Recently, I wrote a post here at TechRepublic outlining the skills that are in demand as surveyed by the company eLance. The unfortunate fact for CIOs facing skills challenges is this: Work still has to get done. It's one thing if your company refuses to adequately fund staff positions to meet ongoing workload demands; in these situations, it's only reasonable to push back to ensure that the work that can get done gets done well. However, when the company is willing to spend the money, CIOs may be hard pressed to push back even if the skills are tough to find. So, how might you be able to go about meeting critical organizational needs when you're having trouble finding well-qualified staff? Here are five actions you might take, although there are pros and cons for each.
Do a real market assessment
Most organizations have salary schedules that define how much each position or position classification will make. In many places, these schedules are used to maintain salary equity between employees. The honest truth, however, is that some jobs are worth more than others. If you find yourself not able to attract reasonable talent to a position, reconsider your salary schedule to make sure that you're payment a reasonable market rate for that position. Use sites like salary.com and glassdoor.com to help you determine what you should be paying.
Downside: You may have to pay more to get the skills you want.
Refine the necessary skills section of the job
I've seen job descriptions in ads in which the company is looking for a person that can be a one-man IT shop, requiring skills from decoding TCP/IP packets to being an expert in .NET development to having mastered every version of Exchange since 5.5 to having mastered every programming language under the sun including COBOL. It's no wonder that these companies have trouble finding people that they feel are qualified for the position at hand.
If this is your company, scale it back! Focus on the essentials only.
I know that this seems like common sense, but it's still amazing how much some jobs try to cram into a single position.
Downside: You may not get all of the skills you want in a single position.
Look to your local college
So after adjusting your salary and ensuring that the job description is laser focused on the necessary skills, you might still really have difficulty finding help. You might consider turning to your local college or university to help you. There is a whole lot of raw talent in many computer science programs that can be tapped to help. Further, you might consider setting up a formal program with the college so that students can work through your company as a part of their degree. These kinds of practice-based initiatives can be incredibly powerful for students, too, as they get officially exposed to the real world. This program could turn into an effective feeder for your company.
Downside: You will frequently have to "reset" the skill set as new students rotate through the program and each student will start at a very different skill level. It could require significant effort to administer.
If you're willing to go international, you can probably find the skills that you need somewhere and at a price you can afford. You might consider a site such as eLance or guru.com to help you identify resources that can be of assistance.
Downsides: People that are not a part of your team may not be as invested in the outcomes. International coordination carries with it challenges related to time zones and possible language and cultural barriers, although many companies that provide these kinds of services have solved these issues over the years.
Further, any time you outsource, there needs to be more up front planning than you might otherwise have to worry about with an internal resource. That said, this might be a good thing as it can help prevent project scope creep from dooming your efforts.
If you would rather stay a bit more local, but outsourcing is still something you would consider, take a look at some of the "onshoring" companies that have popped up in recent years. Last year, I wrote about my own experience with a company called Rural Sourcing. Onshoring companies can often provide services even in areas that require skills sets that are hard to find and these companies are often less expensive than consultants that provide similar services. The reason: Many of these companies settle in smaller communities with lower costs of living, enabling them to pay people a bit less. This savings is passed along in the form of lower service rates.
Downsides: Again, you need to carefully coordinate these external resources to make sure that the external team integrates well with your internal one and you will need to ensure that project specifications are tightly defined.
It can be really hard to find good people to fill open slots. When your company needs to get something done, but the job market doesn't seem to be producing good candidates, make sure that salary and job descriptions aren't working against you and, if everything there is in order, consider various methods by which you might bring in internal resources to fill the gap.
Do you have other ideas that have worked for your company?
Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive with CampusWorks, Inc. Scott is available for consulting, writing, and speaking engagements and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.