November 22, 2010, 5:10 PM — The potential for losing tech talent is on the rise these days. Thanks to an uptick in IT hiring and an increase in retirements among baby boomers, your A-team employee lineup may be in danger.
Rather than getting caught without star performers, you must constantly think in terms of establishing bench depth and grooming the key players of tomorrow, CIOs and other experts say. But with so much on IT managers' plates these days, it can be hard to make succession planning a top priority.
Succession Planning 101
Definition: Succession planning ensures that vital positions in an organization have qualified internal candidates ready to step into key roles, reducing the risk of business disruption from talent loss.
Best practices: Think about positions two to three years into the future and tie succession planning to the organization's long-term goals. Companies typically do this for top executives, but they should also identify hard-to-replace technical people like IT specialists and engineers. Managers should assess whether candidates are ready to move up, identify any skill gaps, and provide training and/or special assignments to fill those gaps.
Tools: There are "talent management" software products that attempt to automate the process by giving managers a place to define job requirements, collect information about potential candidates and match potential candidates to higher-level jobs.
Source: Forrester Research Inc.
However, while "succession planning" or "bench strength" may not resonate much with IT managers, the concept of risk mitigation does, says Diane Morello, an IT management analyst at Gartner Inc.
When succession planning is put in terms of what's at risk -- the smooth operation and future development of IT systems that are indispensable to the company -- IT managers become more willing to make the time to identify rising stars and provide the necessary training, education and mentoring for tomorrow's leaders. And once that priority is established at the CIO level, Morello says, succession planning becomes a priority more readily throughout the rest of the department.
At Prudential Financial, CIO Barbara Koster is keenly aware of the risk to the IT department's credibility, should some key talent retire or be hired away.