Hiring vs. training: 6 things IT managers need to know

By Rich Hein , CIO |  IT Management

In a recent article we looked at doing a skill assessment of your IT teams and it raised a question that IT managers and CIOs have to deal with regularly. When do you hire and when do you train and groom internal IT professionals to take over the future needs of the business?

The answer will vary depending on a number of variables, but to help sharpen the focus we collected these questions the expert say you need to ask to make the train or hire decision.

1. How much time do we have to fill the gap that's been identified? "If we have plenty of time, it makes sense to train someone from the inside. On the other hand, if this is gap that needs to be filled immediately, says Rachel Russell, director of marketing at TEKsystems, "you've got to go the hiring route."

2. Is this a skills problem or a bandwidth problem? For example, says Russell, "I have people with this skill today but I only have three of them and in order to take on the workload the business requires of me I'm going to need 10. Then all the training in the world won't solve your capacity problem, you're going to need to hire."

3. Is it experience that's needed or skills?Sometimes companies just need or want someone in a role who has done this kind of work before and understands the industry at a deeper level.

4. How large is the gap? Does an employee need only a moderate amount of training and grooming to get to the next level or is the gap so large that it might take him a few years to get there.

"If it's a small gap you've got to go the training route. That is what motivates and inspires your people and lets them know that you see where they are at, you support their career efforts and support them as an organization," says Russell.

5. Does the gap represent a short-term or a long-term need? If you only to need a certain skill set to get from point "A" to point "B" then training probably wouldn't make sense.

"If the skill is one that will only be needed for a fixed period of time, and will not be needed long-term, vendor partners are an appropriate stop-gap," says Peter High author of the book, World Class IT: Why Businesses Succeed When IT Triumphs and founder of Metis strategy, a CIO advisory firm.

6. Is the gap valuable only in tandem with institutional knowledge? That is, does this gap require more than skills and experience? "Does it also need an extensive background on your internal systems to apply this skill to the organization? If so, then training makes sense to make sure you get someone with that institutional knowledge," says Russell.

A lot depends on the actual role itself and there are a lot of variables. "Higher-level skills and expertise may just be easier to purchase. Unfortunately, in today's market you're going to pay a hefty price. However, it could save you years in trying to attain those technical skills and bringing those people up," says Eric Garrison, director of learning at Benchmark Learning, a company that specializes in IT skills assessment and training.

Rich Hein is a senior writer for CIO.com. He covers IT careers. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, on Facebook, and onGoogle +.

Read more about careers in CIO's Careers Drilldown.

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