What CIOs Need To Do About The Disengaged Worker Problem

Old management techniques don't work with new employees
Old management techniques don’t work with new employees
Image Credit: Kevin O’Mara

As the person with the CIO job, it’s your responsibility to put in place systems that will allow the company to use the importance of information technology to get the most out of each and every IT employee. This sounds like a fairly classical management responsibility. However, in a recent poll by the research firm Gallup they have found that the old management techniques that are being used in a lot of IT departments just aren’t working with today’s millennial workers. What’s a CIO to do?

Who Makes Up Your Workforce?

So let’s just call this like it is: the majority of American workers are either disengaged or simply indifferent. The reason that CIOs should care about this situation is because it comes with a cost. The economic output per worker peaked in the 1950’s and 1960’s and has been on a downturn ever since. Even though your workers now have computers, cell phones, and the internet, they are less productive than they used to be. The good news is that roughly 30% of your workforce is what poll calls “engaged”. These workers love their jobs and they make the IT department better each and every day.

The bad news for CIOs is that in their IT departments there is another type of worker. This worker is “actively disengaged”. These workers make up roughly 16% of any IT department. This group of employees are miserable in the workplace, don’t like their jobs, and because of all of this end up destroying what their colleagues who really like their jobs do. If you take a look at the entire U.S. workforce, it is estimated that actively disengaged workers are costing business between $483B to $605B.

The really engaged and actively disengaged groups together don’t account for everyone who works for a CIO. There’s another group. The remaining 51% of your workforce are the employees who are simply not engaged one way or another. These are the workers who just show up every day and are “just there”. What every CIO would like to be able to do would be to get these employees more engaged. If we could find a way to go about doing this, then we would have found a way to solve the problem of declining productivity.

What Do CIOs Need To Do In Order To Engage Their Workers?

Given that a CIO has so many workers in the IT department who are disengaged, what are we to do? The suggestion is that we first start by very clearly defining and communicating a vision for the IT department. Once we’ve done this, we then need to find ways to rally our employees around the vision that we have for the IT department. Right now most employees have very little belief in their company’s leadership and so by doing this you can start to generate some of that needed belief.

As an effective CIO you are going to need to fix what’s wrong in your IT department. You are going to have to make sure that you communicate well with your team. You’ll have to find the time to make sure that you are communicating often with your team. To make sure that everyone is working towards the same goal, you are going to have to share the company’s mission with everyone in the IT department. This all goes along with the other things that you need to be doing: training and developing your workers all the while offering feedback and coaching.

What do your workers want in order to become engaged? The answer is that they want a job that feels meaningful. They want to be able to see how their role contributes to the success of their team, the department, and the company. This means that as the person in the CIO position, you need to make sure that employee goals are clear. You will also have to make sure that the resources that employees need in order to reach their goals are available. Combine this with a flexible workplace and you will have found a way to get more of your employees engaged.

What All Of This Means For You

CIOs are currently facing a major challenge in their IT departments. The management techniques that many of us are used to using are no longer working. A great number of our employees are disengaged. What are we going to have to do in order to solve this problem?

The first thing that we need to realize is that not all workers are the same. 30% of our department is made up of people who love their job. Unfortunately, there is also 16% of our department that consists of people who are actively disengaged. The remaining 51% are people who are just showing up each and every day. As CIOs we need to take the time to clearly communicate our vision for the IT department to our employees. We have to find the time talk with every one often in order to ensure that they are all working towards the same goal. Your workers want their job to be meaningful. This means that you need to make sure that everyone’s employee goals are clear.

Having such a large part of any workforce not feeling like they are engaged is never a good thing. However, as CIOs now that we realize that this is an issue, we can take steps to try to get some of those workers who are not engaged and make them engaged. If we can find a way to accomplish this, then we will have boosted the productivity of our IT department!

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

Question For You: What do you think that a CIO should do about the employees who stubbornly remain actively disengaged?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Just in case you have somehow not gotten the message, if you want to build the best IT department that will be able to share the importance of information technology with the rest of the company, you are going to want to make it as diverse as you possibly can. Having all of those people with different backgrounds ensures you that you’ll get the different opinions and solutions that a modern IT department needs in order to be successful. However, there’s a problem here. The hiring process that your IT department uses is broken – it has bias built into it and you’ll never get the diverse employees that you so desperately need. What’s a CIO to do?