Identify talent, and help your IT staff develop

Identify talent, and develop their futures….

It’s important for IT Departments, as well as organisations more generally, to make sure that talent is identified and developed for the future. One of the main ways of doing this is through succession planning; identifying the people who have the potential to become leaders.

I know, from speaking to colleagues, that there are some mixed feelings about this. While everyone accepts in principle that staff should be developed, there is a concern that, by preparing people for managerial and leadership positions, you could be giving them the skills they need to move on, or, even worse, you end up doing yourself out of a job.

As understandable as these concerns are, my own view is that it would be wrong to use this as an excuse not to train or develop talented people, as they will probably just leave anyway if they are not given the opportunity to progress their careers.

One particular challenge for people in IT is that move from a technical position to a managerial role. Many people choose to work in IT because they like things that are logical, systematic and intellectually stimulating. Managerial roles, by contrast, are challenging in a different way; there are a lot more people-related issues, and, as a consequence, more ambiguity.

To be a good IT leader, softer skills, such as emotional intelligence are needed in addition to technical knowledge and experience. Stakeholder management is one particular area where good communication and influencing skills are key.

It’s probably fair to say that there are many excellent people working IT who are better off remaining in a technical role; I’ve met a few people who would much rather be doing technical work than attending meetings or writing business cases, even if it means earning a bit less.

However, staff who do have the ambition and the right attributes should be identified as future leaders as early as possible and should be given every opportunity – with appropriate support – to make the transition into a more senior role.

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