Cure for enterprise IT recruiting ills? Open-source software

Though CIOs like to talk about the “top talent” they have working for them, too often they’re unable to recruit or retain the best people, as Stefan Dietrich notes on CITO Research. Recruiting the best people isn’t a matter of paying the highest salaries, as Dietrich argues, but rather a matter of creating the right environment:

Today's IT departments have too often become unattractive to top talent because they offer a weak product in terms of work and people. To attract today's top talent, IT departments need to provide an environment where top talent meets other top talent for learning and growth, where the challenges are daunting and they can have a significant impact, and where there is a good balance between developing new skills and putting established skills to work. If this environment offers a clear path to a career-advancing role in a company, the best people will arrive and attract others of the same caliber.

Fine. But since a CIO needs to start somewhere, what should be her first step? Dietrich describes something of a chicken-and-egg problem - the best people want to work with the best people - without offering a specific prescription for how to encourage the first trickling in of “best people.”

So let me offer a specific, actionable suggestion: use more open-source software.

Today’s developers heavily rely on open-source software, whether running it in the cloud or on their servers or laptops. Smart companies have figured this out.

Take Netflix, for example. Adrian Cockcroft, Netflix’s cloud architect, tells GigaOm: “We're in competition with the other big companies in the Bay Area, [like] Google and Facebook, but we like very senior people for our relatively small team.” The online video pioneer therefore aggressively open sources its code to signal to would-be employees that it’s a great place to do innovative work.

Twitter, Facebook, and other savvy companies do the same. But so do more traditional companies like ESPN and AllState, as Business Insider reports.

So should you.

By all means, throw money and perks at prospective employees. They’ve got to pay their rent. But if you really want to hire the best people, you need to let them build applications using the hottest open-source technologies, whether MongoDB, Hadoop, HTML5, Puppet, etc. Consigning them to a life of dreary administration of that “off-the-shelf” Business Intelligence solution, or yesterday’s ERP tool? That’s not going to entice the kind of people you want.

Tagged with: open source, MongoDB, recruiting, CITO Research