When the work is highly technical, we often think only people who’ve followed a certain educational and career path can successfully do the job. This myopia tends to create homogenous teams made of employees with similar school and professional backgrounds.
Yet multiple studies indicate that diverse teams boost innovation and improve their companies’ financial performance more than homogenous teams, according to Roberta Rincon, PhD, senior manager of research for the Society of Women Engineers.
“People with diverse backgrounds bring different perspectives and experiences to a project, helping the team think through scenarios that may not be readily apparent,” she explains.
If recruiting team members from different disciplines delivers ROI, then CIOs, CTOs and CISOs should consider looking for talent elsewhere in the organization.
Follow this advice from Deborah Smith Cook, chief strategist at Atheseus, to get started:
- Publish career development paths. There may be an employee over in marketing who wants to make the jump to IT or infosec but isn’t sure how to do it. Show them the way by creating career development paths for positions on your side of the business to staffers who want to develop the needed skills know how to get there. “Support the paths by offering the professional development programs and certifications needed, either internally or with professional development funds,” Cook adds. This tactic has the added benefit of reducing turnover. A survey of employees who voluntarily left their jobs found that 51% of them were frustrated with their advancement and didn’t see a clear career path.
- Discourage "talent hoarding": “Who wants to share their best employees?” Cook rightfully asks. “Managers frequently thwart an employee's ambitions because they don't want to lose their best asset.” Work with colleagues in the C-suite to break down the barriers and encourage sharing and developing of top talent with other functional areas. That same survey found that 52% of employees who voluntarily left their jobs thought management or HR could have done something to keep them from going, including encouraging them to explore and develop new areas of expertise.
- Leverage internal referrals. Many companies offer a bounty to employees who refer external talent. Collaborate with your CHRO to expand that program to include internal referrals. This will help you surface candidates already working at the company. “Co-workers, maybe even better than bosses, know which ones of their co-workers have technology and IT skills,” Cook notes. “Those colleagues are the ones that everyone turns to for help. They were not hired as the ‘IT person,’ but they have skills that are valuable to the rest of the team. Provide incentives for the co-worker to refer these talented individuals into the tech positions.”
The message is clear: Don’t overlook promising internal candidates in other areas of the enterprise.
“Finding the best talent is too important to not make use of all the resources available,” Cook concludes.