Talent Retention and Development - Why it Matters to the CIO

11/10/2013 12:54 BST | Updated 23/01/2014 23:58 GMT

In my last post, I looked at the struggles CIOs face in linking technology with business strategy and assessed some key areas they need to consider in order to overcome the challenges they face. Over the next few months, I plan to evaluate each of these areas in turn but today I'm starting the process by examining the key issue of talent retention and development.

This will become increasingly important for CIOs and senior managers alike. Businesses are moving from traditional on-premise client-server architectures to more flexible next-generation IT models based on purchasing services through the cloud or as part of an on-demand model.

As they do so, we are seeing a transition in the skills required for both the CIO and their teams to procure or deliver the services that their business and more specifically their customers will need in the future. The blunt fact is, existing IT staff may not necessarily have the right skills to cope in these kinds of environments.

In the past, most CIOs would have had a number of technical staff in their teams dedicated to 'keeping the lights on' existing and legacy infrastructure. As they move to a model through which their organisation is purchasing IT services from a third party through the cloud, the demand for that kind of technical skillset will inevitably decline.

CIOs will instead be seeking out specialists in relationship and service management - and in particular in managing third party relationships effectively. It's a completely different requirement. That doesn't necessarily mean however that they should simply discard their existing IT staff. Instead, they need to look at re-skilling. How can they find a way of developing the staff they have? How can they change them from being predominantly technical to being service and relationship driven?

They will first need to change their own outlook and approach and the way they are perceived across the organisation. Most CIOs themselves come from purely technology backgrounds. They need to become more commercially focused so they have to feed into the overall business strategy.

With their own 'house in order', they can start to focus more on the needs of their team. Training and employee development are key here.

These areas may not be the direct responsibility of the CIO, but CIOs do need to play their part in the process by insisting that their teams update and enhance their skills on a regular basis. Specifically, they will want to encourage a focus on areas like more proactive benchmarking for team members, delivering better incentives and looking at how they target and develop people rather than simply telling them to go on a training course and come back with certain skills.

The key here is to make the training courses relevant to the business itself. This is what we have done at Bull with our Pamplona programme, where all the work done by course attendees can be specifically applied to their own jobs once they return to the business.

Of course, nurturing talent over the long-term is equally important. Organisations need to ensure they are giving employees the right skills and platforms to drive the business forward in line with their strategic goals. Employee morale is enhanced by giving staff a stronger stake in the company's long-term planning and the business gains too as this approach lays the foundation for long-term talent management and succession planning. The opportunity for employees to contribute directly to the company's long-term success improves their sense of belonging and significantly drives up staff retention levels.

It is clear that the world of business is changing. Disruptive new technologies like big data and software defined networking, have revolutionised the way business is done and the role the IT team plays in delivering that business. CIOs need to get wise to the need to change both their own role and that of the staff they manage. Talent retention and development will be key to their success in doing so.