Recently, there has been some talk about large companies in Australia going overseas to find skilled IT talent because they say there isn't enough here.   I have also seen companies flooded with consultants working on projects that could have been done cheaper and better using in house staff because "It is too hard/risky to hire good talent".

It takes skill to manage skill.

Finding Talent

How do you source people? Do you and your team go to Meetups, conferences and camps, not just participating but also contributing, sponsoring and hosting?  Does your company actively maintain open source projects valued by the community?  Does your company participate in mentoring programs?  Do people in your company recommend people they know or friends of friends?

Or do you solely rely on recruiters?

Recognising Talent

How do you know the confident, well-dressed person with a solid looking resume:

  • knows what they say they know
  • can do what they say they can do
  • will be conscientious
  • will work well with the rest of the team
  • will grow themselves and the team

A lot of good nerds are introverted, underconfident, poorly dressed and have a resume filled with companies that aren't household names.

Attracting Talent

You have found your next tech deity who can help the team reach the next level.  How do you get them onboard?  Throwing money at the problem doesn't always work.  Excellent engineers will also factor in things like:

  • is the company well regarded by their peers
  • will they be able to work with other good engineers and have managers/leaders who get tech
  • will the company help them grow technically as well as professionally
  • will working at the company provide a high level of job satisfaction

If you are starting a team and can't initially provide the right environment then you may need to pay above market rates but, spending 20% more for someone who is three times more productive makes good business sense.

Utilising Talent

Ms/Mr Robot has a desk, workstation and id badge with a lanyard.  How do you enable them to weave their magic?  Do they have the tools they need, access to the people and systems they need, help to plough through the red tape so they can focus on delivering outcomes and do they get appropriate recognition for the value they bring?

Nurturing Talent

The tech industry moves fast and the skills you hired your nerd for may no longer be as relevant in a few years or for the next project.  By the time shiny new skill X is packaged into a corporate-friendly training seminar/program you have probably missed the boat, and besides, a three-day training course is not likely to produce miracles.

How are you going to ensure the talented, enthusiastic and curious recruit doesn't become a walking dead?

(See 'Finding Talent' for some ideas)

Keeping Talent

Assuming salary is being regularly reviewed, letting people do an excellent job and acknowledging their achievements is usually more than enough to keep someone happy and engaged.  Adding ping pong tables, an office speaker and free ice creams won't fill the void of a meaningless grind.

Small is Beautiful

It might cost more to hire excellent people locally, but in IT a small team that can work well together can get A LOT of quality work done fast.  Having the tech heads next to the business allows for more frequent and natural interactions which can lead to deeper mutual understanding and better collaboration.  Steve Jobs took this to a new level by ensuring everyone had to go to the same bathrooms at Pixar thereby encouraging impromptu discussions and cooperation.

Improved understanding and collaboration mean the tech team can solve the right problems and solve them appropriately, i.e. not building a mansion when all that is needed is a dog house and vice-versa.

Being able to build and nurture good local teams means companies can do much more with less and solve the right problems quickly.