Human Resource Management for IT Leaders, Part 2

Part 2: Hiring, Developing, and Maintaining High-Quality Talent

Human Resource Management for IT Leaders

Human Resource Management for IT Leaders, Part 2:

  • Introduction
  • Understanding Recruitment
  • Applicant Groups
  • Candidate Selection
  • Training and Development

Introduction

Although many of these concerns will be primarily addressed by your Human Resources department, it is beneficial, as an IT Leader, to understand these concepts. Understanding these concepts will help you in a number of ways:

  1. You will better understand the various decisions made by your Human Resource department – improving organizational alignment
  2. You will be better equipped to advise Human Resource staff on the unique recruiting requirements of the IT industry
  3. You will be provided with additional leadership tools with which to strengthen your business unit

Understanding Recruitment

Labor Demand

Labor demand refers to any staffing needs your business unit has now and what needs it may have in the future, say 3 – 5 years. For example, knowing that your company is seeking to expand by 50% over the next 3 years should give you a clue that you may need to increase your staff within that time as well.

There are a few things that you can do to understand the your labor demand:

  • Know your company’s vision and how your business unit will be impacted thereby
  • Know the current and forecasted turnover rate for your business unit, your company, and your industry
  • Understand the job market for your industry, in your area
  • Be aware of growing trends (e.x. new technologies that you may utilize or for which future applicant’s may be specialized)

Labor Supply

Labor supply refers to the availability of qualified applicants in your field and in your area. For example, if a nearby university launches a new Computer Science program, you may expect an influx of related professionals in your area in the next 4 – 5 years.

Understanding your labor supply can be of critical importance as it allows you to plan how to deal with regular (and irregular) turnover, business expansion, etc. Aggressive growth plans can easily be ham-stringed by staffing problems.

Things that you can do to understand your labor supply include:

  • Understanding the costs and benefits of living in your area (cost of living, tax rates, etc.)
  • Understanding the general job outlook of your area (talent is attracted to areas with a positive job outlook)
  • Understanding social conditions and demography of your area

Recruitment Objectives

Once you understand your labor supply and demand, you can begin crafting your recruitment objectives. These objectives should address any advantages or concerns exposed during your supply and demand analysis.

For example, if you find that the job supply in your area is low, you may have an objective such as: “Establish programs and incentives to increase staff retention rate.” If you determine that large percent of older staff are due for retirement within the next 5 years, you may have an objective such as: “Within five years, recruit enough entry-level staff to offset the 15% off the current workforce expected to retire within that time.”

Recruitment Sources

As an IT Leader, you may not have the final say on what recruitment sources are used by your Human Resource department. However, by knowing what methods are available, you can make informed recommendations.

Popular recruitment sources include:

  • Online/offline job boards
  • Online/offline Job Fairs
  • Job forums
  • Colleges and Universities
  • The company website
  • Walk-in applicants
  • Word of mouth
  • Etc.

It’s important that you (or the Human Resources department) keep track of what sources are producing applicants. Having this information will allow you to maximize the efficiency of your recruiting efforts.

Applicant Groups

Understanding your Yield Ratio

Your yield ratio shows the percentage of candidates, from your recruitment sources, that move on to the next stage of the hiring process.

The calculation for determining the Yield Ratio for a recruitment source, is pretty simple:

Yield Ratio = (# of candidates invited to interview / # of leads from the recruitment source) x 100%

For a simple example, lets say that 100 applications are received via an Online Job Board. Of those applicants, 60 are invited to interview. What’s the Yield Ratio?

YR = (60 / 100) x 100% = 60%

Analyzing a group of recruitment sources might yield something like this:

Target GroupYield Ratio
Online Job Boards60%
Job Fair45%
Local College8%
Walk Ins5 %

In this example, we can say that of the applicants that apply through an Online Job Board, 60% are brought in for an interview.

Determining your Target Applicant Group

Based on the information revealed through the Yield Ratio analysis, you can then choose (or recommend) a subset of recruitment sources to target.

In the above example, it would make sense to prioritize online job boards and job fairs over recruiting at the local college, or encouraging people to apply in person.

Reaching your Target Applicant Group

Once you determine your target applicant groups, you can focus on maximizing those sources. For example, you can post on additional online job boards, or plan to have recruiters attend more job fairs.

