How CIOs Can Boost Staff Skills Without Increasing Headcount

CIOs need to find ways to teach their department staff new skills
CIOs need to find ways to teach their department staff new skills

Image Credit: Peter Dutton

Staffing an IT department is easily a full-time job in of itself. As the person with the CIO job, you’ve probably already realized this. However, in addition to staying on top of the importance of information technology, just filling all of the open spots in your IT department is not the only task that you have to accomplish. Once you have the people that you need, your next step has to be to find ways to boost their skills. Oh, and you need to find ways to do this without increasing your IT headcount. Got any thoughts on how best to do this?

It All Starts When You Join The IT Department

All too often, CIOs spend their time thinking about how they are going to go about retaining the staff that they already have. Yes, this is important; however, a CIO’s responsibility to their IT department goes further than that. It all starts when someone joins the department.

Everything will start with your department’s onboarding process. You do have one of those, don’t you? What a CIO needs to realize is that often a new employee’s lifetime impression of the IT department is formed during the first few days that they show up for work. If you have an effective onboarding process, then you’ll be able to make sure that you shape the new employee’s first impressions. This will pay dividends later on down the road.

What almost every IT employee really wants is the ability to grow and get better. This is something that they can’t do by themselves. To help make this happen, the clever CIO sets up a mentoring program. The purpose of this program is two-fold: the mentored employee gets the guidance and direction that he or she is desperately looking for while the mentor gets access to the energy and excitement of a new employee that they need in order to stay motivated in their job.

Employee Rotation Is What Will Retain Them

Once you’ve solved the new employee issues, it’s then time to move on to tackling the existing employee challenges. One of the biggest challenges that every IT employee faces is that they can be become bored with their jobs. We all want to grow and in order for this to happen we need to develop new skills. The CIO needs to come up with a solution to both of these challenges.

It turns out that the solution may be as simple as establishing an employee rotation program. What this means is that your IT staff will all have a “home” job, but you’ll rotate them out into other positions within the IT department every so often. You’ll want to do this for both your rank & file workers as well as for your IT managers.

The goal of the IT job rotation program has to be three parts. The first is to allow your staff to develop new sets of skills. The next is to change the way that they see the world – allow them to get a better appreciation for what it takes to do the job that they’ve rotated into. Finally, by allowing each member of your team to work in a different part of the department you’ll allow them to gain a greater appreciation for the challenges that come along with helping each part communicate with all of the other parts.

What All Of This Means For You

A major part of having the CIO position is that you are responsible for making sure that you’ve fully staffed the IT department. This can be a challenge for two reasons. First, it can be hard to attract the right types of people and then once you have them, it can be hard to grow their skills and keep them.

In order to solve these problems, CIOs are going to have to become creative. First, in order to attract high quality candidates you need to setup mentorship programs within IT and take the time to create onboarding programs that allow new department members to feel welcome. Once people have joined the IT department, you need to insert them into a rotation program that allows them to fully develop their skills.

By allowing the members of your IT department to experience new things, you will have given them an opportunity to grow. They will have a deeper appreciation for how other parts of the IT organization operate. If you can get good at this, you may end up having very little turn over in your department!

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

Question For You: How long do you think that a job rotation should last?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As the person with the CIO job, you want to be in charge of the best IT department possible. It turns out that this means that in addition to getting the rest of the company to understand the importance of information technology, you want to have the best people working for you. Everything else can be purchased: servers, networks, software, etc. However, it’s really the people that you have on your team and their skills that are going to control your career. What this means is that you want to always be making your people better. What’s the best way to go about doing this?

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