Three creative ways to add talent to your team

I recently interviewed dozens of CIOs about their hiring concerns and was left amazed. Not by their revelations, but by their level of frustration.

CIOs spoke repeatedly of their inability to find and retain talent. Sometimes they blamed HR, sometimes they blamed themselves, sometimes they blamed their company’s arrogance in holding out for the perfect candidate. But there were a few who asked, “Well, what else can we try?”

Anjana Harve, head of global applications for CSL Behring, a global leader in plasma protein biotherapeutics, took matters into her own hands when demand on IT surpassed her available resources. She was able to offshore a small development piece of a CRM project, but she faced financial and headcount constraints when it came to filling out the rest of her staffing needs. Her solution was to cross-train existing employees. “It’s not easy, and it doesn’t make sense for every function, like SAP,” she says. “But if I can cross-train [business analysts] and [project managers] and testing and validation functions, that’s three out of four components. Being a medium-sized company, we need people who are willing to roll up their sleeves and take on multiple roles.”

The jack-of-all-trades hire is popular these days and, not surprisingly, difficult to find. These multi-skilled IT pros can also be expensive. By using courses, coaching and on-the-job training, Harve built new skill sets internally. She says employees have been engaged and excited about learning to work in new areas.

She also applies demand-planning principles to her resource allocations. “There are peaks and valleys in the workflow,” she says. Identifying those valleys allows her to leverage those blocks of time for other initiatives. “It’s a new way of thinking when selecting the right people for the right project, but with time, we hope to institutionalize this practice across all of IT.”

Peter Classon-a partner with LiquidHub, a global technology consultancy focused primarily on the healthcare, financial services and insurance industries-knows that simply complaining about hiring doesn’t get the job done. As global hiring competition remains fierce, LiquidHub recently retooled its employee referral program to demonstrate the value it places on personal references. Classon stresses that “you have to keep employees excited and engaged,” and not just domestically. “We have a presence in India, where typically retention is a real problem,” he says. “We thought about the culture and what would be important to employees, and instituted a health benefits program for parents. It’s become a real point of pride for our employees.”

When LiquidHub wanted to jump-start its U.S.-based development community, it launched an innovation contest called the Next Big Think. Teams submitted abstracts for innovative apps, products and ideas, and the creators of concepts selected for development were given iPads, minor funding to secure server space, and an hour of face time with the heads of the company. The visibility with executives and the fun factor were a big draw for employees. Winners received iPads and American Express gift cards, but the real winner was LiquidHub. It built intellectual capital and improved morale, and it now has some sexy new apps to show clients and a great recruiting story to share with candidates that shows off some of the highlights of its culture.

CIOs cannot leave their hiring and retention practices to HR. They must get creative and lead. Capitalize on in-house talent. Inject ideas into the sourcing process, and make the recruiting story worth telling.

Things are hard everywhere. Good talent is scarce. What are you doing differently?

Kristen Lamoreaux is president and CEO of Lamoreaux Search, which focuses on sourcing IT professionals for hiring managers. She also founded SIM Women, a networking association for female CIOs and their direct reports, which has more than 400 members and promotes mentoring, leadership and career development.

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