Montreal is an amazing city with exceptional universities, but even in that environment, it’s not easy to grow a team of highly skilled innovators. And grow we must as there is great demand for innovative technology services in Quebec.
Finding skilled labour is a problem across Canada. We recently asked Canadian industry leaders about this issue and more than half said it poses a barrier to their business growth. (http://ibm.biz/canadaskills). IBM encounters the same issue. The IBM Client Innovation Centre Montreal (CIC) has existed for less than a year, but is already under tremendous pressure to expand from the current 120 employees to 500 in the next four years.
How are we working on this challenge? I’d like to highlight three strategies we are using to build the skills we need for today and tomorrow.
1. Hire for potential and build the skills
From the inception of the Montreal Client Innovation Centre, our strategy has been to attract enthusiastic, talented individuals, and then commit to their ongoing training. New employees join the team with degrees in computer science, software development or business. We then work with them to enhance their skills in technologies such as SAP support and Oracle development. This includes formal education, coaching and on-the-job training. It’s a win-win for everyone as these skills improve individual career options and support the innovation agenda of our clients.
2. Cultivate leaders and let them shine
Roughly half of our employees are recent grads with less than two years of experience. If you join as a more senior professional you are expected to share your knowledge and experience. All new employees are assigned a coach or mentor to help them become more easily integrated into the business, and ramp up new skills. This skills transfer is essential and through it we can identify future leaders.
Another exciting outcome is our ability to find hidden skills. All our employees are bilingual, but we’ve discovered that our multicultural team speaks 17 different languages. This represents another leadership opportunity as we can anticipate providing technical innovation services in multiple languages.
3. Take a risk and anticipate the future
Anticipating the future is not as abstract as gazing into a crystal ball. It’s about listening – to clients, to industry and technology trends, and to our employees who are on the front lines.
Not long ago, a group of employees identified the need to build their analytics skills. This area represents rich opportunities for Canadian business so we’ve assigned a coach and have begun to offer training. There’s always risk when trying to predict future business demands, but as the Latin proverb states “Fortune favours the bold.” In anticipation of new opportunities, employees are building skills in DevOps practices, automation garages, Salesforce, Workday, quality assurance testing, and data science.
“In just over seven months, I have become a consultant helping clients understand the Workday mindset and how it will benefit their business,” said recent University of Montreal graduate Benoit Lamarche. “This has been an amazing experience to enhance my own career.”
Technology is changing our business environment so rapidly that standing still quickly leads to obsolescence. The future of innovation in Montreal will require an ongoing commitment to building new skills for both the employee and employer.