Repost 2012: CIO’s Tech Grads Don’t Want to Work for You

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We all generally agree that the capability of our enterprise technology functions is driven by the quality and experience of our staff. It’s hard to get “good people” and important to retain them once they are in the door. To develop the technology leaders of the future, we hire talented technology graduates in order to identify and develop these future leaders.

In the last 5 years, something significant has changed, on recruitment days at universities , CIO’s/recruiters of major enterprises are finding that the Tech grads who used to come flocking to them are not as keen as they once were to join a large enterprise IT shop. Recently, a prominent financial institution CIO lamented that was the direct feedback being received on campus when they visited.

Whats Changed?

The way we deliver technology services in large scale technology shops, particularly in the financial sector (historically a significant consumer of IT grads) has changed significantly in the last 5 years. The drive to rationalise and reduce cost to serve means significant changes in enterprise technology operating models including functions being outsourced or operated offshore in lower cost countries. The roles that will be available within large scale technology shops to those graduates as they exit the graduate induction program reflect this change in large scale technology service delivery model.

The change however is not just within enterprise IT, its also about the evolution (some would say revolution) of technology’s use within mainstream society and  changes in the image of what being a technologist means. IT Grads of today have been drawn to work in technology often on the back of stories from Google, Apple, Facebook. The acceleration of rapid development of technology products/services in the “start up” culture all generate an excitement around being a technologist and have popularised that image – its’s cool to be a geek! A recent WIRED magazine article gives insight into this (Click link to view).

Outcome? Mismatch

The outcome of the changes in the way we delver large scale enterprise technology services and the kind of roles that recent technology graduates are looking for; their view of what it means to be a “technologist”, has lead to a mismatch. This is why enterprise IT shops are facing a “diminishing level of interest” from todays technology graduates; who are looking for something different and have an alternate view of what it means to be a technologist.

The realities of the current economic cycle in 2012 means that in many countries, the size of graduate intakes within enterprise IT shops has either been static or declined. The immediate impacts of this mismatch in expectations has been reduced – however as every economist will tell you, that is not going to last forever. The underlaying issues, this mismatch between what being a technologist within a major enterprise IT shop and the expectation and desires of IT graduates need to be reconciled – the “war for talent” is ever present.

An Idea or two…

The real question is what can enterprise IT shops learn from this alternative view of what it means to be a “technologist”? While the traditional view would be that the image of a Facebook style “hackathon” is not compatible with the reality of many enterprise technology operating models there are opportunities to learn from this model and apply it. Standing back and taking a look, a number of ideas stand out:

Small teams achieve big things: The ability of a small team of individuals to understand and tackle an issue or build a product or develop an idea. The “start-up” approach is taking smart people, focused on something and delivering amazing outcomes.

Rapid time to market: A significant feature of the “start-up” culture is rapid time to market. Considering that working over a weekend or a few days to deliver something significant , even in prototype form can be an incredibly productive and personally satisfying experience. Could significant long standing process or technical issues be solved or opportunities explored by an “event” based activity that provided defined time periods for execution and rewards for successful completion?

Value and recognise innovation/creativity: Too often today within enterprise technology shops with our focus on controls to deliver our “5 nines service” at a particular price point, we have squeezed the innovation and creativity (some may say fun?) out of the business of technology. Within large enterprise technology functions we need to build in systems and processes which capture and reward innovation and creativity. Peer recognition is a significant feature of the more “progressive” technology career options your prospective graduates are considering.

Conclusion

The competition for “good people” that your organisations success in the future will be built on is real and ever present. To be considered within that “100 best places to work in IT”  – large enterprise technology shops are going to have to consider carefully and be intentional how they respond to these competitive forces and drive that change in perception. In my view – this is a good thing for enterprise technology shops, forcing us to re-look at how we deliver products and services and recognise and value our talented staff.

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