I recently had the pleasure of meeting Jim Smith. Jim was speaking about an HR topic – workforce planning. I had always assumed such topics were completely irrelevant to me. I’m a hard-skilled tech person. I build things. Soft-skills and HR ideologies are a waste of time in my binary, logical world.

I was wrong.

Jim highlighted 3 planning techniques that suddenly made everything click.

1. Replacement Planning

This is the one we all know. Julian is retiring, and Ricky will take his place. Randy is being groomed for a management position. Replacement planning is an age-old concept that has been pretty well perfected in most organizations.

2. Contingency Planning

What will happen when there’s a gap in your workforce? Maybe your teams are cross-trained and can pick up the slack. Maybe you have a partner to handle overflows in work to maintain the level of service your customers expect.

3. Development Planning

Here’s the left hook no one ever sees coming. What are you doing to ensure your team is ready to handle the future? How are you actively trying to grow and sharpen the skills of your team? What are you doing to adapt and advance?

A lack of development planning within IT

I’d like to focus on #3 – development planning. I had quit one of my earlier jobs due to a frustration that was hard to describe at the time. It was as if everything was stagnating. But stagnation was not the right word – there was lots of work, and the management was very focused on trying to utilize everyone’s skills. So much so that they actually took inventory of each person’s programming skills and reorganized teams in an effort to cross-train and share legacy knowledge.

Years later, I now understand the problem. They were so focused on contingency planning that they overlooked development planning completely. Our teams were sharing skills, but not improving them. It was like we were standing still in the past. Zero time was allocated to learning new skills, exploring new tech, or brainstorming on how our systems could be improved.

Development Planning = Tech Talent

The fact is, skilled people don’t come to work because they want a slightly larger paycheck. They work because they like the challenge. Truly talented people relish the chance to improve themselves. And enabling employees to improve themselves improves the company as a whole.

Impact to Cleveland, OH

Development planning often gets overlooked within IT departments of non-tech companies. But with all the focus lately on transforming Cleveland into a tech hub, it’s imperative to remember that a new focus on development planning will be required to attract – and maintain – this sought-after tech talent.