What you really want is for the members of your IT department to be engaged

What you really want is for the members of your IT department to be engaged
Image Credit: Ged Carroll

When you have new people join your department, they generally do so with a great deal of excitement – they understand the importance of information technology. There are a lot of things that they want to accomplish and they are looking forward to learning many new things. However, over time this has a habit of changing. Over time you are almost guaranteed to have a dip in morale. Surveys have been done and what they have found is that this affliction hits roughly 70% of the people who will be joining your department. What’s the person with the CIO job to do?

It’s All About Avoiding Being Unengaged By Being Transparent

When your department is small, it can be quite easy to make sure that everyone knows what is going on. However, as your department grows in size and eventually starts to spread over multiple locations, it’s going to get harder and harder to keep everyone in the loop. As the person in the CIO position you need to realize that if you want to keep the members of your department engaged in what they are doing, then keeping things transparent will now become part of your job.

In order to make this transparency thing work, you are going to have double up on your efforts to get the word out about what is going on. You need to be willing to share as much information as possible–what your sales are, what the strategy is, why you’re making certain decisions. As CIOs we all want our department to be part of the company’s growth. The more aggressive you and the company are with growth, the more helpful it is to make ultra-transparency a priority

Hire Like The Big Boys

As a CIO you know what an effort it is go to out and find the right person to invite to join your department. Once you’ve found this person, made an offer, and gotten them to accept the offer, that’s when the real work starts. You are going to have to do a good job of onboarding your new talent.

All too often we’ll spend our time trying to figure out the right way to select the right person for a role. Once we’ve accomplished that task, our attention then tends to shift to other things. That’s not good. Instead, what we need to be doing is to codify how you perform onboarding earlier than you think you need to, so people feel like they’re being integrated smartly. How a new department member feels right off the bat can have a very large impact on how quickly they will become productive. If you don’t do a good job of this, then your new department member often end up spinning their wheels and accomplishing little–a sure-fire recipe for dragging down department morale.

Collect Data, Use Data

As a CIO, it is your responsibility to stay on top of how your department is feeling. When your department is a small department, this can be easy to do. If you take them out for a meal, you can get a general feel for what everyone’s thinking and what the mood of the department is. As the department grows larger and starts to be more spread out, this approach is not going to work for you anymore.

You are going to have to adopt a different approach to how you find out what your department is really thinking. You are going to need to replace your gut checks on how your department is feeling with more formal tools. The good news is that there is a crop of new tech products that let you take quick pulses of employee happiness. Your goal is going to be to err toward weekly or monthly feedback. Annual surveys are basically pointless, given how quickly the department and the company are changing.

Everything Is A Big Deal

As a CIO, this is one area where I must confess to dropping the ball occasionally, The people on your department who come into the office day after day and do their job can very easy start to feel as though they are simply a part of the big machine. That their individual contributions really don’t matter all that much. As the CIO, you need to realize that this is happening and this is when you need to step in and change things.

So what’s the best way to go about doing all of this? Call out major wins often, with formal awards or casual staff emails. Surveys have shown that forty percent of workers say they’d work harder if they were commended more often. As a CIO you need to realize that this is so easy to do that there is really no excuse for us forgetting to do it.

Clearly State Your Roles & Goals

When you first formed your department, you needed the people on your department to be jacks-of-all-trades. Every day had different challenges and you needed them members of your department to be willing to step up and take charge. However, as you department has become bigger things have changed. Now there is a need for expertise. Things are going to have to change.

This shift in the type of people that you need to be adding to your department can spell disaster for the mood around the office. What can happen is that the ground-floor hires start to think they’re getting passed over without consideration. Your job as a CIO is going to be to make sure people don’t find out about a new position after you’ve made an outside hire. Instead, you need to attach quantifiable skills and metrics to each role, so your current department can see how they stack up–and how they can advance. If you can do a good job of this then bringing on a senior specialist can even raise spirits, if the current department “sees the person as a potential mentor as much as a boss.”

What All Of This Means For You

As a CIO it is your job to manage your department. What this comes down to is the simple fact that you need to find a way to make sure that each member of your department remains engaged in what the department is trying to accomplish. Finding ways to keep a department engaged and not becoming unengaged is a critical part of your job.

In order to keep the members of your department engaged, you need to make sure that everything that you do is transparent. This is easy to do when the department is small, but can become more of a challenge as the department grows in size and locations. As you are onboarding new employees you need to take the time to make sure that they feel engaged from the start. It’s all too easy to think that your job stops once you’ve found the right candidate; however, it turns out that this is just the start of your responsibilities. Understanding how your department feels is important. As your department grows, you are going to have to start to use tech tools to find out where their minds are at. In order to ensure that the members of your department remain engaged, you are going to have to celebrate every department accomplishment. Since your department will be growing and new people will be added, make sure that everyone knows why someone is joining the department.

