical to IT performance, reputation, and effectiveness.

Large shop CIOs: Treat talent management initiatives like a university curriculum. Job rotation, leadership training, the hiring of entry-level people, and other initiatives need to complement each other and be in sync with the direction of the organisation.

Without this, they will only address immediate needs and miss the opportunity to reinforce each other. For example, rotating IT people into business positions will be beneficial only to the next company they join, without career planning that exploits the skills developed and connects them to new opportunities for advancement.

Small shop CIOs: prioritise your development tools. Small shops can learn from their large peers how to prioritise talent management initiatives. They still need a holistic talent management strategy but don't need the same breadth of programs as large ones. However, they need to determine what their differentiators are and where there are gaps. For example, a financial services company serving other institutions may need to deploy highly customised solutions for individual customers quickly.

Project, vendor management, and process design may be the primary skills required. Hiring may focus on experienced financial services experts over generalists out of college. The career path may need to emphasise narrow but deep expertise and an individual contributor role.

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