November 5, 2020

HR Strategy for Your IT Department — a 3-Step Guide (+ Example)

How to find and keep talented IT workers despite the skills shortage.

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8 out of 10 executives see the skills shortage as a critical challenge for the economy. We agree.

Imagine your lead-programmer quits. They have a deep understanding of your company's technology stack, the project and the client. If you don't find a new lead-programmer soon, you are faced with the unfortunate reality of delaying the project (or in the worst case, even cancelling it). Companies facing this problem often make the mistake of rushing the hiring process because they desperately need a replacement set-of-hands.  The danger here, of course, is that they might not live up to your standards, and in the end, no one is happy: neither the worker, nor you, nor your client.

Does that sound familiar to you? If not, you’re fortunate. More and more IT departments face such problems in today’s digital age.

To prepare for these circumstances, and put out all future fires before they even occur, you need a solid HR strategy for your IT department.

We will show you how to develop one in 3 simple steps, including examples.

But first, let’s define what an HR strategy is and who needs to have one.

What Is Meant by HR Strategy?

A HR strategy is a road-map that outlines  how to manage your workforce. It must be aligned with your overall corporate goals.

A solid HR strategy answers all the questions related to your workforce:

  • Where do I find new talent?
  • Who do I have to hire for what upcoming vacancy and when?
  • Are all employees working together efficiently?
  • How do I motivate employees?
  • What training should I offer?
  • How can I keep the best employees in the company?
  • Who do I have to fire and when?
  • Can I optimise the structure and save cost?
  • Can I outsource any work?

It’s best to maintain this strategy in a neat document that you can use as your compass whenever you need it.

Why Does the IT Department Need Its Own HR Strategy?

Different trades face different challenges, have different motivational factors, and offer a vastly different labour market. You can’t treat sales employees the exact same way you treat coders and system administrators.

In today’s market, a capable coder is in very-high demand, and could find a new company to work at in a heartbeat. Other business arms, including sales and marketing, have  lower demand for their trade, and are therefore naturally more incentivised to stay at a company. This difference is why companies have to invest more in retaining their IT employees.

You need to give some thought to the different departments in your company when you’re developing your HR strategy.

Who Needs an HR Strategy for their IT?

Our experience shows that every company with an IT department—yes, even a one-man-IT-department—benefits from having a HR strategy.

Unfortunately, our experience also highlights that most companies’ HR strategies have a lot of potential for improvement. Weaknesses in HR strategy tend to not become  a problem for a long time. But once something unexpected happens—maybe an important employee quits out of the blue— those who aren’t prepared will struggle immensely. Every company needs  a strategy to rely on.

The key takeaway here: develop an HR strategy for your IT department before you actually need it.

Step by Step Guide to a Solid IT HR Strategy 

Starting out is tough. We’ll make it as easy as possible for you with our 3-step framework.

To see the framework in action, we will use the example of a fictional web-agency called Buenoweb, and we want you to imagine yourself in the shoes of its HR manager Greg. The agency has just recently opened its doors, and Greg is supposed to develop the HR strategy. To get started, he receives the corporate strategy dossier from his boss. 

step-by-step solution for a solid IT HR strategy


Step 1: Analysis

Before you can think about developing a plan, you have to know your company’s current workforce situation in the context of your corporate strategy. Do you have the right people on board? Will it still be the right people in five years? Where is there room for improvement?

But just an inside view isn’t enough. You need to analyse your external situation as well. What’s the economic development of that trade? Are new laws being established that could affect you? Any new technologies?

Those questions are by no means exhaustive, but should get your brain’s gears turning as a starting point. For a complete analysis, we recommend using one of the well-known analytical tools like a SWOT analysis or brainstorming.

It's absolutely crucial for you to involve all relevant parties and not just do it by yourself. 

Greg starts with the analysis phase. He sets up a brainstorming session and invites his HR colleagues, his boss, and the Head of IT. Having the Head of IT here is particularly important so they can get heard and have the opportunity to influence a positive change in their department.

After a productive brainstorming session, Greg feels like he understands the status quo of internal workplace, and the situation of the employees very accurately.

Step 2: Planning

Once you know your starting point, you can begin planning your route. What do you have to do to support the corporate strategy? Do you have to recruit new talent? Do you have to outsource anything? Are you armed against potential crises?

Adaptability is key to a successful HR strategy for your IT department. Technology is evolving rapidly, and what’s standard today might already be outdated tomorrow. You will have to continuously recruit new talent and offer the right training to existing employees .

Just like in the analysis, you should invite the relevant parties to participate in this phase.

So, Greg again invites his colleagues, his boss, and the Head of IT to another meeting. They define the methods and internal processes required to take the company to where they want to be, and formalise this into documentation

Step 3: Implementation

This is the complicated step. You have to communicate your strategy precisely and clearly so that every single employee can pull in the same direction.

If a part of your strategy isn’t working, don’t be afraid to make changes to it. As you are working in IT, being flexible and agile is key!

Greg steps in front of his colleagues and boss and communicates proposed changes and internal processes for the team. 

When You’re Stuck

Are you having trouble creating a solid HR strategy for your IT department? Our framework isn’t the only one out there, and of course specific processes will vary from team to team, and company to company. In saying this, we have always had great success applying this broad 3-step strategy.

A great alternative resource for creating a HR strategy is this article by AIHR.

If you prefer our framework, we’ll be happy to assist you in developing your strategy. To get in touch, just send us an email to contact@paltron.com or call us on +49 40 80903859 006.

Conclusion

Greg's colleagues and his boss have praised the new strategy.

It even helped solve the problem faced earlier in the article . A back-end developer just submitted his letter of resignation. Without a strategy, Greg would have to collect himself, scramble to figure out what to do next, and figure out where to get a replacement on such short notice. Now, instead of sweating, Greg knows exactly where he finds the right candidate.