Building and keeping an

It’s no secret that it’s getting tougher to find and retain top IT talent. According to a July survey of IT chiefs from a group of 300 U.S.-based managers, 31 per cent plan to hire IT execs in the coming months. “Historically, that’s a high figure,” said Randall Neal, CEO of Randall James Monroe Inc., an executive search firm based in Dallas that conducts the survey on a regular basis.

But developing and maintaining an “A-Team” of IT managers can be a real challenge in a tight job market, he said. Most top-level IT executives aren’t looking for jobs; they’re valued by the organizations they work for, and they’re paid reasonably well.

Still, there are effective techniques CIOs can use to try to attract and retain top talent in a strong economy, said Neal and other panelists who spoke at the Society for Information Management SIMposium 2006 conference in Dallas last month.

It’s important for CIOs to show their commitment to their lieutenants by fostering professional growth through increased training, clearly-defined career paths and a demonstrable tendency to promote from within, according to Mary C. Finley, deputy CIO at Partners HealthCare System Inc. in Boston.

Such steps “send very clear messages that you’re about more than getting the work done — you’re about developing your staff,” she said.

Finley created a career growth initiative within the IT department for the integrated health system two years ago after discovering in a meeting with her top supervisors that more work needed to be done in that area. As the program was being assembled, she said, “we discovered we were underspending our career training money. This was very disturbing to find out after you fight for this funding and discover it’s being underutilized.”

Since then, Finley has enacted a standard requiring each IT employee to receive a minimum of 40 hours of training each year.

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