I have spent several decades in the Information Technology industry for several companies large and small including several companies of my own. The concern of attracting, acquiring and retaining great talent has been a key focus of every organization unilaterally. If you are in a business that literally has technical talent as its life blood, like mine is then you will want to consider what I have to say. It could shift your paradigm and accelerate your ability to fill empty positions for technical talent that have been sitting open with little or no responses for months.

In this article we will cover:

  1. The Problem – Insane Job Reqs standing between people who can do the job and jobs people could be doing.
  2. Insanity Phase 1 – The authoring of the insane Job Req
  3. Insanity Phase 2 – The filtering of candidates based upon the Job Req
  4. Insanity Phase 3 – The misalignment of the job with the person
  5. The Solution – Perhaps your answer does not lie in one person

First let us examine the essence of the problem. Does the technical role you are hiring for significantly affect your bottom line? Typically the answer to that question is “Yes”, but can we dig deeper and ask “to what extent?”. By that I mean come up with a number that your company is losing in real revenue or missed opportunity per month. To quantify it is to make it real and bring sane thinking to the equation. What I believe you will discover is that while everyone thinks these roles are important and valuable, you might discover that there are very few people in your organization that can express how valuable or how important. We know we need it, but we don’t have a quantified “why” that allows us to prioritize it. Thus we can survive months or even years of not filling these roles. So was the position really critical? If it is critical stay with me, otherwise we’re done here.

The next step is to identify where these roles will be contributing to your business outcomes. The managers and leaders in these areas are not likely to be able to express what this talent will be doing exactly. We are no longer staffing positions on a factory assembly line where the work activity is well-defined. So we task these otherwise capable managers with authoring a job requisition that describes the job duties and required skills for fulfilling those duties. I believe this to be the root cause of the insanity issue. Typically, this will take the form of some description of  the outcomes expected by the business; mapped to some existing technologies employed in the realization of some business goals. Sounds sane, but has your organization actually gone through an assessment with some technology experts that help you rationalize the mapping described above or did you Google it? We end up with requirements for some insanely certified individual with ages of experience who in fact will be called upon to perform dynamically, not in the static terms described but in an agile business environment.

Now if there was not a good rational basis for that job requisition the insanity gets magnified when that gets passed to Human Resource professionals and Talent Search Firms that look at that job requisition as the absolute truth regarding the requirements for this role. They are tasked with finding a single human being that based on this possibly mythical requisition is expected to meet this criteria. Why? (If you don’t know revisit the paragraph above) Remember these organizations are designed to filter out noise from the real requirements which slims the pool to non-existent many times. We could be engaged in a wild goose chase or trying to capture the fabled unicorn. This becomes readily apparent when we see experience requirements that extend beyond the date of the invention of that technology (don’t laugh it happens quite often).

The last and final phase of this insanity is realized when if we are extremely lucky, we find the unicorn and get to interview them only to be discouraged when we discover the price tag on a unicorn is not compatible with our miniature pony budget. Not to mention the worst possible outcome is that if we pony up to hire the unicorn only to find out that they are unhappy due to the actual work challenge not fulfilling the level of their talent. Even worse if they turn out to be a paper lion occupying expensive real estate on our team and we find ourselves wanting to manage them out of the organization. If all of this seems fictional to you now is a good time to exit. If you have seen this movie before stay with me.

We see these sentiments perpetuated in statements about lack of talent shrouded in the guise of a “skills gap” like the recent gaff by Well Fargo CEO, Charles Scharf (click here to read more). What we don’t see as much are commitments from enterprises, like ours, to building this talent. I expressed this in a recent Fox interview featuring U.S. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia (click here to read more) who supports apprenticeship as a viable means to build a skilled workforce. It is easy to concede “we just can’t find the talent“, but that’s what takes me back to the question “what does that cost you?”. I wrote a white paper (click here to download) several years back that describes the issue as a “learning gap” which can be rationalized when we let potential candidates discover the shortest path to getting their career started and then continue to scaffold their way to success. We call this continual improvement process “Learn to Earn” (click here for video link)! The key component that we are using and offering to others is KnowWon (codenamed RTriad.PRO), the world’s 1st learning and career development community as the vehicle for this process. Our company, RTriad and our registered apprenticeship program are offering “proof” that KnowWon works! It is not enough to suggest costly training and certifications that might result in you landing a high paying job. This often results in candidates expending large amounts of time and energy only to be met with rejections from employers citing objections like “you don’t have any experience“. This is true insanity; doing the same things over and over looking for a different result. Human beings struggle to learn in isolation, so we look at how to pull people together in a community of learners to foster greater success and acceleration towards their goals.

I would not have taken you this far into the asylum if I didn’t have an escape route planned. In a rational world, we are innovating ways for potential candidates and career seekers to “window shop” by attending free calls that we call Ninja calls where we offer exposure to experts and enthusiasts in that same space to build social capital. We also seek to uncover through gentle immersion if this career interests them. We host the calls on Tuesday (Cybersecurity), Wednesday (Career) and Thursday (Cloud / DevOps) at 7 PM Eastern Time with career vets, novices and those seeing these careers for the first time.

When participants decide that they would like to pursue a career in cloud computing or cybersecurity, they can opt in to our free Pre-Apprentice program (click here to apply). This program is designed to help provide a structured approach to reaching a Microsoft Cloud credential, AZ-900 Azure Fundamentals as a way to demonstrate serious career pursuit beyond mere interest. The learning model is free online training provided by Microsoft (click here to learn more) and other flipped classroom resources coupled with study groups and weekly contact with experts in Ninja calls.

The next level is limited in scope primarily due to our ability to identify and deliver security related services. We are looking to build our pipeline of work, like security assessments and workshops to help those managers understand the work skills required to solve those business problems we mentioned earlier that are not likely to reside in a single person. It might make more sense to procure the services of experts (unicorns) for short duration to help rationalize and prioritize the work (in projects) required to produce the business outcomes within reasonable time frames and at realistic costs. Finally, we may be able to quantify reasonable talent levels that can be found in existing humans to fill the multitude of empty roles in cloud and cybersecurity. We call this “building a cloud army“.

Of course alone we cannot scale to the magnitude of the challenge in the marketplace. But, we seek to be a model agency of how to deliver “Talent as a Service” as the future of work, e.g. the Gig Economy. If we can find enterprises suffering from this issue and willing to invest in cultivating talent that cannot be found in existing talent pools, then we need you to purchase subscriptions in the KnowWon community. It provides a wealth of connected learning and development experiences for both your experts and novices to build the talent. Perhaps you would like to sponsor Ninja calls that focus on your specific technology and attract an audience eager to build their careers using that technology. We also need sponsors for events we callTest Drives” where people learn a marketable cloud skill in a few hours.

If your business is a consumer of technology and has focus on a different line of business, consider my earlier question, “what does that cost you?”. Perhaps you are looking to acquire talent in cybersecurity or cloud, but don’t have the bandwidth or resources to start your own apprenticeship program. You can become an employer partner with us and invest in increasing our capacity to build talent that you can select from.

Build vs. Buy has been a mainstream conversation for a long time in business, particularly as it relates to information technology and human resources. I suggest that the real barrier between the people you need to solve your business challenges and actually receiving that solution may rest in two flawed perceptions.

  1. The job may actually be more accurately expressed as a series of activities rather than a single person, see diagram above.
  2. The job requisition may not have any relation in reality to the actual work needed to reach your business goals.

Consider this a therapy session that could be the first in transforming your business. Make us your technology partner in rational thought and discourse.  #AskRTriad