10 simple rules for finding and keeping great technology talent

How do you keep your best IT professionals from running out the door to join a startup? And where do we find such people?

Let's face it, when it comes to hiring technology talent, you're not just competing with the company down the block or with your nearest industry competitor. You're competing with everybody, everywhere.

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Photo: Joe McKendrick

Worse yet, corporate IT shops are competing with the likes of Google, Apple and Amazon, who are scooping up talent right and left to keep their behemoth operations humming and innovating.

Perhaps even more challenging, corporate IT shops are also competing with a startup culture, which probably is more risky for some, but yet offers excitement and opportunities do build exciting new things.

Harvard Business Review Analytics Research just published guidelines on how to compete in this space, based on interviews with CIOs from government, nonprofit, manufacturing, and education. "Each of these CIOs have had to get creative to find new approaches to today's most common talent struggles," the report notes.

Some key takeaways:

Encourage employees to feel they're part of something greater than themselves: "A common theme that emerged from these CIO interviews is that culture is key," according to Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat, which sponsored the HBR report. "Finding solutions to these talent issues begins with a culture that empowers people by connecting them to an organization's larger mission."

Make things interesting: Your best developer may be getting tempted by a bunch of friends launching a startup. Give him or her the opportunity to make a difference at your workplace. Open up the gates and support efforts to explore and build with cloud, microservices and containers. Strive to support development of a digitally savvy, analytocs-driven enterprise.

Use social media to cultivate networks: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn provide ways to quickly identify and connect with talent.

Don't overlook good old-fashioned in-person networking. Face-to-face connections still forge the most powerful connections of all.

Become involved in open-source communities. These are wellsprings of greatly committed and highly proficient technologists.

Encourage and tap into diversity. This not only includes people from all different communities and backgrounds, but diverse professional perspectives as well.

Look to contingent or non-traditional labor: This not only includes contract staff, but also crowdsourcing and hackathons to stir innovation and get things done.

Invest in coaching, mentoring, training: Technology changes from year to year, and today's solutions may be tomorrow's legacy systems. For IT professionals, the challenge is to be able to do their regular day-to-day jobs, while trying to also keep up with learning new technologies, Employers can help by allocating paid time for onsite learning, as well as funding training programs.

Hire less for skills and more for emotional maturity and the ability to learn and change: Again, with technology changing so fast, what matters more is willingness to adapt and contribute than being a skills guru.

Smash the hierarchy. Run the organization with collaborative teams, not a top-down command-and-control structure.