Tips for CIOs to overcome technology talent acquisition troubles

For specialized talent, internal HR departments and job boards may not be the best approach

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Back in 2001, I had the pleasure of working with Richard Mazzoni, the former CIO (chief information officer) of Levitz Furniture, as we were co-leaders of an ERP (enterprise resource planning) project. During the course of the year that we worked together, we got to know each other rather well. Richard was certainly someone that I would have liked to have worked with—and for—while he was CIO at Levitz. I appreciated his mentorship and friendship.    

Richard told me that he would acquire talent for his department by going out to the stores and seeking out people who had a desire to work in information technology. The reasoning, as Richard told me, is that it is easier to teach people technology skills, but it is more difficult or time-consuming for people to learn business acumen.  

This seems to be something that today’s CIOs are just starting to realize. But, I still see an overwhelming number of job postings that are focused on objective technology and not subjective knowledge. Not that there aren’t times when the technology skills aren’t needed, there certainly are, but do they always rank a higher priority than business knowledge and functional expertise when the overall experience is there? Another problem is that today’s job posting descriptions are more of a mishmash of technical and business requirements that essentially combine multiple distinct job roles. And some of them contain conversation notes that definitely do not belong in a job description, let alone in a public forum.

Do you want a project manager, or a business analyst, or a database analyst, because combining them together is unlikely to get you the results you really want. How necessary is agile and scrum, because is your company really doing them that well anyway, and are these more important than the other talents the candidate brings? And excluding people without your industry’s experience effectively cuts you off from ideas and other ways of thinking outside of your industry, otherwise sometimes known as “creativity,” and really limits the pool of candidates. 

In seeking out teachable and trainable talent, CIOs need to engage the right people for this role.  It may be that the human resources department should not be leading the specialty IT talent search. CIOs should be engaging a qualified outside IT recruiting firm or establish an IT department technology recruiter in-house. Let the HR department handle the matter of human resources, such as benefits and payroll, after the right candidate is sourced, selected, interviewed, and is interested in pursuing the job.

If a CIO or company HR department is going to engage an external staffing firm, make certain that the recruiting firm is doing the work themselves and is not outsourcing the search, especially to third-party call centers that sift through technology job sites doing nothing more than a Control-F find on online profiles and resumes. Your search is going to take longer than necessary, and you’re probably not going to get the top-quality candidates you are hoping for. This is a supply chain analogy: you need to know your supplier’s suppliers, (and) if they have any.

And chief financial officers, this article could easily apply to the acquisition of your accounting and finance talent, too.

As an independent consultant, I am sometimes confronted by and conflicted with what I can do for my clients and what I should do for my clients. Inasmuch as there are things I can do when asked, or want to try and do when offered, I am not always the right person to do them, e.g., as opposed to relying upon my client’s ERP software support company, hardware provider, or another entity that may be a better choice for different reasons. I have to accept this and do what is right for my client, not what is right for me.

The HR department has special skills and importance to a company, but they may not be the best people to acquire highly specialized and technical talent. But the collaboration between executives, department managers, and experienced HR leaders will be critically important to ensure that the talent acquired is retained for the long term.  

CIOs—the talent is out there for the picking. The problem is that you may not be reaching into the right talent pool for the taking. 

About the author:

Norman Katz is President of Katzscan Inc. (www.katzscan.com) a supply chain technology and operations consultancy that specializes in vendor compliance, ERP, EDI, and barcode applications.  Norman is the author of “Detecting and Reducing Supply Chain Fraud” (Gower/Routledge, 2012), “Successful Supply Chain Vendor Compliance” (Gower/Routledge, 2016), and “Attack, Parry, Riposte: A Fencer’s Guide To Better Business Execution” (Austin Macauley, 2020).  Norman is a US national and international speaker and article writer, and a foil and saber fencer and fencing instructor.

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CIOs often turn over the job search process to HR or search on job boards, often with a jumbled job description. That may not be yielding the best candidates and exacerbating a talent shortage.
(Photo: Pexels/Tima Miroshnichenko)
CIOs often turn over the job search process to HR or search on job boards, often with a jumbled job description. That may not be yielding the best candidates and exacerbating a talent shortage.
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About the Author

Norman Katz, President of Katzscan
Norman Katz's Bio Photo

Norman Katz is president of Katzscan Inc. a supply chain technology and operations consultancy that specializes in vendor compliance, ERP, EDI, and barcode applications.  Norman is the author of “Detecting and Reducing Supply Chain Fraud” (Gower/Routledge, 2012), “Successful Supply Chain Vendor Compliance” (Gower/Routledge, 2016), and “Attack, Parry, Riposte: A Fencer’s Guide To Better Business Execution” (Austin Macauley, 2020). Norman is a U.S. national and international speaker and article writer, and a foil and saber fencer and fencing instructor.

View Norman's author profile.

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