Candidate Selection

Whereas you may not be directly involved in the recruitment process, you will almost certainly be so in the selection and hiring process. Therefore, it’s important to understand the ethics and legalities that drive hiring processes.

Fairness

As you may guess, your selection process needs to be fair. There are three types of fairness that you should be aware of:

  • Distributive Fairness – the perceived fairness of the outcomes of the selection process
  • Procedural Fairness – the perceived fairness of the policies and procedures used in the selection process
  • Interaction Fairness – the quality of the interpersonal treatment during the selection process

In addition to this, you need to know that it is okay to discriminate based on applicant attributes such as experience, skills, education, etc.

However, you may not discriminate based on inclusion of any protected class. For your reference, these include:

  • Gender
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Color
  • National Origin
  • Age (over 40)
  • Physical or mental handicaps

Generally speaking, you should strive to be fair along each of these metrics. However, you should check with your Human Resources department to learn the specific selection policies for your organization.

Methods and Tests

There are a number of methods and tests that you may choose to use in candidate selection:

  • Integrity tests – questions meant to reveal the level of integrity that the candidate possesses
  • Behavioral questions – questions meant to reveal how a candidate might react to various situations
  • Skills Tests – often a hands-on test of an applicant’s skills
  • Personality Tests – often administered by a third-party, these include the Myers-Briggs, DISC Assessment, etc. These are popular in sales positions where management may benefit from knowing what type of sales techniques a candidate might successfully employ.
  • Panel Interviews – these are popular for leadership positions. The candidate interviews with various representatives from the company, often from different business units
  • Structured Interviews – the questions are predetermined and the “correctness” of the responses are used to grade the candidate
  • Unstructured Interviews – the questions are per-candidate and the responses are not formally assessed

In hiring skilled IT staff, unstructured interviews as a “First Interview” are often followed by a skills test that serves as a “Second Interview”.

For example, you may call a promising candidate and discuss the job functions with them, ask them about their experience and expertise, etc. If you feel the candidate is “strong” then you may schedule a follow up skills test. In this test, you may have them remotely log in to a testing environment and ask them to perform various functions that relate to the functions of the job. For example, you may have them create, modify, or delete Active Directory users, configure Group Policy settings, resolve a web server error, etc.

Training and Development

Although your Human Resources department may provide training and development centered around soft skills, such as communication, conflict resolution, etc. it will most likely fall to you, as the IT Leader, to provide and facilitate technical, or business-unit-specific training.

Because of this, I’ve decided to include a brief overview of some of the concepts you should consider when designing or arranging such training.

Learning Styles

There are a number of learning styles, and the list has changed over the years. Broadly speaking, however, the four primary learning styles are:

  • Visual – applies to people who learn best by seeing
  • Auditory – applies to people who learn best by hearing
  • Tactile – people who learn best with the help of tactile objects
  • Kinesthetic – people who learn best by doing

Understanding where your team members fall is important in crafting your training strategy. Unless you have a lop-sided preference among your team, the best strategy will incorporate elements from each of the major learning styles.

Learning Preferences

In additional to the four learning styles, people also have different preferences of how they like to learn. For example:

  • Discovery – these people enjoy being presented with problems wherein they can discover the solution for themselves or with minimal guidance
  • Experiential – these people enjoy having access to a safe lab or test environment wherein they can learn through experimentation
  • Observational – these people enjoy learning by seeing/hearing someone else do the work, or by having a high degree of guidance and supervision
  • Structured – these people learn best when there is a clear and dependable plan that describes what, how, and when they will learn.
  • Group – these people learn best in a group setting where they can interact with others

Most people don’t have just one learning preference, but prefer all, or any combination, of the learning preferences.

Training Objectives

When designing a training program, it is important to understand what your objectives are. For example, are you:

  • Increasing some type of knowledge?
  • Changing an attitude, building a relationship, or garnering appreciation?
  • Building a physical skill?

The objective of your training may inform the different learning styles that you cater to and preferences that you employ.

Training Methods

Finally, you need to decide how your training will be administered. There are a number of training methods that you can employ based on your training objectives, and the learning types and preferences present in your team. These include:

  • Classroom training
  • On-the-job training
  • Virtual training
  • Experiential training

Conclusion

This article covers a lot of topics, and I understand that they may not be the most “exciting” topics to IT Leaders, who are often more interested in exploring new technologies, and crafting IT strategy. However, these topics are important to understand as they can improve your leadership ability, and help position your business unit for success.

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