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A shortage in IT professionals: is a talent program the solution?

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

Tekort aan IT-personeelWell-educated ICT professionals are hard to find” [Dutch], “Shortage in higly skilled ICT professionals” [Dutch], “ICT branche fears shortage in good staff” [Dutch]: the message is clear, there is a shortage in IT professionals. In well-educated IT professionals, to be exact. A talent program can be a solution for many organizations.

Talent program, Young Professionals program, Talent Development program, Partner Talent program, Talent@Work program: it are all terms with roughly the same meaning. But what are they exactly? And how can these programs help solve the shortage in IT professionals? Is it solely intended for large organizations or also for the smaller ones? In this blogpost I will answer those and other questions.

A shortage in IT professionals: why a talent program?

There has been a shortage in IT professionals for years now. In well-educated IT professionals, to be exact. A problem for many organizations. That problem is even bigger when you take into account the increased importance of IT within organizations in the previous years. The damage of a non-functioning IT infrastructure can be considerable. Think about the internet that is down, important applications that do not work or hackers that break into the infrastructure because the security does not work. Those are scenarios that the management of an organization would rather not face.

The solution lies in finding and hiring a well-educated IT staff. But this may be more harder than it sounds. Finding suitable candidates with the required profile is pretty difficult. This is precisely what talent programs are responding to.

Instead of hiring candidates who meet all requirements an organization hires candidates, talents, who don’t meet all requirements yét at the time of their recruitment. By means of a specific educational plan the candidate obtains the missing expertise within a defined period and puts this expertise immediately into practice.

In general it concerns young candidates with the ambition to specialize in IT. But age is no requirement. Older re-entrants are no less eligible.

A talent program: the components in a row

  • The influx profile is flexible, the outflow profile is set and key
  • The focus is on the educational plan
  • Practical experience is very important
  • Clear agreements are the basis

It will gladly clarify these components.

The influx profile is flexible, the outflow profile is set and key

With ‘influx profile’ I mean the profile that the candidate has when he or she enters the program. ‘Outflow profile’ stands for the knowledge, skills and experience he or she has obtained at the completion of the program.

It may sound a bit strange, but with the recruitment of talent an imperative influx demand doesn’t exist. Hence the before mentioned: the influx profile is flexible. After all, the idea is to work on the deficits during the program. Of course it is important that the candidate possesses the ambition and talent to obtain the necessary theoretical knowledge and the ability to put this into practice in a relatively short time. The candidate fits well into the culture of the organization and has good communication skills so that he or she can perform projects with clients independently.

The outflow profile is set and key. The organization determines the profile that the candidate needs to meet at the end of the program and this profile will be pursued during the whole period.

An example: when I advise organizations that are suffering from a shortage in well-educated staff I have noticed that there is often a need for candidates who not only possess the CCNP certification and specific knowledge on the security solution Fortinet, but also virtualization expertise in the area of VMware and several years of professional experience. This profile is very hard to find. Therefore the vacancy continues and is filled with (much more expensive) hired workers in the meantime.

However, if we turn this profile into an outflow profile and train the talent to meet this profile, it dóes become a realistic target.

The focus is on the educational plan

I mentioned it before: the outflow profile will be pursued during the whole program. The focus is on the educational plan. There is a need for a fitting educational plan that is consistent with the previous knowledge of the candidate and can be met within the relative short time that is available. It is preferable to allocate the courses over time so that the candidate can process the knowledge sufficiently and is able to put it into practice immediately.

Practical experience is very important

Independent study and practicing in simulated environments may be fun for a short while, but in time it will not lead to good results. I always advise to get the basic knowledge into order first, and subsequently a period wherein the candidate job shadows an experienced engineer from his or her own organization and/or performs helpdesk activities. Only then the pieces will start to fall into place, ensuring a smooth process of knowledge building. After 2 months the candidate will continue the program.

Clear agreements are the basis

A talent program means: investing in a new employee. Clear agreements are the basis. In my view there are 4 major agreements:

  1. employment contract at the start of the program.
  2. employment contract at the completion of the program.
  3. learning agreement that contains the student loans and the repayment schedule.
  4. worker benefits like a laptop, a phone and a car.

In my experience a talent program takes 6 to 24 months. The precise duration depends on the difference between in the influx and outflow profile. It goes without saying that it is important to agree beforehand on the conditions of employment at the end of the program.

The learning agreement is meant to protect the investment made against an early departure of the employee. The financial risks can never be covered completely, but in any case it is important to share the value of a talent program with the candidate.

Finally it must be prevented that discussion on the worker benefits arises during or after the program.

A talent program: for which organizations is it intended?

Talent programs are intended for all organizations that suffer from a shortage in IT professionals. So it is also intended for medium-sized and small organizations that only want to develop 1 or a few candidates.

In our own Talent@Work program we’ll take everything of the hands of your organization: from the selection and recruitment to the outflow. And still it remains possible to request for 1 or a few candidates. The program is after all custom-made. The duration, the influx profile and the outflow profile may differ.

A shortage in IT professionals: if it isn’t there you have to make it yourself

If it isn’t there you have to make it yourself: that is what a talent program represents. Instead of searching for a profile that is nowhere to be found in the market, developing a new employee yourself is a good option. One that works for both larger and smaller organizations.

Getting cold feet by the thought of organizing it? Let me know. I will be happy to help.

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