Interesting scenario this week.
A client asked us to find an IT Project Manager.
Simple enough, we have a live database of interviewed talent and we maintain regular contact with them. What's more, we have a relationship with the client that is based on a deep understanding of their culture and business goals. Matching the two up is fairly straightforward!
Then I asked this question, "What would it mean for your business if you got this next hire right?"
During the ensuing conversation, it became clear that what was needed here was not a regular, 'keep the lights', 'get the job done' Project Manager. They were looking for THE strategic project leader who would take the business to new levels through IT change ... and I knew just the person.
This is a recurring issue in recruitment generally, but in IT especially.
Firms with outlandish and audacious business goals often lack a similar zest and passion when it comes to hiring the talent to achieve them. There could be many reasons for this, it could be that due to the often quoted "IT skills shortage" companies settle for who they can get, it may be that recruitment is not considered an exciting part of business life (few, it seems, relish a day of back to back interviews) or it could be that managers are already busy enough, well, managing ... so they don't have sufficient time to think about who they'd like to attract and why. It could be a combination of these reasons and many, many others besides.
Think about it for a moment.
How do you approach hiring? Do you put up a job board or ask a recruiter to find you an X, a Y or a Z.
Or do you give some serious, proper, measured thought to what that new X, Y or Z could bring to your business and its strategy?
If you take the first approach you are almost certainly working on the wrong problem.
Take the client above, finding them a Project Manager would have been easy and the person hired would have done a good job. We don't maintain contact with anyone who wouldn't do a good job.
BUT Finding them THE Project Manager required stripping away the recruitment 'double-talk' and unpacking what the business was REALLY trying to achieve with the hire. The person we placed with this business quickly established what the company mission was, what tools and resources were available, where the project portfolio status, even how to work the most complicated coffee machine I've ever seen. She was so driven by a desire to succeed that she instantly started to see new solutions and opportunities.
So, A Project Manager would have done a job but THE Project Manager was transformational.
Next time you recruit, which would you prefer? OK ... Stupid question so how do you achieve THE hire? Four tips coming up but first ...
... let's debunk some myths.
Search Google for "IT skills shortage UK" and you get over a million results telling you that because of Brexit, or because of lack of training, or because of declining numbers of IT graduates, or because of the political climate ... there is a massive cyber skills gap. It reads like a bunch of poor excuses to me.
Sure, it's hard to recruit but I don't believe that there's a shortage of talent. Even if there was, isn't that just a greater reason to approach the process from a business strategy aligned perspective?
1 - Have a clear shopping list before you enter the market?
How much more do you end up spending when you go to the supermarket without a list? How often do you go in to buy fabric conditioner and come out with a bottle of prosecco and kettle chips, because they were on offer, and forget to buy the thing you went in for? However, when you go in with a list and tick off the items one by one you return home satisfied and having spent considerably less.
So ... Be laser focused on who you are trying to attract and why. Write that shopping list!
2 - Know where you are!
Technically speaking, the IT skills required by a start-up firm and those needed by a company recruiting because of growth are roughly similar. However, the attitudes required may be very different. The challenges and pressures may require very different mindsets ... for instance ... a startup requiring 12 hours days and working weekends and a Project Manager with a family might not be well matched.
Openness and honesty around these things, from all sides, will maximise the business impact of your new hire. Often, openness is missing though ... the out of work PM wants the gig ... the recruitment firm wants its commission ... the hiring company needs to fill the strategic vacancy! Being unclear on expectations usually leads to friction THAT diminishes the return on your recruitment investment!
Earlier this year, having gained "where you're at" insight, a colleague advised a potential client that they would be better off hiring temporary talent through the Project Management as a Service rather than adding to their headcount at this time. He missed out on commission – this time. BUT when that client’s growth continues to a level where upscaling their projects team is viable, I know whose phone will ring first.
Right, so you know where you ... now ...
3 - Know who you are!
Knowing who you are, means being aware of your business' culture and hiring to suit.
If you're using a recruitment partner insist that they first get to know who you are ... ask them how they go about achieving a cultural fit!
I've seen blank faces from clients asked about their business culture! When you consider how many hours you spend at work, effectively living eight, nine or ten hours a day in a micro-society, it is crucial that you know your culture and that you communicate it in your recruitment efforts.
When you've worked that out all these wheres, whats, whos and whys, consider ...
4 - Which tools are you using?
Having decided what THE right hire looks like, you need to be sure that you look for them in the right place.
Much of the greatest talent has migrated towards platforms that offer the best opportunities. That's where you need to head too. In other words, if they’re signed up with a specialist IT recruitment firm and you're using a more general recruiter, you may miss out.
I think one of the biggest reasons why many companies report an IT skills shortage is because they are using outdated search tools and looking in the wrong place.
In conclusion ...
There's a reason why "a" is called the indefinite article. When you ask for "a" project manager ... you pay your money and take your chance ... your ROI is, well, indefinite.
However, when you approach recruitment with a view to hiring THE project manager, the definite article, you increase your odds of maximising the business value of that hire. And, after all, isn’t that what you’re in business for?!
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