How CIOs Can Manage Their Star Power

by drjim on September 21, 2011

CIOs Need To Treat Stars Just A Bit Differently…

CIOs Need To Treat Stars Just A Bit Differently…

I won’t let the CIOs that I work with make a mistake. When they start to go off in the wrong direction, I grab them by the collar and yank them back on the path to IT glory. Lately I’ve been doing a whole lot of yanking and the reason is that for some odd reason CIOs just don’t seem to understand how to manage their star talent…

Stars Deserve Special Treatment

Jean Martin and Conrad Schmidt are researchers who have been looking into why CIOs should not be treating all of their employees the same.. What they have discovered goes against what most of us hold to be a workplace rule that is set in stone: treat everyone equally.

I’ve been telling the CIOs that I work with this for years: your star employees are special, that means that you need to treat them differently from all of the other IT employees. As you can well imagine, this type of guidance does not always go over very well. We all have some sort of built-in desire to level the playing field for everyone. This means that if we have to cut back, everyone needs to feel the pain. If we are going to be handing out rewards, everyone should benefit equally.

It turns out that this is the wrong thing to be doing. The reason is because all of your IT workers are not performing the same amount of work. Studies have shown that your star employees are potentially putting in up to 20% more effort than the rest of your IT staff.

If you don’t want your star IT employees to leave, then you’re going to have to give them what they really want: recognition. The #1 way that a CIO has to do this is through pay. Before you start pushing back and saying that the rest of the IT department is going to revolt, let me assure you that that just isn’t so. In fact, it turns out that most of your workers are going to be happy with a two-tier system – because they believe that they will eventually reach the higher tier and will be rewarded once they get there.

Stars Need To Drink The Corporate Kool-Aid

The reason that CIOs need to identify and then spend time developing star IT talent is because you hope that someday these are the individuals who will eventually lead the company’s IT department. This isn’t going to happen if you don’t take steps to get your stars hooked into the company’s strategy.

What CIOs need to realize is that your star IT talent is already highly aware of how the company is doing even if you are not talking to them about it. This is why if you want to keep them on board, you are going to have to create programs that will involve them in creating and reviewing the company’s strategic direction.

There are a lot of ways to go about doing this. One is to invite star employees to meetings where components of the strategy are being discussed and developed. A follow-on to this is to set up forums, either in person or online, where your star talent can discuss the company’s strategy and even offer their suggestions. All of this will lead to more star employee engagement and will make them more willing to stay with the company over the long haul.

What All Of This Means For You

Preventing CIOs from making mistakes is a big part of many of my days. When it comes to how best to handle the rising stars in an IT department, there are a lot of mistakes that CIOs tend to make.

The first is trying to be fair and treat everyone in the IT department equally. If you do this, then you run the risk of being unfair to your stars and having them end up leaving you. The next is to forget to make sure that your stars are closely tied in to the company’s corporate strategy. Since you are expecting them to eventually to play a key role in making that strategy happen, you need to involve them in it now.

Star IT employees are NOT like everyone else. They require extra care and feeding by CIOs. Yes, this does require more of a CIOs precious limited time; however, by making this investment now you can save yourself the additional expense in having to search for a replacement for your stars after they have gotten fed up and left the firm…

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

Question For You: How much more do you think it is fair for a star IT employee to make over a run-of-the-mill IT employee?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Don’t look now, but there’s something wrong in the world of CIOs. The CIOs that I’m working with are being asked to do more and more for their companies. It would be fair to say that IT has become an indispensible part of the companies that these CIOs work for. Then can you tell me why at some companies CIOs don’t report directly into the CEO?

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