Competition for the best IT talent is brutal. A lack of skilled talent is No. 2 on the list of threats to businesses’ ability to meet performance targets, according to the 2016 Randstad U.S. Workplace Trends report.
Making the talent squeeze much worse is the global trend toward digitization. Going digital reshapes every aspect of an organization, including how teams are brought together and led. And yes, the talent shortage is a big barrier to digitization. It’s tough to find IT professionals with enough of the digital-ready skill sets that organizations now demand.
According to the 18th annual Global CEO Survey from PwC in 2015, the lack of key digital skills is one of business leaders’ biggest concerns, where 73% of them cite this as a problem. McKinsey’s Cracking the Digital Code survey in 2015 found that a lack of talent was respondents’ top challenge in meeting priorities for digital projects.
There’s another wrinkle. It’s the growing impact of the millennial generation on the workforce and the arrival of Generation Z. You simply cannot lead teams that include millennials or Gen Z, the same way you led Gen X or Baby Boomers teams. These younger workers want something very different from their projects and their overall workplace experience.
Basics of building a team
Being a leader means building your team from the ground up. It’s back to basics when you do that. You design a team to deliver. That’s what we’re all here to do - deliver a product. The team must function fast and well. Responsibilities and accountabilities have to be aligned clearly so that members understand their roles and their deliverables. You can’t have a confusion. If you have a product manager here and a product manager there, everyone must understand what the distinction is between those two roles and each role’s function. Your team has to see the alignment, so each member can contribute to and deliver what the customer is looking for.
It may sound odd, but for me, the first step in designing a team is to take everybody out of the equation.
Don’t think about the people at the outset. Instead, consider the organization’s alignment, the delivery, and the execution. Then, work back from there. Ask yourself, 'Who are the right people to make it happen?' Start from the map. Use it to build a strategy, a design that functions well, and then you can begin putting in the people.
Here’s my reasoning for this approach. Starting a project with people in place often makes it more challenging to handle the difficult personnel and other decisions that are an unavoidable part of managing any team. When I had to make organizational changes, I knew that I would face tough choices. In your team, you need people who have bought into the vision that you established at the outset. They are the ones who will make that vision a reality. If you don’t have that crucial buy-in from team members, you will encounter a lot of resistance. That is why you add people after the roadmap is in place to give them the chance to sign in from the start.
Even if everyone in your team agrees on the vision, it will be hard to find them. According to the latest Randstad workplace study, HR executives report the average of 2.6 months to fill a nonexecutive position and five months for a leadership role. On average, companies said they are 13% understaffed.
Tapping the talent pipeline
Keeping your team members may also be a challenge. Randstad found 41% of companies surveyed cited rising turnover rates. And they said that 70% of employees who left, did so due to a better offer elsewhere. Three in ten employees are likely to leave their employer within the next two years, according to the 2016 Willis Towers Watson Global Talent Management and Rewards survey.
It's your job as a leader, however, to know where to find talent and how to tap into it. Top talent rarely, if ever, just show up in your office. People are no longer 'lifers' at any company, either. As the studies show, they have options, and they’re going to weigh those options carefully. They’re going to look at five other places. You must have a knowledge of how to be honest with them, how to find them, and how to attract them. There are ways of doing it. But this is ongoing. It’s not just one day or one week. You would have to constantly check on universities during career day fairs.
To build a top team, look for an entrepreneurial type of thinking. Seek someone who is resourceful and wants to learn. Someone who is hungry and whose mind is open to all ideas. Someone who is willing to do things outside their comfort zone. Entrepreneurship comes from that. And these are the type of people who can make a difference in your organization, these can change things for you. They always have the ideas going. You must have that. You want people to know you hired them because they are the best.
As the team leader, you have to be aware of all people on the call or around the table, and make sure someone isn’t inadvertently dominating the conversation and shutting someone else out. More often than not, your team will be very receptive to your stepping in to make sure everyone gets heard. People don’t want to hurt other people. They don’t come to the table with bad intentions. The issue is learning how to communicate and to listen. People want to belong and understand, and they want to see that you’re being fair.
Get to know your team. Engage their thoughts on the direction of the team and the company. It’s one of my favorite parts of the job. Ask them, 'Where do we go? Where do we find this talent? Where did you come from? Who do you know?' It’s all about building that pipeline and continuing to build it. And then, you can say with certainty, 'Yeah, I’ve sourced out this job the right way. I’ve got the best people.'
Mindset + skills = winning team
Getting the right team in place is not something we did overnight. It took four or five months to think about the design, about what we needed to do, about who are the right leaders. If you are making these decisions to fit your strategy and map the personnel to the needs of the team, it makes the process more successful. In the end of the day, it’s all about execution.
While building the talent pipeline and leading the team, don’t overlook the skills level. It is critical because skilled people drive successful projects. IDC’s survey on the impact of training on projects found that teams with average skills, 5 on a scale of 0 to 10, attain fewer than 50% of their project objectives. But just a small hike in skills, up to 7 on the scale, boosts project success to 75% of objectives completed.
The good news? Skills are teachable. Those entrepreneurial mindset employees will pick up skills readily with the right training. And training plus aptitude, and attitude is a winning formula for IT teams in today’s global, digital enterprise.