How To Avoid Having Unengaged Employees On Your Team

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?

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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?