How to Hire for Operational Resilience

    January 17, 2020

    How do you hire the best people to help your organisation be more resilient? What are the qualities and skills to look for in job candidates?

    Here's one reason why hiring talented professionals to bolster your company's resilience is a business imperative: Research firm Gartner predicts that by 2020, 75% of organisations will experience "visible" business disruptions due to a gap in infrastructure and operations skills, an increase from just under 20% in 2016.

    Recognising the need, companies are increasingly focused on hiring for resilience. In Sungard AS' recent survey of 500 C-suite professionals in U.S. companies with 500+ employees, 82% say they planned to increase business continuity recruitment this year — while 77% agree that accessing the right skills for business continuity is indeed a challenge.

    In this post, we'll share strategies and tips to help you hire top talent who can help take business resilience to the next level.

    Skills to Consider When Hiring for Business Resilience

    1. Project management skills:

    Effective resilience programs help an organisation's employees get back to where they need to be after a disruption. That means you need people in various roles who can develop and manage a series of discrete steps to prevent, minimise, and if possible, avoid disruptions — as well as to resume operations as quickly as possible afterwards. As a result, not all resilience-related roles should be focused on individuals with heavy STEM skills. You should also look to hire detail-oriented people with exceptional project management skills.

    2. Crisis communications skills:

    If a disruption occurs, you want IT and business continuity people with the ability to communicate clearly, calmly and strategically, says Karen Wentworth, Sungard AS VP of Global Corporate Communications. Crisis communications is a valuable skill for anyone in a resilience role, she adds.

    3. An understanding of the role automation plays in resilience:

    "Look for candidates who can clearly articulate how and why automation is critical to a resilient environment," says Todd Loeppke, Sungard AS Lead CTO Architect. "The skills required within an organisation to enable resilience are tools that are used as part of a continuous integration/continuous delivery pipeline (CI/CD). Knowledge of code repositories, experience with tools for deploying immutable infrastructures like Terraform and AWS CloudFormation, and familiarity with tools that automate testing and security compliance orchestrated by a pipeline tool are all critical."

    4. Personal resilience:

    Cybersecurity, business continuity, and other resilience-related jobs can be extremely stressful. And so, if a candidate doesn't exhibit signs of being personally resilient — possessing grit, determination, patience, and the ability to handle stress — he or she is probably not the best choice to play a role in your company's resilience initiatives.

    "Resilience is a skill," notes author Seth Godin, "one that's probably more valuable than most."

    In a study of 2,000 employees, those who were found to be highly resilient after completing personal resilience assessments were 46% less likely to report feeling stressed. They were also four times more likely to be highly satisfied with their jobs. On the flip side, those who had low resilience scores were more likely to be absent from work in the previous month and twice as likely to quit in the subsequent six months.

    How to Develop Your Team for Resilience

    Hiring for resilience can strengthen your team. But you can only achieve true resilience if your existing employees are also equipped to handle emergencies, have the training and tools they need to be successful, and are motivated to stay with your company.

    Here are the most important qualities for resilience to develop in your existing team members and your workplace environment.

    * Long-term potential. Your employees may be awesome, but are they working at their full capacity? Do they need training to realise their unrealised potential? Keep in mind that as enterprises adopt new technologies, the requirements and expectations of your employees can change. Given the hotly competitive market for IT talent and the resulting skills gap at many companies, providing training for existing employees is critical — even if that means you're potentially giving them skills that could help them find a job elsewhere, says Chris Fielding, CIO at Sungard AS. "It's very important to give everybody the opportunity to grow professionally, regardless of their current role," she adds.

    * A positive, productive working environment. Along with the necessary training, are you providing employees with the tools, resources and support they need to do their best work? When you do, you elevate the employee experience — which helps build loyalty, among other benefits.

    * Team spirit. Your employees might be incredibly productive — but are any of them disruptive in some way to the broader team? For example, when moving from waterfall development to a CI/CD pipeline, some organisations find that a subset of developers and IT team members are resistant to the transition. Most will welcome the opportunity to expand their skill set, but some will be opposed to the changes, which can be disruptive to the broader team, says Loeppke.

    * Brand. How does the employee impact the broader organisation and how do other employees see them? Do they have a strong personal 'brand' that is consistent with the organisation's brand?

    * Skills that match your resilience needs. Two things are certain: New cybersecurity threats will emerge and technologies to protect against them will continue to evolve at a rapid pace. In that environment, do you have clearly defined positions filled by people with the requisite skills to stay ahead of threats and technology advances?

    In this tight labor market, it's extremely difficult to compete for talent and get the skills in-house that you need, especially when you're competing for talent with the likes of Facebook, Apple or Google, Fielding says. Investing in your current employees with training and new responsibilities can help you fill the skills gap. You'll also build your employees' positive feelings about their work and employer, which in turn helps you retain top talent. And retaining top talent can help you avoid scrambling to quickly fill an employee's role when he or she leaves.

    You Might Need a Resilience Partner

    Above all, it's important to keep resilience, business continuity and disaster recovery in perspective. If your company isn't in the business of providing those services to customers, do you really need to spend the resources hiring for or developing those skills in-house? Or, given the difficulty in competing for talent, especially in cybersecurity, would you be better off finding a great partner that can provide the talent and skills you need to be resilient?

    See also: The 4 Most Important Traits of Resilient Business Leaders

    James A. Martin has written about security and other technology topics for CSO, CIO, Computerworld, PC World, and others.

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