CIOs Have To Relearn Who Is Working For Them

The pandemic changed who is working in the IT department
The pandemic changed who is working in the IT department
Image Credit: Johnia!

Once upon a time, CIOs knew who worked in the IT department. I mean, the CIO once was one of them. We all knew the basic personality types that we employed. However, then things changed. That pandemic thing swept through everyone’s workplace and all of sudden the people who had been working side-by-side spent a year (or more) working from home. It turns out that this has changed the makeup of our IT departments. If CIOs want to continue to do a good job of leading the IT department, then we’re going to have to take the time to reacquaint ourselves with just exactly who we have working in our departments.

Who Is In Your IT Department?

CIO’s used to know their employees wanted out of work. Before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, most CIOs accepted that almost every white-collar professional’s goal was to get promoted and move up the corporate ladder as quickly as possible. It turns out that this is not longer the case. Just as we all started to become work-from home pros during the pandemic who could effortlessly Zoom, Slack, and tweet from our bedrooms at the same time, for many IT professionals, our needs and priorities shifted.

The pandemic prompted a widespread re-evaluation of everyone’s lives. A study reported that 54% of Americans are currently in the process of re-examining their life priorities – including 20% of these who started doing so directly as a result of the pandemic. This is the same situation everywhere. More than three-quarters of Britons said they were thinking about major life changes, from moving to quitting their jobs to ending relationships. Increasingly, that re-evaluation means that everyone’s work is now taking a back seat. A study showed that only 17% of adults now cite their job or career as a source of meaning in their life – this is down 7 percentage points from four years earlier.

As a result of their Covid ruminations, many IT employees – even those in their prime working and earning years – may no longer share the same ambition and mentality around advancement that CIOs took for granted pre-pandemic. Everyone had different pandemic experiences (some overloaded with family responsibilities, while others spent way too much time alone), our IT employees now have very different social and emotional needs at work. That shift can be discomfiting for CIOs, who are already navigating massive upheaval in the job market and the threat that their IT employees might leave. To effectively manage a workforce with such disparate goals and desires, CIOs now have to recognize that their workforce has fragmented into multiple employee archetypes.

Different Types Of IT Employees

CIOs have to realize that one kind of IT worker isn’t inherently preferable, but it’s essential to understand where your IT employees are coming from, so you’ll know what to expect and how to work with them most effectively.

The ambitious employees. If you’re a CIO, you’ll likely know who your most ambitious staffers are, because they have spent the pandemic doubling down. They’re still focused on their jobs and still want to find ways to advance. To retain them, you are going to have to show an interest in their career aspirations and development. You need to ask them specifically about their future goals and help them develop a plan to cultivate the skills and experiences they’ll need. These IT employees are likely to be your future crop of leaders. This is because they’re the ones who both want it and actually care.

Your work-to-live advocates. These IT employees – whether pre-pandemic or because of the internal reflections it sparked – have decided to prioritize personal aspects of their life outside work. Whether their focus is on family, community or hobbies, their ultimate goal is to have a steady paycheck and a job that’s manageable and can be balanced with the areas they really care about. Their goal is doing what needs to be done fast—so they can move on to the rest of their life. To retain them, you’ll need to recognize that you’re probably never going to turn them into go-getters, and then accept them for the steadiness they can nonetheless bring. Make sure you understand their priorities and take care not to impinge on them if you want to keep them.

You have double-duty professionals. CIOs need to realize that caregiving has always been a reality for many IT professionals who have had to balance career aspirations with responsibilities at home. However, the pandemic’s creation of unique challenges have accelerated the challenges, especially for your female employees. In a study, 48% of women said Covid had negatively affected their career path. It’s important for CIOs to recognize that this isn’t a permanent situation, and these workers should be treated differently than the “work to live” types. We need to understand that they are ambitious and want to advance but are facing temporary challenges that will likely resolve over time. Supporting your IT employees now with flexibility, understanding and logistical support where possible can help build loyalty and trust, so they can eventually step up as the motivated IT employees they are.

Finally, the desperate-to-connect IT employees. Many IT employees who live alone and have spent the pandemic in relative solitude may be seeking to work these days just to provide human interaction – especially young, single workers for whom the workplace offers much-needed community. Others may have overdosed on their family over the past two years, but now that kids are back in school or they have caregiving needs worked out, they can’t wait to escape back into the realm of real adult conversations. Either way, CIOs need to recognize that a significant motivator for these “desperate to connect” employees will be social. Transactional Zoom calls just won’t cut it; CIOs need to take the time to converse and cultivate a deeper relationship. That’s always a good practice, but for those aggressively seeking human connection, we need to understand that it’s mandatory right now.

What All Of This Means For You

There is no question that the Covid-19 pandemic changed just about everything for CIOs. What need to understand is that the pandemic not only changed how work was done, but also the people who are doing the work. Our workers have made it through the pandemic, but it changed them. We need to understand that these changes have occurred, and we now need to adjust to the new people who are working in the IT department.

The needs and priorities of the people who work in our department have shifted. An impact of the pandemic is that it caused a re-evaluation of everyone’s lives. A key point that CIOs need to understand is that our employees may no longer share the same ambition and mentality around advancement. We now have new types of workers in the IT department. We still have ambitious employees who will turn into the leaders of tomorrow. The work-to-live advocates have reprioritized their lives and they’ll keep working, it’s just not going to be as important as it once was. The double-duty professionals have a lot going on in their lives right now; however, if you can support them, they will eventually return to normalcy. Your desperate-to-connect are the ones who want to get back into the office as soon as they can. You need to understand what drives them and then you need to make sure that they can get what they want.

To retain talent amid job-market tumult, CIOs have to understand what motivates their employees. Recognizing these new types of IT workers will help CIOs get the most out of their teams—and perhaps recognize new forces that are shaping their own career ambitions, too.

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

Question For You: Do you think that the new types of IT workers should be a concept that is worked into your recruiting efforts?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

CIOs everywhere are in the middle of trying to make their work environments more attractive to their employees. The pandemic changed everything and now we’re struggling to try to get staff to come back to the office while at the same time trying to prevent them from leaving the company. As we look for ways to get people to want to work for our company, the idea of implementing a wellness program keeps coming up. These programs can help with an employee’s health and may make them feel more positive towards the company. However, the big question that CIOs need to be able to answer is do they work?