Saturday, April 17, 2010


Enterprise Architecture: Hiring Top Talent Worst Practices

Not a day goes by where some IT executive isn't talking about the need to hire and retain the best talent. Sadly, their mantra doesn't match their actions...

Let's start with an analysis of the hiring process which usually is kicked off by writing a buzzword laden job description that is chock-a-block filled with lots of terminology but otherwise lacks substance. This description is then posted on the company website and various job boards ranging from Monster to DICE and then the game of sitting back waiting for people to apply begins.

Ask yourself is this truly the way to find the best and brightest? Of course not! Top talent traditionally doesn't spend a lot of time searching job boards and instead prefer to be recruited. Now ask yourself does the recruiting arm of your company actually have the ability to properly find talent especially in situations where they aren't visiting job boards?

As an IT executive, should your enterprise architecture team have a strategy around social media that goes above and beyond using channels such as blogs and twitter to post one-way heavily sanitized public relations communications that no one reads? Should enterprise architecture figure out ways to help out your recruiting staff to writing compelling 140-character twits with the right hashtags in the community which top talent resides.

Taking this theme one step further, should recruiters actually be recruiting? Let's acknowledge that top talent is frequently contacted by intermediaries better known as recruiters who know nothing about the position other than what the job description says. Wouldn't it be better if executives didn't outsource the requirement to find talent to others and took this on for themselves?

So, let's take a hypothetical example of recruiting in the world of industry analysts. Imagine you work for Gartner and you wanted to recruit top analysts such as Brenda Michelson of Elemental Links, James Governor of Redmonk, Richard Veryard or even Richard Mogull and you sent some no name recruiter to establish a conversation. What to you think the odds would be of success? Now, if you could say have Gideon Gartner perform the same activity, do you think many more would be willing to at least listen?

The funny thing about enterprise architecture and those who are enterprise architects is that they tend to participate in multiple communities and have insight into ways to interact with them that aren't shared by many other demographics in the enterprise. What could recruiters learn from their observation of how enterprise architects network? For example, in terms of my background, you will find me deeply participating in communities related to not only enterprise architecture, but also security & privacy, BPM, SOA, cloud and networking yet how often am I ever asked how to best reach these communities by IT executives when it comes to recruiting from them? For those who will get it twisted, me isn't really all about me but the fact that there are dozens of people just like me within your own enterprise whose body of knowledge isn't being leveraged to find top talent.

The discipline of finding top talent doesn't just extend to employees and is equally applicable to the world of outsourcing. How many times have you interacted with an outsourcing firm (e.g. Wipro, Cognizant, TCS, Infosys, etc) or even a global consultancy (e.g. Accenture, CapGemini, BearingPoint, etc) where you were sold an individual yet over time you didn't get exactly what you expected? While you have outsourced responsibility for delivery, does this relieve you from ensuring that your business operates at maximum efficiency? Have you considered that the best way to ensure a successful outcome is to manage talent regardless of where it resides?

In my day job, when working with outsourcing vendors I take personal responsibility for ensuring that I get the best talent available from the firm. Instead of just sitting back and reviewing resumes I prefer to instead proactively figure out who is the best talent within these firms and ask for them by name.

While most firms do their best to hide their talent in this regard, there are many ways to discover them if you are tech-savvy. Consider the scenario where one is seeking a developer knowledgable in web application security. In this scenario, I may use the community to help guide my decision and have been known to ask members of the Open Web Application Security Project who attends their local chapter meeting from these firms. Wouldn't it make good business sense or at least is a predictor of success when comparing candidates to choose the one who will spend their own time learning about their craft over ones who don't?

Another bad practice in recruiting top talent is to discuss salary way too early in the conversation. Too many recruiters arbitrarily filter out good candidates simply because of their current salary. If I make $150K a year and am applying for a position that pays $250K a year, does that automatically make me unqualified for the position. Instead of focusing on what the candidate currently makes, why not focus on whether the candidate can do the job and what the position is worth? Having a first conversation that involves uncomfortable conversations around salary simply are getting started on the wrong foot. We need to focus on passion more than compensation.

Isnt it fascinating that a large enterprise can outsource work around the planet but can't hire top talent and allow them to work from home? If you have to be with a company for a significant period before you are allowed to work from home sends a bad message. Minimally it indicates that you are immature in measuring productivity and rely on soft factors. It also indicates that you truly aren't serious about finding top talent and simply desire occupationalists who will resort to clock punching once the face time clock has elapsed. Sadly, by not considering people in other geographic areas, you are doing a disservice to your enterprise by not letting it transition from good to great...

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