Forrester: Consider unorthodox sources for IT staff

Poaching IT staff is a short-term solution, according to a new report. Instead you should look to students, academics and super users; even blogs and social-networking sites

Poaching IT staff from other organisations is a short-term solution, warns research company Forrester in a report published this week. Instead, chief information officers should search more widely in the rapidly narrowing IT talent pool to capture those with scarce skills.

Among the sources that companies should tap into for IT staff, says Forrester in its research report, Recruiting IT Talent: Adjusting To A Hot Market, are academia, MBAs and super-users within an organisation, and even blogs and social networks.

Chief information officers should consider putting in place structured internships to attract more college graduates and foster greater relationships with college staff to access both the student and staff skills. Cultivating closer relationships with colleges not only increases the chances of getting fresh blood in the form of college students; it can also mean that academic staff may be enticed to lead short IT projects. They could also be persuaded take sabbaticals to refresh knowledge of IT in business by working on longer projects.

"Academics are really an overlooked talent," said Forrester analyst Sam Bright. "One of the side benefits of building partnerships with colleges to identify potential leads in students is that academics also come to understand what IT has to offer."

Another under-utilised pool of talent is that of business professionals on rotation in the company, according to Bright. MBA graduates rotate into different functions within organisations, but IT is not often one of their stops, said the analyst.

Other members of the organisation with both business and IT skills — so-called "super-users" — should be encouraged into IT through training opportunities.

Bright said that to encourage business professionals into IT, CIOs must endeavour to raise the profile of IT within the business, and demonstrate how IT can be used to further business careers. This can be done, for example, by showing business professionals they can gain an in-depth knowledge of, and influence over, business processes.

"CIOs need a coherent message about how IT will improve their careers," said Bright. "The ability to influence business processes is highly influential with a business audience." The Forrester analyst said that targeting existing IT professionals by trying to poach them from other organisations was only a short-term solution to the IT recruitment problem. "We're over-fishing this pond. Recruiting from other organisations is robbing Peter to pay Paul," said Bright.

The analyst also recommended monitoring professional- and social-networking sites, to find out about a potential candidate's interests and interpersonal skills.

"Organisations right now are searching not only professional-networking sites, but also social-networking sites, to get a better feel for candidates. Social networks provide opportunities to shake up the game. You can get more details about people's past experience and interests than you can through a traditional job board. If people are creating their own blogs or scanning the blogs of other IT professionals, it can give you an insight into how they communicate, and their softer interpersonal skills," said Bright.

The analyst added that professional blogs can also be a good way of sourcing talent.


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