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Employees are one of the most critical assets for companies, but it’s hard to quantify talent on a corporate balance sheet. Yet IT managers know that the success of projects, as well as the success of their own careers, may depend upon key contributors who possess the technical know-how and business savvy to deliver valuable tech skills; increasingly, these individuals are getting harder to recruit and retain.

Gartner research confirmed this in an April 2019 survey that revealed it’s taking HR departments 66 days to fill positions they are familiar with, and 91 days to fill unfamiliar roles. Many of the existing and the new positions are in IT, which is responding to corporate needs in digitalization and analytics.

SEE: How to succeed as a new IT manager (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The Gartner report concluded that big data can help your talent search by enabling HR and IT departments to use more data to identify potential job candidates in the market and by identifying new locations in which to search for talent.

These approaches certainly help, as does AI automation, which gathers job candidates and narrows the job candidate funnel to the choicest applicants; however, if that’s all IT managers in search of critical talent are going to do, it won’t be enough.

Focusing on the following three areas of recruitment and talent management could pay major dividends.

1. Actively engage with institutions of higher learning

Tech leaders frequently attend college and university job fairs for recruiting purposes; a tactic that might be more successful is to view these institutions as “farm teams” in which to nurture future talent.

For instance, you could approach colleges and universities in your area and offer to provide input for curriculums about the IT skills that are needed in your company. You could also send guest lecturers to schools, and provide internships to the most promising students, and then make offers of permanent employment to those students who excel in projects.

2. Assess internal talent for hidden gems

Many times there are hidden gems of talent already in your organization.

One example is a “super communicator” on an IT training and documentation team who only needs a little bit of training to morph into a super business analyst. Another example is the computer operator who knows everything about managing storage and processing workflows, and needs only a little training to transform into a network security role.

By working with their project leads and getting to know project and department members, IT managers are in a better position to uncover and develop this untapped talent potential.

3. Retain employees through recognition etc.

Many IT managers are constantly under the gun to meet project deadlines, and they forget to acknowledge the key contributors who helped them reach those milestones. When you just move on to the next project, and performance reviews are late or are not done at all, team members can feel unappreciated–they might even decide to start looking for jobs elsewhere. People like to get recognition for their efforts; they also want career and salary advancement opportunities.

SEE: How to keep your staff motivated and engaged (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Workforce testing and solutions provider PSI’s Amber Thomas cites five key things that companies successful in retaining employees do. Among these are making employees feel valued, giving them learning and career advancement opportunities, and maintaining an open and honest working environment.

IT managers often assume these elements are present, yet their employees don’t agree. This is why it’s important for IT managers to walk around rather than staying in their office, take time to get to know their project members individually, and acknowledge and reward their good work. When IT managers make an effort to know their employees and to reward them, it can go a long way in retention and making them feel valued.

For this to happen, IT managers have to be active in recruitment and talent development–in addition to running their projects.

Is all of this possible?

Yes, it is.

Two of the biggest obstacles for IT managers are time constraints and possibly the lack of aptitude in talent recruitment and management.

To address time constraints, companies must consider talent management and development a priority–and they are. Part of this should include making time for IT managers to get actively involved.

As to the ability to spot talent or talent potential, IT managers are often challenged because their strength is in technology, not necessarily in people development. This is an area where IT managers do not have to go it alone. HR departments have people development and talent scouting skills, and there are also new AI tools that help automate the talent search process.