I recently spoke with a CIO who had just announced a recruiting drive to fill 27 senior-level engineering positions within six months. All positions are considered urgent by the IT hiring managers and nearly all specialise in a single application or technology.
Not only will it be difficult for this conservative organisation to attract 27 people, the CIO will soon realise that single purpose specialisation will render his organisation brittle. It will also reduce bench strength and inhibit his ability to reconfigure his organisation as the business changes.
This is typical of the traditional IT staffing model. When an application gets installed or a type of technology gets added, CIOs go out to the market and shop for the exact skills required to support the application or technology.
Build modern SWAT teams by reaching beyond the usual cast of characters to discover expertise ecosystems.
Tying people's worth too tightly to a specialised application or technology typically inhibits organisational innovation, hampers workforce reconfiguration and stymies professional development.
Emerging technologies and new delivery platforms quickly create imbalances between the skills in hand and the skills needed for the future. It’s rare to find the required skills exactly, quickly or at the volume you might need through the open market, meaning that work stalls and windows of opportunity close. The future is held hostage to past decisions.
How do CIOs fortify expertise and skills without necessarily hiring people? By modernising and industrialising workforce, organisation and analytical practices that extend expertise, brainpower and know-how.
Find innovators, experts and ideas at the edges, close to customers, suppliers and communities.
Take a bold approach
Gartner has identified nine practices that will help your business close the gap between the demand and supply of expertise without hiring.
1) Institutionalise communities of practice as social fabric
People, teams and project groups engage in communities to create an enterprise-wide conversation around areas such as mergers and acquisitions, new skills and architectural challenges. Leverage communities to build a social fabric that widens learning and sharing, as well as counterbalances deep specialisation. This ensures that IT professionals and leaders share, exploit and shape the principles and norms that constitute their organisation.
2) Elevate IT competency models for digital business
Ramping up the performance of the workforce is an endless journey for CIOs, so it’s important to give staff the right tools, processes and environment. Identify strengths, behaviours, systemic shortfalls and organisational risks, by adding digital business capabilities to competency frameworks.
3) Reward people's ingenuity in using personal technology to boost performance
Encourage people to experiment with and assemble personal tech toolkits — multimedia, data, information, apps, blogs, personal software — to increase digital dexterity and boost team performance. By encouraging personal tech ingenuity, you will lead the way toward the future called "everyone's IT," which builds a democratised network of colleagues and collaborators across businesses, institutions and causes.
4) Uncover hidden talent and expertise through competitions
Leverage competitions, such as innovation competitions or hackathons, to identify new talent, see others in a new light and identify qualified experts. Businesses that deal with grand challenges use competitions to channel people's passions into teams to tackle the problems. Expertise sharing and dynamic teaming become vehicles for entrepreneurial ventures, open innovation, global research and development and cross-boundary communities.
5) Intentionally design a bench of versatilists
Build up the proportion of versatilists in your organisation. Versatilists are the equivalent of multifaceted actors in a theatrical repertory company. They play different roles in multiple productions at once, bringing superior performance to each production regardless of whether they play lead, supporting or backstage roles. Their multidisciplinary assignments, roles and experiences create a blend of synthesised knowledge, competencies and context to fuel business value.
6) Invest in workforce analytics to take the guesswork out of people decisions
Develop a data-driven portrait of employees, external experts, contractors and broader labour market patterns to help make quicker and more flexible decision making. Workforce analytics can uncover hidden or dormant areas of skills, expertise and engagement. You can then mine crucial skills or monitor employee engagement.
7) Assemble SWAT teams through global expertise ecosystems
Build modern SWAT teams by reaching beyond the usual cast of characters to discover expertise ecosystems. Find innovators, experts and ideas at the edges, close to customers, suppliers and communities. Participating in global expertise ecosystems can enable you to find and contact people across far-reaching communities.
8) Master organisational innovation
Organisational innovation is the surest ways to extend expertise, skills and performance without adding people. Experiment with the new and the different. Nearly all the approaches to organisational innovation empower people's contribution and learning outside of traditional reporting lines, and most require time and attention rather than money.
9) Investigate AI and machine learning to augment or displace activities and roles
Consider "recruiting" smart algorithms, smart machines and smart talent bots to fulfill domains of expertise that only people were once expected to possess. Gartner believes that 50 percent of high performers will regularly and seamlessly redistribute workloads across personalised portfolios of talent bots by 2030.
Diane Morello is a vice president and Gartner fellow. She helps CIOs and digital business leaders understand and anticipate workforce trends and strengthen their competitive stance in the quest for talent.
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