When it comes to building an IT talent pipeline, Claire Dudley from QA Ltd, says culture, engagement, and continuous learning enable are all important considerations.

Technology has established its place as a central engine for business growth and companies in all sectors are looking to drive digital transformation to unlock innovation, productivity, and progress. However, many are finding that the main challenges they face aren’t strictly technology-related but rather about finding and retaining the right IT talent to consistently deliver on project demands.

IT talent pipelines have emerged as a key strategic concern for IT leaders like CIOs, CTOs and technical architects, as well as L&D and HR directors. As competition for the limited number of candidates with high-demand skills increases, many IT leaders are finding it harder than ever before to fill critical roles with high-calibre candidates. Securing executive buy in and establishing the strategic importance of IT within an organisation can often be just as challenging.

To solve this problem, companies need to think about the internal and external factors that are impacting their ability to build the right teams. A critically important starting point is shifting organisational thinking to seeing IT as a strategic driver rather than a support function.

Here are some steps IT leaders can start taking today.

Making the strategic case for your IT talent pipeline

The ongoing drive for digital transformation means that IT has started to be seen as an agent for change and a value generator. But amongst the board and within HR and development teams, their approach may still centre on plugging capability gaps as they appear rather than investing in a talent pipeline that develops skillsets over the longer term.

Technology roles often don’t involve the same career paths as non-technology hires. While sales or administrative workers may aim to reach management level, tech talent is often focused on advancing their skills and remaining as a practitioner. Careers spent working in agile environments and cross-functional teams also make more traditional development pathways increasingly irrelevant for tech talent.

Many companies are realising that they need to start with people and then build architecture around them. This requires the right leadership and investment; it also means changing the way IT operates within businesses.

There is no single template for success but the following three steps can help build the strategic case for your IT talent pipeline and make it easier to build a high performing tech team through both recruitment as well as upskilling and retraining existing staff:

1. Resource on driving revenue

Reducing the size of commodity IT operations and adopting automation and outsourcing of infrastructure to the cloud, could provide IT leaders the space and extra resources needed to build a DevOps platform, for example.

The focus would be on upskilling team members to boost DevOps and cloud skillsets, as well as adapting operations to support product teams and more agile ways of working. This would allow the IT function to harness automation and scalability.

2. Transform system and application architectures

This approach creates clear entry-level positions, as existing developers and architects are tasked with new technologies aimed at increasing the delivery and reliability of business systems. Entry-level individuals can be brought in or reskilled from redundant business areas to boost capabilities for key projects, using training and ‘on-the-job’ experience to boost their skills.

3. Move from project teams to product teams

The aim of this approach is to adopt a culture of continuous improvement and skillset expansion to match the evolving features of products, as well as adapting to changes in the commercial environment. This may require more mid-level team member roles to be created, such as scrum masters and platform engineers, as well as ongoing technology and job training for existing teams.

All three of these routes require an approach that goes beyond training technical skills. They involve aligning the IT talent pipeline closely with the larger strategy and using upskilling, reskilling and hiring to plug skills gaps and enable new capabilities. As competition for technical skills increases, companies that can foster their in-house talent create value, differentiate themselves and ensure a healthy and productive IT talent pipeline.

Attracting and retaining top tech talent

To find, hire and retain the best and brightest, IT leaders need to expand beyond standard recruitment processes and promote their digital maturity, culture, and purpose to bring in top tech talent.

Embracing diversity

Creating and nurturing an innovative working environment that supports transformation means bringing in diversity of experience, perspectives and ‘soft skills’.

“Diversity is no longer a challenge that needs solving, but rather an opportunity to increase profitability and create well rounded, autonomous teams.”

Claire Dudley, QA Ltd

For IT leaders and HR teams, this means casting the net more widely and trying some new approaches.

It’s worth considering partnering with specialist providers of tech talent, as they will have relationships in place with academic institutions and a range of special interest groups to help you reach and connect with a much wider audience of potential candidates.

Creating the right culture

Culture is hard to define, yet it’s a crucial aspect of creating an IT talent pipeline. More so than in other professions, IT talent looks for flexibility and wants to work for companies that will nurture and support their talent. This is where upskilling has the potential for positive long-term impact. While there is no magic bullet for fostering a culture of innovation and loyalty, creating a sense of shared purpose is a common theme among success stories.

Also crucial in creating strong cultures is fostering a sense of continuous learning and breaking out of silo mentalities. This means encouraging knowledge sharing and honest, open communication about success and failures. Nurturing a problem-solving mentality and building team members’ confidence to take risks and experiment can lead employees to develop new ideas and drive the business forward.

Upskilling the talent you have

Viewing your employees as knowledge workers rather than task workers is what’s needed to implement effective upskilling and increase employee satisfaction. Successful upskilling also requires engaged leaders and management who understand and appreciate the drivers behind it.

Firstly, it is important to know which skills gaps can be tackled either through internal skills development or redeployment. Creating flexible learning journeys that blend in-person and digital learning, as well as group learning, can be effective ways of plugging skills gaps quickly. When employees with similar levels of experience learn together, it can help strengthen culture and shared purpose as well as helping develop character skills like leadership.

Using technology

Talent pipeline automation can help companies keep a pool of properly assessed candidates, based on a company’s specific selection criteria. These AI solutions are designed to increase the productivity of your sourcing and hiring process and can accelerate time-to-hire, while also reducing costs.

Supporting knowledge workers

Every company has a different level of digital maturity and is at a different stage in its transformation journey. Creating a robust pipeline can come with complex challenges that require large amounts of time and internal resources. A strategic partnership with a business training and skills provider can help companies take a more strategic approach to filling their skills gaps.

From initial recruitment using AI driven assessments, customisable training and reskill programmes, to providing ongoing learning programmes, a training provider such as QA can help identify and find the right people for the right roles and help implement a culture of continuous learning and skills development.

Building the tech talent and the culture needed to drive transformation and create value calls for companies to look at the way they work, the way they think about career progression and the position IT holds within their organisation.

Innovative approaches like this are already critical for companies facing challenges to their growth ambitions due to skills shortages. And, with the competition for tech talent set to increase at an even greater rate over the coming years, companies need to act now to build an effective IT talent pipeline to deliver innovation and growth.

It’s no longer about reacting to skills gaps, but proactively building a committed, engaged and skilled workforce.