How to Find & Keep Technical Talent

May 17, 2012

CIO Update Staff

"It's hard to find good help these days." Sound all too familiar? It's the refrain many a CIO is uttering these days right along with their counterparts in other industries from manufacturing to the sciences.

Technical talent management best practices

This according to a new study from benchmarking and best practices firm APQC, Technical Talent Management: Sourcing, Developing, and Retaining Technical Talent.  This study identifies best practices from organizations recognized as leaders in overcoming an acute global shortage of scientific, technology, engineering, and mathematical (STEM) talent.  

According the study 80 percent of employers indicated it was difficult or very difficult to secure workers with scientific skills, while 65 percent indicated it was difficult or very difficult to secure workers with engineering skills.

"It is no secret that the world is experiencing a shortage of technical workers," said Elissa Tucker, SPHR, human capital management knowledge specialist for APQC, in a statement. "Across the globe, STEM jobs are growing as a percent of total jobs, such as in the U.S., where one-third of the fastest-growing job categories are in STEM fields.  In addition, demographic trends point toward increasing numbers of retiring workers, who will take with them their knowledge and expertise and leave behind a smaller pool of technical talent. Through this research we identify what some leading organizations are doing to find, manage and keep these key employees.”

The five best-practice organizations examined in detail in the study include: CaterpillarGeneral MillsIBMLockheed Martin Space Systems Company (SSC), and Schlumberger Ltd.

As outlined in the full study report, these organizations take a planned approach to talent management; frequently tailoring their investments to the unique needs of technical workers.  The comprehensive, proactive, and customized nature of their programs translates into superior outcomes. Most notably, the retention of adequate numbers of high-quality technical workers who are motivated to work hard to achieve business objectives.

Ultimately, the APQC study uncovered 19 best practices for managing technical talent that includes:

Establishing a governance process for technical talent by:

  1. Dedicating specific job roles or teams to oversee technical talent management;
  2. Selecting individuals with technical skills to lead technical talent management initiatives;
  3. Using work force planning to link technical the talent management strategy with business strategy; and
  4. Including work force diversity in the technical talent management strategy.

The best ways to recruit talent through: 

  1. Crafting and communicating an employment brand that appeals to technical workers;
  2. Developing college campus recruiting relationships and internship programs as sources of technical talent;
  3. Using technology to recruit technical talent; and
  4. Encouraging students to pursue technical careers.

Managing talent once you get it by: 

  1. Using competency models to guide and assess technical worker performance;
  2. Grounding performance conversations with technical employees in facts and data;
  3. Offering flexible career paths, including dual-career ladders;
  4. Providing self-service and/or technology-based tools to assist technical workers in planning for careers at the organization;
  5. Leveraging a succession planning process to identify, develop, and promote high-potential technical talent;
  6. Using on-the-job training as the primary mechanism for developing technical talent;
  7. Recognizing high-performance technical employees in public ways;
  8. Offering development and advancement opportunities to retain technical employees;
  9. Using work/life balance and flexible work options to retain technical talent;
  10. Offering technical workers multiple ways to exchange expertise; and
  11. Making fact-based decisions regarding how to improve technical talent management.

Tags: IBM, Lockheed Martin, Caterpillar, General Mills, Schlumberger,

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