Are you future proofed

As a generation of IT leaders gets ready to retire, succession planning is on the minds of CIOs across the country – or it should be.

CIOs usually wait for a merger, restructuring, or other crisis to force the issue, but looking at the numbers, they can no longer afford to take that approach. According to Statistics Canada, by 2016 the number of young employees will no longer be enough to replace retirees within a rapidly shrinking Canadian workplace. This “greying” of the Canadian population, combined with baby boomers heading towards retirement in record figures, has resulted in a shortage of skilled workers across many industries, and the technology sector is no exception. In fact, labour market experts predict that Canada will face increasing talent shortages from 89,000 in the next three to five years to 1.2 million by the year 2020.

As a result, IT leaders need to identify successors for critical positions now and make sure they are primed to step into the role as soon as they’re needed. However, recognizing future leaders is only one part of the process. Here are some expert tips on developing a succession planning program that will help you prepare for the future:

Align succession plans to business goals: Every CIO knows that IT investments must map to business goals. The same holds true for succession planning. Start by focusing on the short and long term objectives and consider how the IT organization must evolve in order to meet the business goals. Next, identify any leadership gaps in the IT department and create provisions in your plan to address them, such as recruiting outside executives or training internal employees on new and different skills.

Build a big talent pool: Rather than target only one or two key people as potential successors, strive to groom a larger, more diversified group of high-potential candidates. The result will be a pool of top performers, enabling you to choose the right match based on the most appropriate skills and experience, rather than selecting based on who is available.

Start early: The general guidelines of succession planning hold in IT as anywhere else. The process should begin with each new hire and continue throughout the life of the employee’s career at the organization. Soon after hiring, match candidates with a mentor to help guide their talent from the beginning and prepare them to take on more responsibility.

Nurture business acumen: For IT workers, one particular development area to focus on is business acumen. The fact is, many specialized IT employees simply do not have the business skills needed to be leaders within an organization. This needs to change. A recent report by Gartner Inc. states that by 2010, six out of ten IT professionals will assume business-facing roles and be required to demonstrate their understanding of the business’s core processes, customer base, regulatory environment, culture and constraints. Moreover, 41 per cent of CIOs polled said they are placing greater emphasis today than five years ago on job candidates’ knowledge of business fundamentals. Rotating candidates through different positions inside the IT department will help broaden their expertise and give them the leadership and business skills required to drive the company’s success.

Don’t ignore middle management: Typically, companies regard succession planning as a risk management measure, reserved for executive-level positions. However, the most successful firms establish the lines of succession for all positions, not just those at the upper level. They also strive to provide employees with fresh challenges and opportunities to apply their skills, which prepares them for the next role in their career. By working with employees on career-pathing and goals, it encourages them to plan their future at their current organization. Gaining this insight into career aspirations also ensures that you groom the right candidates and recognize employee leadership within the IT group. Quicklink 087318

Michael Gregoire is president and CEO of on-demand talent management firm Taleo.

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