Hiring and retaining young IT talent requires that CIOs take the lead and teach their managers how to interview and onboard properly writes Paul Cassell.


As a successful CIO, you have built a solid team of direct reports who solve technical problems and drive business solutions. You are creative with your limited budgets and know how to get the most out of your capital and operational dollars. You have driven accountability and transparency throughout your organization. In some cases, you have also partnered with HR to build a pipeline of new talent from the universities. 

After all of this, why are you still losing your younger talent?
Money is often the quickest answer. In a lot of cases, it does come down to a better offer from a competitor. But I will tell you that in most cases, this scenario can be avoided. It shouldn’t be that employees are regularly giving you notice due to “better opportunities.”

The Job Interview Process Sets the Tone

The process of hiring, managing and retaining your top talent starts long before the employee walks in the door for the first time. It starts with you teaching your IT managers how to write an accurate job description and to have a clear understanding of the skill sets required, including soft skills.

Ensure that they have an interviewing strategy prior to meeting the candidates. One cannot assume that a top performer who was just promoted into a management position will know how to interview, hire and retain great team members.

I have personally interviewed individuals who have received rave reviews from staff members only to find out that the candidates were not qualified for the position. It’s very important to invest the time to train and mentor your leaders on the pre-interview and interview process. The individuals they hire and manage will determine the success of your IT organization. A great way to provide hands on interviewing experience to your junior managers is to set up panel interview sessions led by senior managers.

Also teach them that a successful team is built by hiring people with different talents and skills sets. They should be proud to bring on people with superior skills sets and not worry that these individuals might someday end up higher in the organizational hierarchy. Having an eye for talent is a job qualification for all managers, and being selfless in the hiring process should be celebrated.

Train for the Onboarding Process

Are you comfortable that your company’s onboarding process is working for your IT organization? Ensuring that new staff members are properly welcomed on day one, and that their arrival has been anticipated and planned for (a ready desk/office, phone, laptop, passwords and building access) is extremely important. Even small organizations should have basic documentation and training to ensure that the onboarding process is clear and that your managers follow it. It only takes one onboarding disaster to damage your organization’s reputation and potentially lose out on a desirable new recruit. Social media channels have wide reaches, especially among Gen-Y and millennials.

Turnover is not About Better Pay

It’s now been 24 months since your last big recruiting effort and it’s come to your attention that progress has slowed on some projects due to unfilled positions. The natural question is: “Why is our turnover rate so high?” The answer, “those employees left for better opportunities and/or more pay,” should not be automatically accepted. In most cases, high turnover is due to the lack of one-on-one time with line managers, lack of mentoring, unclear goals, the lack of ability to express opinions and ideas, under- or over-utilization, a mismatched skill set, and the lack of understanding of one’s career path. These are all things that can be overcome by ensuring your managers are trained to perform as the leaders they were hired or promoted to be. I have lived through such management challenges and have transformed organizations suffering these turnover problems. I can tell you that the payoff is dramatic in terms of productivity and budget impact.

Investing in people is continual process, not a one-time effort. Building great IT organizations that can enable technology requires that you mentor your senior team on how to recruit, hire and retain world-class talent.

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