Staffing Flexibility Is Soooo Underrated!

by drjim on August 18, 2008

Flexibility is needed in order to ensure that you will be able to staff your IT department

Flexibility is needed in order to ensure that you will be able to staff your IT department

If you thought that just barely getting by using skills to manage your IT staffing needs using both home grown talent as well as warm bodies that you purchased off the street was tough, just imagine how challenging it is when you try to move things up one level and adapt your IT organization to the uncertainty in demand for IT talent. Just think about that for a moment: how would your life be different if instead of running around trying to fill holes in your organization as they occur, you could actually be ahead of the 8-ball and be ready for changes as they came?

Here’s a fundamental thought that will help you to solve this staffing problem once and for all. It’s based on lessons that our supply chain friends learned the hard way a long time ago. Instead of trying to stock your IT department with every body that you think that you might need both today and for the next x number of years, instead do what the supply chain guys do. Bring in small batches of what you need more often. This will allow you to not have to attempt to predict your staffing needs so very far out.

For a good example of how the current IT hiring/staffing process is broken, take a look at how recent college graduates are brought into the organization. Most firms do almost all of their new graduate hiring right after the students get out of college. This means there is a wave of new recruits that enter the firm in June. Even if you allow for some new-hire orientation and perhaps some training, the firm still has a need to carve out a substantial number of new-hire spots all at once. If the company is struggling in the current quarter, then this can be especially difficult.

A different way to handle this issue would be to take this single large problem and divide it into two smaller parts. Not all college graduates really want to go to work immediately after finishing 4, 5, or 6 years of intense schooling. Some would more than willing to delay their start date by 3-6 months. If this was done, then the firm would only have to process half as many new recruits at a time. More personal attention could be paid to each incoming employee and better fits for talents and interests could be made. Having fewer number of new hires to place but having them more often makes the staffing challenge much easier – you never have too many or too few. Retaining non-working students for 3-6 months can be as simple as agreeing to pay them 1/2 salary until they start working full time.

Long and expensive training programs present the same challenge. A two year management training program could be broken up into four 6 month programs. Each smaller program could have its own goals and forecasts. The benefit of doing training this way is that should an employee in training decide to leave the firm, then the entire training program expense may not have been spent on them.

Finally, within IT organizations different programs are often allowed to maintain and run their own talent management programs. The end result of this is that all too often, one program will have too many potential managers and another will have too few. Since there is no centralized way to communicate these supply issues, the firm generally just deals badly with the imbalance. If talent management within the IT department was centralized, then this issue would not occur.

So now we have an understanding of where to find IT talent and we now know how to deal with fluctuation in the need for IT talent, I guess the next thing that we should talk about would be how to improve the Return on Investment spent on developing employees…

How does IT staffing work at your firm? Do you seem to have waves of new employees sweep in every so often? Is your department set up to handle this flood of talent? Have you ever tried to manage the process by adding fewer new employees more often? What was the result? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

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