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IT Is Hiring More Generalists, Fewer Specialists

Over the past few years, as the use of technology and software has become more widespread in companies, and used in more and more specialist ways, IT roles became more specialized. And outsourcing only added to the phenomenon, as it carved off activities into specialisms carried out by other companies, and left in-house roles even more specialized.

But this trend is now reversing. Generalists allow IT to be faster and more adaptive, which is a good thing as digitization becomes such an important strategic priority for so many companies. In fact, digitization provides three main reasons for why generalists are now in high demand.

  1. Specialists are being left behind: The pace of digitization means that roles defined around specific technology skills expire more rapidly.
  2. Digital initiatives require IT staff with breadth and ability to flex: Initiatives in areas such as digital product development, omnichannel, and big data cut across IT domains, business areas and channels.
  3. Generalists are often better at engaging with others: Digitization requires more ability to engage with business partners. IT generalists, with more varied experience, are more likely to possess those competencies.

Four Steps to Finding More Generalists

But although the make-up of IT teams is evolving, senior IT managers need to change their approach to hiring and employee development to realize the real benefits. In fact, successful IT teams take four approaches to recruit or develop more generalists in their teams.

  1. Create diamond-shaped career paths: Instead of traditional career ladders, career paths need to be shaped like a diamond to encourage employees to combine lateral and vertical moves to reach a critical position.
  2. Establish ‘fusion teams” and other ways of organizing staff: Agile teams are a step toward a more collaborative approach to producing the right technology for a company, but when employees in the rest of the business increasingly possess technical skills, and demand for digitization is rising, there are opportunities to configure team resources in new ways that promote generalists’ development.
  3. Review your role and job descriptions to focus on learning agility: Make sure you screen candidates for the ability to adapt to new business areas, technology terrains, or changes in business strategy.
  4. Build generalist and specialist needs into longer-term workforce plans: Considering both supply and demand, identify where you will need more generalists, where you will continue to maintain specialists, and how you can expand your sources and methods to develop them.

Contributed by CEB, a best practice insight and technology company. Read more CEB blogs here.

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