A department is made up of a complex set of smart professionals. As a CIO it is your job to find ways to ensure that all of these people remain engaged and committed to achieving the department’s goals. Take the time to constantly make sure that nobody on your department becomes unengaged and your department will be able to achieve great things!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: What steps should you take if you discover that one or more team members has become unengaged?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Successful CIO Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Successful CIO Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As the person with the CIO job, because you understand the importance of information technology it’s part of your job to ensure that both your company’s customers and its employees are kept secure when they are using the company’s IT infrastructure. This means that you need to implement systems that will allow the good guys in and keep the bad guys out. More often than not, the way that we go about doing this is by implementing security systems that require a user to enter a password. However, there are all sorts of problems with passwords . Is there a better way for a CIO to go about doing this?

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It turns out that humans are an important part of every IT department

It turns out that humans are an important part of every IT department
Image Credit:
Black Knights

As the person with the CIO job, you have a very important question that you have to find the answer to. What is more important to your IT department: people or technology. We spend a great deal of time thinking and learning about technology because we understand the importance of information technology. Our ability to use more and more technology to further automate how our company does business seems to be increasing every day. One way to look at the future is that ultimately machines will do all of the work and the IT department really won’t need people (except for you) any more. Can this be correct?

Why Humans Matter

So why would humans matter in a world that is more and more being occupied by cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and an internet of things? It turns out that those humans that you employ in your IT department have a number of unique skills that we just have not been able to teach to computers as of yet. Humans have the ability to be creative and to use problem-solving skills to find the answers to tricky problems. These are skills that your IT department is always going to need.

I think that we can all agree that the future will be different from the present. Right now it’s looking like the machines that we mange in the IT department are going to start to take over. This really is not a bad thing. The machines are going to be triggering IT processes that we humans have been doing. However, even as this starts to happen we humans will still have a role to play in the IT department.

The person in the CIO position has more technology at their control than ever before. Technologies such as machine learning are being used to allow the company to better understand their customer’s behavior. The ultimate goal is to be able to predict a customer’s behavior. As fancy as the computers that perform these functions are, humans will always be required assets. Humans are the ones who can mine customer information for insights. We are the ones who have the ability to experiment with new ideas, question paradigms, and empathize with the company’s customers.

What Humans Will Be Doing In The Future

As the CIO you are going to be responsible for determining how best to make use of the humans that you have. The experts believe that the way that IT teams are formed is going to start to change in the future. The thinking is that your IT employees are going to find themselves starting to form “mission based teams that solve a problem”. The employees will come together and create small teams. These teams will form and then disband at different rates.

IT employees will be forming smaller and more mission-driven teams as IT automation starts to take over more and more of how the company operates. It is believed that within the next five to seven years IT groups are going to be up to 40% smaller. At the same time they are going to be faster and more specialized. This will be the case due to a number of different factors including the company’s shift into the cloud and the fact that more and more of the IT department has been automated.

As the company’s CIO, it’s going to be your hope that your IT department is going to be able to add value to the company going forward. You’ll be able to use smaller IT groups that are built using employees who come from specialized areas such as security, big data, and mobility. The reason that these teams will be so valuable is because they will have the ability to work on projects that will make the company more competitive and work with technologies that can help to increase the company’s revenue.

What All Of This Means For You

Every CIO is in charge of two things: technology and people. As the technology increases in functionality, the question comes up as to what value the people on your team continue to provide. One may start to think that ultimately technology will take over and the people will no longer be needed. However, it turns out that you’ll always need your people.

Humans are going to continue to matter to IT departments because humans can do things that are just not possible to accomplish with computers. The company wants to better understand their customer’s needs and computers can do a great job of collecting and processing vast collections of information. However, humans will always be required in order to interpret what the data is saying. As technology starts to perform more of the tasks that IT departments used to do, you’ll see smaller and smaller IT teams. These teams will come together, accomplish a task, and then move on. These teams will help to boost the value of the company.

Managing technology is a challenging task. Managing people can be even more difficult. However, as the company’s CIO you need to realize that your humans are your most important resource. The role of your IT staff is going to be changing as more and more technology rolls out in your company; however, your human workers will always be your most valuable resource.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: How do you think that the IT department should change in order to better support more smaller teams in the future?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Successful CIO Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Successful CIO Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When you have new people join your department, they generally do so with a great deal of excitement – they understand the importance of information technology. There are a lot of things that they want to accomplish and they are looking forward to learning many new things. However, over time this has a habit of changing. Over time you are almost guaranteed to have a dip in morale. Surveys have been done and what they have found is that this affliction hits roughly 70% of the people who will be joining your department. What’s the person with the CIO job to do?

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