Joel Capperella: Attract talent by building the IT community at large

How a 'pay it forward' approach can help your IT organization

It has long been understood that IT organizations need to invest in their employees. By continually growing their teams' skills, managers build the infrastructure of talent their companies need in order to swiftly capitalize on the latest advances in technology. And focusing on training and development also helps management engage with the workforce in a way that often leads to increased employee loyalty and lower staff turnover.

Today, internal training is just one example of what IT leaders must do to adequately nurture talent. In fact, there is a growing need to extend your development efforts beyond your current staff to the labor market as a whole.

But why should you spend time, effort and potentially dollars on people who don't work for you? Because investing in the development and engagement of all IT professionals will improve the level of talent available to your company and to the entire ecosystem in which your company does business. And when properly executed, efforts to develop outside talent can enhance your company's reputation as an employer.

That, in turn, can improve the reputation of your IT shop -- tech professionals will think of it as a desirable place to work because of your commitment to helping people move forward in their careers.

Despite those benefits, few IT leaders are actively investing in the development of outside talent. Here are three points to consider if you're wondering about the value of pursuing a broader talent outreach initiative.

Transparency. Some employers might be unwilling to educate non-employees because there's a long-standing belief that a company shouldn't discuss IT matters publicly so as not to give up a competitive advantage. Recognizing this concern, you should make a list of your company's proprietary systems and processes in order to identify the information that should truly be categorized as confidential.

It's likely that 80% of the information about the work you do and the systems you use doesn't need to be kept secret. That 80% can be shared with the larger IT talent community. What works? What has failed? What lessons have you learned? Those are the kinds of questions that outside IT professionals would like to discuss with you.

Social media. The social Web is a great vehicle for engaging the IT talent community, but few organizations are taking advantage of it. Many companies have social media strategies, but those strategies are almost always focused on customer outreach or marketing.

Establish a presence on social networks. Organize and maintain LinkedIn groups, answer questions on Quora, or create a Twitter feed for discussing specific, company-agnostic IT issues. (But remember that these efforts must adhere to your company's overall social media policy.)

Education. One way to help educate the labor market at large is to publicly share the lessons you learned from recent projects. This gives inexperienced IT professionals a sense of what it's like to work on a real project; it also gives people a glimpse of life at your organization.

Expanding IT training and education initiatives from an internal activity into an outwardly focused practice requires time and commitment, but such efforts will lead to greater engagement with the larger IT community and enhance your company's reputation among talented IT professionals.

Next: How we chose the Best Places

Joel Capperella is vice president of marketing at Yoh, a provider of high-impact talent and outsourcing services and a unit of Day & Zimmermann. For more information, visit www.yoh.com or blog.yoh.com.

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