It seems ridiculous that organisations rarely place a value on their most important asset – their people. In IT this makes even less sense. Take a computer software company for example. The value of the business doesn’t lie in the bricks and mortar of the office building or the computer hardware within it. The real value lies in the team. That’s why organisations need to fully understand the skills and abilities they already possess.
We inhabit a fast-moving high-skills economy and no more so than in IT. Those with the right skills are in demand and can be hard to find. And our environment is constantly changing. A 2017 McKinsey report, Jobs Lost, Jobs Gained: Workforce Transitions in a Time of Automation, estimated that jobs related to developing and deploying new technology will grow in line with a potential for increased spending on technology between 2015 and 2030 of more than 50 percent. About half would be on information-technology services.
With this ever growing skills gap, new and expanding IT organisations must make the most of their existing employees, identifying the outliers with unearthed potential. Does your organisation have people with outlying skills or abilities? Do you know what they are? Are these skills being deployed in your organisation? Or are they hidden and under-utilised?
Potential not performance
In the past, organisations haven’t been very good at finding their hidden gems. The standard approach is to identify high-potential employees (or HIPOs as they are often called) and place them in an expensive talent development programme. But these so called high-potential programmes are badly named.
Tools such as KPIs and subjective management appraisals only assess current contribution. They do not help you to understand potential. This is particularly the case with outliers, whose talents often go unnoticed or not understood. Looking for HIPOs will not help you to find the exceptional programmer, unhappy and underperforming in a management role as it’s the only way to progress. Or the new team member brimming with up to date knowledge and great ideas but lacking the confidence to come forward. Your existing employees can often step up and comfortably meet those difficult to fill skills gaps.
I have a friend who already has a successful career as an emergency doctor under his belt. Now with a young family and desire for a change – and a better work life balance – he is working as a senior software developer. He is using his problem solving skills, ability to think outside the box and his calm systematic approach in much the same way that he did to save lives in the aftermath of a road traffic accident. He has taken his programming hobby and turned it into a new career. But what are the options if your employees don’t have an obvious hobby or talent to pursue?
Unlocking hidden talent
We now have the unprecedented opportunity to harness artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and the power of predictive analytics to find out where hidden talent lies. Through the use of AI, millions of data points can now be processed. Something which is beyond the abilities of even the most experienced HR professional or senior manager.
We can process and analyse hiring, workforce and external performance data to provide invaluable insights around the best fit for people’s talent and potential. Not just when they are recruited, but throughout the life-cycle of their employment, allowing you to go far beyond a CV and an annual performance appraisal. And these developments are all shaped and informed by our increased understanding of cognitive neuroscience.
Another critical aspect is how you can now identify strengths which are currently under utilised. People with potential can then be employed dynamically in the right circumstances and context. This becomes particularly important when trying to build cognitively diverse teams where change or transformation are mission critical. With the lifespan of organisations now shorter than ever before, all companies need to focus on creativity and innovation in order to survive.
Measurements can assess cognitive attributes, emotional intelligence, health & wellbeing, personality, behaviour, culture and team fit, as well as other core skills and competencies. New possibilities include advanced computer vision, which can analyse micro facial expressions and process audio recordings, video and written content. It’s an accurate, consistent and fair way of getting the right people into the right roles.
Real employee engagement
We know that employees with a good job fit are happier, more productive and loyal. This is particularly worth considering when research by Gallup shows that only 30% of workers are engaged in what they do.
Despite the high pay and well publicised perks, tech industry giants such as Amazon and Google are not immune. According to Payscale’s employee turnover report, the turnover rate among Fortune 500 companies in the IT industry is the highest among all the industries surveyed.
A possible explanation is that IT and tech companies hire smart young people. People who thrive on constant change and challenge. People who are likely to get bored quickly and move on. And in the current climate there won’t be a shortage of job offers. By providing new opportunities internally you will be holding onto a valuable asset.
The benefits of keeping good people are multiple. It’s tough out there and using your existing resource will save you money and time. As well as significantly reducing organisational risk. It’s now possible to combine statistical analysis with the latest machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence to scientifically and accurately predict current and future performance. This simultaneously creates the internal feedback loops which inform machine learning, keeping you ahead of the curve when it comes to identifying and filling your own skills gap.
By getting your people into the best roles for them, you will reduce churn and increase productivity. And by identifying the outliers in your organisation you will be tapping into an incredible (and existing) organisational resource. Are there individuals within your organisation with extraordinary abilities who could be transformative for your business? It would seem foolish not to look.
Dr. Boris Altemeyer, Chief Scientific Officer at Cognisess
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